Old San Juan, Puerto Rico has to be one of the most romantic cities in the world. Streets of slate blue cobble-stones weave through colonial buildings constructed by the Spanish in the 1500’s making San Juan the oldest city under the United States flag. Popular with jet-setters since the 1950’s, San Juan is experiencing a resurgence of interest from travelers especially on cruise ships. Ships dock just steps from the historic downtown making it convenient to explore the Old City. While there I recently had a chance to make a few discoveries of my own. Here are some of my fun facts and insider’s tips;
Short-cut to the Bacardi Rum Factory – Started in Cuba in 1862, Bacardi is the second oldest rum distillery in the world after Mount Gay in Barbados. After the Revolution in 1962, the Bacardi family moved the enterprise to the nearby island of Puerto Rico where it grew into the largest rum distillery in the world. Called the Cathedral to Rum; the factory is located across the bay in Cataño. Though you can take a tour, busses must make the long drive around the bay to the factory making their stay short when there is much to see. I found out that right next to the cruise terminal is a small local ferry that runs daily. It charges only .75 cents each way and takes about ten minutes! From the ferry landing turn to your right and continue one block and you’ll find shuttle buses that leave for the factory – they charge $3.00 each way. Once there the tour is FREE and you also get two complimentary drinks! In addition to the guided tour there are beautiful grounds for relaxing and a gift shop which is the only place in the world where you can purchase special bottles of “Bacardi Reserva.”
Smallest Apartment Building in the World – With all the historic monuments to be visited in Old San Juan, leave it to me to find “The Smallest Apartment Building in The World.” Yes, it’s true. Constructed in the 16th century, this building nestled between two other large houses measures only 18 feet in width. It is very close to the Park of the Doves (or Pigeons for the less poetic) on a section of the old wall. The bright yellow structure can be seen from the ship as you enter or leave the cruise terminal. Though this house is in the Guinness Book of World’s Records no explanation is given how it came to be. Looking at the building so tightly squeezed between the other structures, there has to be a story there!