Bike Tour in San Juan de Puerto Rico
By Paulina Sánchez |
Go on a cruise to the Caribbean and discover the most iconic attractions in San Juan Puerto Rico by going on our bike tour.
Tourism offers many health benefits, especially if travelers stay active during their trips. Whether you walk across Europe to go on the Way of St. James or practice ecotourism in southern Mexico, staying fit while traveling the world is the best you can do for your wellbeing. Keep this in mind with this proposal to discover the most iconic sites in San Juan Puerto Rico on a bike tour.
Travelers who love music are familiar with songs by the most famous Puerto Rican singer: Ricky Martin. However, apart from this handsome and talented singer, Puerto Rico is home to many other beauties.
History of San Juan
The city of San Juan, capital of Puerto Rico, is a non-incorporated territory of the United States that used to be a Spanish colony. It was discovered in 1493 when Christopher Columbus made his second expedition to America and named the island after Saint John the Baptist. Rapidly, the territory became the most important military defense in America. That’s why it’s also known as the Door to America. It had a strategic location to defend the Spanish territory from British and Deutsch attacks. In fact, the famous British pirate and explorer, Francis Drake, was vanquished in San Juan during his last expedition to America in 1595.
Thanks to its growth, San Juan became the only island in the Caribbean where commerce and industry were more important than agricultural production. However, during the 19th century Puerto Rico became war booty for the United States during the Spanish-American War. For this reason, the island remains under American control and its inhabitants are half American. This means that they can choose their own governor but they can’t vote for an American president.
Why Do They Speak Spanish and English in Puerto Rico?
This city is characterized by a beautiful combination of Latin spirit, American modernity and Spanish inheritance. During your trip, you’ll enjoy a harmonic combination of diverse cultures. Curiously, its inhabitants also speak a peculiar melange of Spanish and English that is very “local”. This is because, as a Spanish colony, Puerto Rico’s official language was Spanish. Yet, after it became part of the territories controlled by the United States, English became the official language. In fact, during the first 30 years of the 20th century, the American Government declared that all subjects in schools must be taught in English.
Bike Rental in San Juan
The most popular means of transportation in which people get to San Juan is aboard a ship. Actually, in 2018 Puerto Rico received around 1.8 million cruise ship tourists. If you’re one of them, it’s probable that the cruise company you travel with will offer you the chance to reserve a bike tour in San Juan. Nevertheless, DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, suggests saving some cash by reserving a bike tour on your own.
There are several bike rental establishments in San Juan. Most of them are located about 10 minutes away from the port on foot, near Calle del Muelle. We suggest paying for this tour online in order to make sure that there are enough bikes available on the day of your visit. Some businesses even offer renting helmets and locks to ensure a safer and more comfortable tour. This way you can even park the bike for a while if you want to stop at a store or have a coffee. Just take note of the time at which you have to return the bike to avoid additional fees.
An Exclusive Bike Lane in San Juan
San Juan is a bike friendly destination. Just ride along the Recreovia Puerto Rico ¡Muévete! Bike lane. It goes from the San Juan Orphanage and El Escambron health resort to Plaza Colon. You can even ride beyond the bike lane around the County Lagoon with its natural and modern landscape. Yet, the bike lane doesn’t run across some streets in Old San Juan so you might have to ride among cars once you’re there.
Discover New San Juan
After you pick up your bike ask for directions and head to the Walk of the Presidents. It’s the perfect reference site to begin your tour to New San Juan. Apart from that, you’ll get to see sculptures of some American presidents, visit the Holocaust Memorial and the Capitol.
#1 Holocaust Memorial in San Juan
It was inaugurated on March 29th, 2012. New York artists Bonnie Srolovitz and Michael Berkowicz designed it. Its full name is Holocaust Memorial In the Shadow of Their Absence. Behind it you’ll fine granite panels that briefly narrate, in Spanish and in English, the terrible happenings of this tragic historic event.
Close to the memorial you’ll find The Way of the Just. It invites people to reflect on the fact that a single person can create a positive change in the world. Also, you’ll find human shadows on the ground that represent the lives that were lost during the Holocaust. They’re located next to a quote that reads: “Let six million candles glow against the darkness of these unfinished lives”. It’s an adaptation of the text Gates of Prayer. Finally, imagine all you could find inside the Time Capsule located in Paseo de la Princesa.
#2 Capitol of Puerto Rico
It was inaugurated on February 11th, 1929, and it covers 51,814 square feet. The structure has three stories and it’s crowned by a dome with glass windows. Prepare your camera and capture this huge building standing on the marble front stairs that lead to Ponce de León Avenue. Then, visit the interior of the building with its pink marble columns and paintings of Puerto Rico’s history. The most famous of them tell the story of the Discovery of Puerto Rico, the Colonization and the Movement of 1887. Also, inside the dome you’ll find polychromatic plaster representations of the 9 muses from Greek mythology.
#3 Fort of San Geronimo de Boquerón
Facing the Capitol’s marble stairs, ride your bike to your right and head to New San Juan. On your way, you’ll find other attractions such as the Tercer Milenio Park and the Fort of San Geronimo de Boquerón. Watch as the waves crash on the fort’s walls and capture this amazing 17th century structure with your camera. It was there where they defended San Juan from Sir Francis Drake’s attacks. In 1983 it was registered in the National Registry of Historic Sites and, interestingly, it’s managed by the Caribe Hilton Hotel.
If you wish to spend the night in San Juan, this hotel is a good place to stay. Otherwise, you can find other hotels near the fort if you head to the Laguna del Condado (County Lagoon), located only a few hundred meters away.
Visit Old San Juan
Ride back to the Capitol and continue your tour in Old San Juan. Once you get there it will be impossible not to hum the song En mi Viejo San Juan. Old San Juan is located west of the bay and it houses lots of renowned historic sites. Begin this part of the tour by photographing the tall and beautiful Puerta de San Juan, built in 1635. It was, literally, the door to the city. Go past it and enjoy riding along the old city’s paved streets with its colonial colorful houses that remind us of southern Spain.
# 4 Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
One of Old San Juan’s main attractions is this church which was first built of wood, in 1521. After it was destroyed by a storm, they had to rebuild it in 1540. Its architectural beauty will impress you, but its historic worth will also fascinate you because this is where they keep the remains of conqueror Juan Ponce de Leon.
#5 St. Christopher Fort in San Juan
Apart from being a World Heritage Site, the fort, also known as Castillo de San Cristóbal, is one of the most powerful defense systems built in colonial times. Its walls reach a height of 30 meters and its different areas are connected by a system of tunnels that were strategically built.
If you only have one day to visit San Juan, it’s possible that you’ll only get to visit the entrance of this fort. But if you can stay overnight in the city, use the second day to go back to Old San Juan on foot and dedicate a whole morning to visiting San Cristóbal. This way you’ll get the chance to climb up the Caballero de San Miguel, the fort’s tallest point. It offers great views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean.
#6 Main Squares in Old San Juan
Other iconic places to visit in Old San Juan include:
- Plaza de Armas – It used to be the city’s Main Square. It’s decorated with sculptures that represent the Four Seasons and it’s located in front of the City Hall.
- Plaza de San José – It used to be known as Santo Domingo Square. It houses a bronze statue dedicated to Ponce de León, first governor of the city. The statue was elaborated with cast cannons that were taken from the British invaders who attacked San Juan in 1797 led by Sir Ralph Abercromby.
- Plaza Colón – It was originally known as Santiago Square and it’s located at the entrance of Old San Juan. There you’ll find a statue of Christopher Columbus that inspired the new name given to the square.
End your bike tour in San Juan by riding along the typical streets in the island and toasting with classical Bacardi or Don Q rum. This will be a vacation to remember forever.