Puerto Rico is alive with vestiges of the past. Even though the island is a commonwealth of the US, it's hard not to think you've stepped into a Spanish colony when you arrive your hotel in San Juan. In fact, if it weren't for the American flag waving in the harbor, you might as well be in Spain. Music is everywhere—reggae is impossible to avoid, but salsa and various other Latin-flavored beats pulsate through the night, emanating from homes and clubs with equal feverish abandon. Puerto Rico tourism has also adopted a Cancun-like atmosphere, hoping to attract carefree teens on spring break; but the country, especially San Juan, is alive with the country's history. Few other places in the Caribbean have preserved the past as well - Puerto Rico history thrives in the carefully restored harbors and colonial architecture that remains from its days as a Spanish colony.
San Juan is nothing if not a polarizing city. One of the largest in the Caribbean, San Juan is an urban jungle. This is, of course, a problem for many travelers. Many visitors choose the Caribbean to get away. To disappear. And that is unlikely to happen in such a place as San Juan. Instead, the city has welcomed the crowds and aggrandized them as one of the main selling points of the Puerto Rico tourism industry, and San Juan has drawn thousands and thousands of travelers over the years. Regardless, many others move immediately from the airport to the Puerto Rico hotels in more remote locations on the island. But those that ignore the capital city, and Old San Juan in particular, are missing out on one of the most fascinating locales in the sea. Though it has taken its rich Puerto Rico history and diluted it with Americana and the carefully insinuated designs of the Puerto Rico tourism industry, San Juan is still a wonder to behold.
It also has easy access to some of the best Puerto Rico beaches. Who needs anything else when you've got sun and sand and fruity rum drunks at hand? The city beaches of San Juan are an anomaly—contrary to many travelers' expectations, the ones closest to the urban areas are often the best Puerto Rico beaches imaginable. City highrises almost melt into the warm summer sea. Executives on break, interns just off work and mid-level managers mix seamlessly with locals and tourists and there is always a beach side bar within walking distance.
There are plenty of fine Puerto Rico beaches all across the island. The eastern side is growing in popularity. In fact, many Puerto Rico vacations are based solely on the island's Atlantic side, where the sand is more powdery, the crowds thinner and the surfing at its peak. Many of the most luxurious Puerto Rico hotels are also located on this end, growing exponentially the further southward you travel.