Information & Facts
San Juan, like all of Puerto Rico, enjoys warm, sunny days for
most of the year. The tropical climate ensures an average
temperature of 80°F (26°C) with humidity running continuously at
around 80%. The rainy season peaks in August, and rain can be
extremely heavy. Between August and November the island is
vulnerable to hurricanes.
San Juan's old, cobble-stoned downtown area can be explored on
foot (take comfortable walking shoes). To go further afield
visitors can flag down one of the plentiful taxis or minibus taxis
publicos). There is a rather irregular bus service
covering metropolitan San Juan. International car rental agencies
are well represented, and home country driving licences are
Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto
The United States Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency, which is
divided into 100 cents. It is often referred to as the 'peso' in
Puerto Rico. ATMs and bureaux de change are freely available and
all major credit cards and travellers cheques are generally
accepted. Banking hours are 9am to 3.30pm.
With its concentration of bars, clubs, salsa cafés and casinos,
visitors to San Juan will find there is something to suit their
partying and entertainment needs on just about any night. As in
most Latin cities, the nightlife only really gets going late but
when it does there's a good chance you will see in the dawn.
Being a major cruise port, much of the nightlife is suited to
tourists looking for a bit of Caribbean flavour and fun. Start off
by watching the sunset with a freshly made
piña colada(the latter of which was invented at the Hilton
Hotel right here in San Juan) at a beach bar in this sultry city
before heading out to the Old Town to enjoy a leisurely dinner at
one of the many stylish and trendy restaurants. Locals like to look
sharp when going out in San Juan so don't be afraid to throw your
favourite party outfit on before hitting the town for a night
Most of the nightlife is situated in the Old Town, while San
Sebastian Street is a major hotspot dotted with pulsating clubs,
bars and discos. El Batey's on Calle del Cristo in the Old Town is
a favourite for a night of drinking, pool shooting and mingling,
while the Lobby Lounge fires up the dancefloor with live bands
jamming salsa and meringue beats and even offers dance lessons for
visitors keen on shaking their hips.
On Sebastian Street head to Nono's for a bit of people watching
on the strip, or El Patio de Sam, a popular hangout for locals and
tourists alike, while for some salsa and tropical music, Rumba is
place to be. Those who can't wait for the party to get started
should stop by the La Rumba Party Cruise, a two-level minicruiser
that is more often than not moored to a point near San Juan's
cruise pier number 1, a popular hangout for tourists and cruise
passengers looking for a steamy night out.
Shopping in San Juan is an exotic and often cost-effective
venture, with the streets of Old Town (especially Calle San
Francisco and Calle del Cristo) being the most popular
destinations. Most stores can be reached via the Old Town Trolley
and are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm, while
some in Old San Juan are also open on Sundays. Malls in San Juan
are open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and Sunday from 11am
to 5pm. Only U.S. citizens don't pay duty (5.5%) on goods purchased
in Puerto Rico.
The best shopping mall is Plaza Las Américas, in Hato Rey, which
boasts over 200 upmarket shops. Local handicrafts include
needlework, ceramics, hammocks and papier-mâché arts, while
paintings and sculptures also make good souvenirs; wooden carvings
santos(saints) are also popular. These goods are available
from Galería Botello, Olé or Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts.
Sought-after antique lace products, such as
mundillos(tatted fabrics) and
torchon(beggar's lace), as well as
puntilla(lace bands), can be found at Linen House.
One of the best coffees in the world, Puerto Rico's Alto Grande
is available from speciality stores such as Spicy Caribbee. An
ancient building in Old Town serves as both a laundromat and art
gallery, with paintings, etchings and photographs displayed (and
for sale) above the coin-operated laundry machines. Art exhibitions
are also hosted here. C
aretas(papier-mâché masks) worn at local carnivals make a
great souvenir for those with a morbid fascination, and can be
purchased from La Calle.
San Juan is the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean and a major
tourist hub and destination for North American travellers. It is a
city with much to offer its visitors: the beauty and history of the
old town, artistic treasures of the Museo de Arte, and sun-soaked
beaches only minutes from the city centre.
The best way to see the sights and experience the city's
attractions is to take a walking tour; either self-directed with a
guide book, or led by a professional guide. The city is compact and
flat, and so is ideal to explore on foot. One of the chief tourist
attractions in San Juan will be below your shoes: the 500 year-old
flagstones, first laid under the direction of Christopher Columbus.
Take regular rests at the charming piazzas as you explore the old
town - it can get busy and crowded as the day wears on.
High tourist season is from December to April, while June to
November is far quieter (although the island can experience
hurricanes during this period).
Local time is GMT -4.