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San Juan

el morro fort san juan Check out the historic sites of Old San Juan, such as El Morro, whose original parts were completed in 1539 (and which successfully deterred would-be colonial powers from capturing the island). Also in Old San Juan is San Cristobal Fort, which was completed in the late 1700's. On weekends, the grounds of both forts are thick with locals flying kites. Both sites are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service.

Other historic buildings in San Juan include La Fortaleza, which dates back to the 1530's and currently serves as the governor's residence. The lovely Cathedral of San Juan was built in the early 16th century.

Fans of the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals should check out the Museo Pablo Casals, where the Spanish master's collection includes manuscripts, photographs and a library of video tapes of Festival Casals concerts (played on request).

While Old San Juan doesn't really boast any of its own beaches, you can find some nearby in Condado and Isla Verde, only a 5- to 10-minute taxi ride away from Old San Juan (longer during rush hour). The beaches that run in front of Isla Verde's luxury hotels are best for short visits; ask the cabbie to drop you off at the Ritz-Carlton or the El San Juan

Rum fans should make a pilgrimage to Casa Bacardi. The factory itself is lovely. There are gorgeously landscaped grounds (lots of hibiscus), an open-air pavilion for Bacardi-influenced drinks, a gift shop, a tour that includes an interesting film on the company's history, and other activities (such as testing your sense of smell, making postcards and learning about rum distillation).

Visit El Yunque, the only rain forest designated as a U.S. National Forest. Located about an hour south of San Juan, it is home to numerous waterfalls, ferns and wildflowers along the marked trails. Because it's a rain forest, it will probably, well, rain during your visit -- so pack a slicker.

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce (just south of Condado) exhibits elegant Puerto Rican art, along with visiting themed shows. Also a must-see for art lovers is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, which houses hundreds of post-1940's works from artists of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America.

bahia beach golf course san juan puerto rico aerial For golfers and beach bums, Bahia Beach is a hidden treasure. A car rental is required to get to this out-of-the-way resort, which has a lush 18-hole public golf course at the base of El Yunque. The resort fronts the sea with a gorgeous, secluded beach, framed by palms and palmettos. The golf course is totally public and open to non-golf-playing visitors (although the club does request that you politely ask permission). Golf clubs are available for rent.

Try your luck with casino gambling at the big hotels, from the Sheraton Old San Juan (right across the street from the cruise piers) to the Ritz-Carlton.

Luquillo Beach (near El Yunque) is a real locals' haunt; there, you'll find long stretches of sand, water sports equipment rentals and a great line of food stands, offering classic Puerto Rican beach food.
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