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A night road trip through Old San Juan, Puerto Rico (with HD video)

Updated on December 26, 2014

Old San Juan at night

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Another mood

During the day, Old San Juan is a busy port city, bustling with tourists and locals alike. At night, it takes on a much different mood. It is quiet and peaceful, with mysterious old streets and the sound of music around every corner. Though Old San Juan is beautiful at any moment, my favorite time to visit is in those peaceful, romantic evening hours.

Moods of Old San Juan

For several years now, my wife and I have been exploring the beautiful Island of Puerto Rico where we live. We love to take long, leisurely road trips, ranging from the soaring mountain vistas of the interior to the breathlessly beautiful beaches and forests of the coasts in places like Piñones and Isabela. Our passion is to find those little-known sights and cultural experiences that few tourists ever see.

So one day recently while we were on a winding mountain road, Elise said something like "I wish there were a way we could bottle up this beauty and share it with other people."

I hit my forehead. "Of course there's a way. We should get a GoPro!"

"A what?"

"Well, they have these little cameras now that you can attach to the outside of your car and take really good video." I explained to her some of the unique things that make action cams wonderful, including the fact that they're made for moving scenes and they don't blur out.

Well, that very evening, we ordered our first action cam. It's a Sony AS-15, and is it a beaut.

Of course, the next discussion involved what we should tape first. We tossed around lots of ideas, like the gorgeous drive from Patillas in the southeast, or the soaring mountain highway "Ruta Panorámica" in the central mountain range. Finally we settled on Old San Juan. After all, we live right next door. We decided to start a series of videos at different times of the day, each meant to capture a different "mood" of the city. So without further ado, here's the first in the series.

Be sure to watch in full HD.

Catedral San Juan Bautista at night

Saint John the Baptist Cathedral is one of the many can't miss sights at night that is easily found on foot.
Saint John the Baptist Cathedral is one of the many can't miss sights at night that is easily found on foot. | Source

If you visit Old San Juan at night

As you can see from the video, Old San Juan is a safe, pedestrian neighborhood, even late at night. There are lots of wonderful sights to take in during a night drive or stroll of Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Fort El Morro - Although you can't enter into the ancient fortress at night, you can stroll the grounds at your leisure. You can walk along the wall down to La Perla and look over the city from there, or climb to the top of the ridge where El Morro guards the city and look out over Cataño Bay. Absolutely breathtaking.
  • The Paseo de la Princesa - Depending on the night, there are often artisan kiosks here that sell everything from locally made arts and crafts to fresh-squeezed orange juice, Puerto Rican snacks, and more. The Department of Tourism tightly controls these kiosks, so you can be sure everything on sale is genuinely Puerto Rican made and is not some cheap Chinese import.
  • El Jibarito Restaurant - Our favorite restaurant in Old San Juan, it fills up fast and starts closing down before 9 p.m. So call for a reservation or go a little early.
  • La Plaza de las Armas - This plaza is unique in Puerto Rico for several reasons. One of the most interesting is the absence of a church. Traditionally in Spanish towns, the central plaza and seat of government has the mayor's office at one end and the Church at the other. This model is seen in every other Puerto Rican municipality. But in San Juan, the official church, the Catedral de San Juan Bautista, is situated several blocks away closer to the main gate into the city from the port. This plaza is well-lit and full of activity at any hour, often hosting musical activities, passing "tuna" bands, and other wonderful things to do, eat, and see.
  • The Bahía Urbana - This new development on the San Juan waterfront is a beautiful escape from the noisy city. Depending on the night, there may be free concerts and other attractions, including helicopter rides (these are not free). It's a fantastic spot to people watch, gaze at visiting sailboats and cruise ships, and chill.
  • All the wonderful dark and mysterious streets to walk around - There are any number of bars, restaurants, bodegas, and little shops that are open at any hour. Walk around and explore to your heart's content. We've been doing it for years and we still often stumble across a new little place to fall in love with!

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    • lyndapringle profile image

      Lynda Pringle 

      3 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Another great blog about beautiful Puerto Rico. The video aptly shows the more romantic and peaceful side of nighttime Old San Juan. I appreciate you showing us the many attractions of Old Juan, including the cathedral and the university. The beautiful Latin music added to the romance of the scenery to the video. That GoPro camera is becoming quite popular and you guys put it to excellent use. It works much better than a standard camera with no moving images. I will have to purchase one for my next trip. It seems like such a pleasant place to just take a drive to absorb the scenery. Your blog was also very informative about the many site seeing opportunities in Old San Juan.

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