While they may be situated just a ten minute drive away from each other, the cities of New San Juan and Old San Juan contrast in many ways. From the history and heritage of colonial times to a vibrant metropolis filled with buzzing tropical beaches, these are some of the differences between Old and New San Juan, as well as each of their highlights.
History and Culture
For those who are seeking history and culture, Old San Juan is most definitely the city to stay at, as you will be surrounded by the most impressive colonial architecture. Old San Juan is also home to the San Juan National Historic Site, where you will find two ancient forts that date back over 500 years, as well as some world-class museums. The forts, El Morro and La Fortaleza, are two of the most visited on the island, and their layered defence system is fascinating to explore.
Beaches and Water Sports
With no beaches in Old San Juan, it only makes sense to choose accommodation in New San Juan if this is the type of vacation you are after. Here you will find some of the most spectacular beaches on the island, as well as luxurious beach resorts that offer direct access to the water. Isla Verde, which is quite near to the San Juan Airport, is where you will find some of the largest beaches in the area, as well as a water park that offers some great watersports.
Food and Drink
When it comes to food and drink, both Old and New San Juan have plenty to offer, and are both considered to be foodie destinations. The winding cobblestone streets of Old San Juan are the perfect place to enjoy a cup of café con leche, and there are several local restaurants worth visiting, from the Puerto Rican cuisine of El Jibarito to the Caribbean and French fusion at Marmalade. While New San Juan is home to many eateries serving up local dishes too, you will find a wider range of cuisines here, such as the Japanese dishes at the Yamiko Sushi Bar, the classic Italian fare at Nonna Cucina Rustica, and tantalizing Asian bites at Budatai.
Nightlife and Casinos
For those who are seeking more of a romantic and authentic night on the town, head to Old San Juan, where you can wander the cobblestone streets, listening to salsa and flamenco wafting out from the different nightclubs, before choosing which one to visit. On the other hand, New San Juan offers up trendier nightclubs and bars, with vibrant strips in Condado and Calle McLeary. New San Juan is also where you will find sprawling casinos, many of them located in glitzy beachfront resorts.
While there may be many differences between Old and New San Juan, both destinations are well worth exploring. From the history-soaked cobblestones and cozy cafés of Old San Juan to the pulsating beach front resorts and water-based activities of New San Juan, combining visits to both of these during your trip will enable you to experience some of the very best of Puerto Rico.