The weather is starting to take a turn for the cold, meaning it’s time to start looking toward the tropics. San Juan, Puerto Rico is a place of beauty and rich, rich culture. Whether you want to beach yourself for a weekend in the sun, climb through the rainforest, explore streets laid centuries ago or drink to your heart’s content, San Juan has what you’re looking for. Our advice: The resorts are wonderful, but don’t miss out on the culture. Here’s what to do in Puerto Rico in October.
Train, plane or automobile — Since Puerto Rico is, in fact, an island, your best mode of transport is going to be by plane. A boat is an option if you’re on a cruise or a giant cargo ship (hint: sarcasm), but flights usually aren’t too outrageously priced. San Juan has two airports, but you’ll likely fly into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, which is just outside San Juan, in neighboring municipality Carolina.
Cheap local transit — Most people recommend renting a car while in Puerto Rico, to get you out of San Juan and into some of the island’s richest forms of nature. Keep in mind, though, that the city has the highest density of cars on the road in the world, and congestion is common. Yet one of the reasons so many cars are on the road is because there doesn’t seem to be much faith in the public transportation system, Alternative de Transporte Integrado. That is the cheapest option though, with trips on buses, vans and trains all $0.75.There’s also a light-rail system called Tren Urbano.
Stroll through Old San Juan — When people who have never visited Puerto Rico envision San Juan, this neighborhood is probably what they see. The narrow streets are lined with vibrantly colored houses, many edged in gorgeous balconies with views. There are cafes on the street serving up authentic fare in the summer-like weather, and live music often springs up on the corners. It marks the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico, and history is everywhere. Even the streets themselves — made from a blue cobblestone brought over by the Spanish, who used it as a ballast in their ships — are historical.
Bask on a beach — Many visitors come to Puerto Rico and see nothing but the beaches, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are some small, noteworthy beach towns on the outskirts of the city, but let’s focus on the beaches around town. There’s a beach for every visitor, from chill and low-key to Miami fresh. Condado Beach is hip and trendy, with casinos near the water and lots of activity. La Playita in Condado has calm waters that make it very kid-friendly. Ocean Park Beach is more laid back. Or, stay in one of the many resorts surrounding the city and enjoy their beaches. The Balnearios are government-run beaches and are free except parking. No matter which beach you choose, the weather will be just about perfect—Puerto Rico in October sees average temps of 78 degrees.
Revel in some rum — Puerto Rico is one of the world’s largest producers of rum, so what better place to indulge in a piña colada? Wherever you are, you won’t have to stray too far to find that sweet, sweet rum, but here are a couple of suggestions: Punto de Vista, on Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan, is a bar on the roof of Hotel Milano—and visitors rave about their mojitos. Marilyn’s Place, on Calle de San Francisco, also has plenty of tasty, tropical options, along with a shaded street patio. Oh, and it’s very near the water.
Experience some history — If you stay in Old San Juan, as we’ve discussed, history is all around you. The Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Bautista is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, and the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. Now it acts as the Archdiocese of San Juan. There’s La Fortaleza, built before 1540. There’s also Casa Blanca, the house built for the first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León and his family in the 1520s, which has been turned into a museum. The list goes on and on.