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How to Spend a Layover in Puerto Rico

As winter weather ramps up, sunny Caribbean destinations beckon those of us in Travelzoo’s Chicago office with deals on hotels and all-inclusive vacation packages. I recently heeded the call and spent a long weekend on the multi-nation island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten.

Many flights to the Caribbean stop over in Puerto Rico, and mine was no exception. With a four-hour layover ahead of me, I did some quick research on my phone and was pleased to find numerous attractions within a short distance of the airport. Here are some of the best ways I found to spend a layover in Puerto Rico:

Stroll Old San Juan: Famous for its picturesque blue cobblestone streets, this historical area is just nine miles (a $20 cab ride) from the airport. I stopped by the tourist office near the baggage area to pick up a map before I left. With three hours in town and a little hustle, I was able to see:

  • El Morro: A 16th-century fortress and the city’s dominate landmark
  • Castillo de San Cristobal: An expansive fort that once enclosed the city; take a picture in its famous garitas, or sentry boxes
  • San Juan Gate: Traditional entry to the city
  • Casa Blanca: Museum and ancestral home of Ponce de Leon
  • San Juan Cathedral: One of the oldest buildings in San Juan and home to Ponce de Leon’s tomb

Don’t forget to budget enough time to get back to the airport. Cabs only pick up at designated points, which were luckily marked on my map.

Fit in some extra beach time: Lined with hotels and dining, Isla Verde Beach is a five-minute cab ride away. So even with shorter layovers, you can still get your feet wet or grab a beachside cocktail.

Get a taste of the culture: Known as comida criolla, Puerto Rican cuisine borrows influences from the Caribbean, Spain, and indigenous cultures. I found a crowded café and tried the mofongo, a dish of mashed and seasoned plantains stuffed with vegetables, chicken, steak or seafood – definitely recommended. Traditional Cuban fare is also plentiful.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, New York
Monday, November 22, 2010
See more Tips from
Kelsey Rexroat