This year, I spent 4th of July weekend in Puerto Rico. At the risk of sounding cliché, while I knew what to expect about the island after having seen countless pictures of the old town’s buildings, being there in the flesh was just increíble. Old San Juan is located on a small islet connected to the main island by bridges, and its colorful facades provide a fascinating juxtaposition alongside the imposing, ancient presence of the forts that punctuate Isleta de San Juan. At just 7 city blocks, the old town is definitely densely packed with sightseeing and activities!
One of my favorite parts of exploring Old San Juan was happening upon these sentry boxes, or garitas. I found them so adorable (ironic, because they stand as part of the large wall that was built around Old San Juan for protection against invasion) that many of my rambles ended up resembling informal scavenger hunts for the next garita. By the end of my trip, I needed to know more about the different types of garitas and even fancied myself getting a Ph.D in Garita Studies (would be awesome if such a field existed)!
Sadly, as my casual research continued, I learned that someone had successfully preceded me in the quest to become Garita Chronicler. This PDF book gives a super in-depth look into the history of garitas and even goes so far as to map out every sentry box in Viejo San Juan!
Odd garita fascination aside, I enjoyed wandering about the forts and seeing the lengths Spain went to in order to ensure that San Juan would be impervious to attack. Castillo San Cristobal (the larger of the two more well-known forts) has been described as “labyrinthine,” and, finding myself lost in all its tunnels and hideouts, I truly did feel as if I were exploring around the fictional worlds of my childhood video games. San Cristobal was so enthralling (and large) that I went back a second time to check out anything I may have missed the first time around.
I don’t want to go into too much historical detail as I’m sure anyone who goes to visit San Juan can read the ubiquitous educational placards just as well as I could. Instead, by way of the pictures below I’ll briefly touch on the places I visited in Old San Juan. If you’re looking for recommendations on what to do and what to eat, I’ve written another post detailing how to visit Old San Juan when you’re in a time crunch. That being said, Old San Juan is definitely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Puerto Rico, so be on the lookout as well for my post on kayaking in the bioluminescent bay and hiking in the rainforest.
All photos were taken using my Sony RX100 II. Thanks for reading!