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San Juan, Puerto Rico


San Juan is one of the biggest natural harbors in the Caribbean and is the second oldest city in the Americas. This beautiful city, called "La Ciudad Amurallada," was founded in 1521. Cobblestone streets, hanging balconies, chapels and many plazas characterize the historic end of the city, while modern amenities and high-rise hotels have sprung up on the more developed beachfront.

OLD SAN JUANOriginally a military stronghold, this 7 square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag. Best explored on foot, this neighborhood is close to being 500 years old, and includes 16th and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings.

The imposing Castillo de San Cristóbal, or San Cristóbal Fort, was built in 1634 and completed in 1771, to guard the land entrance to Old San Juan. Its sister fort, El Morro, was designed to protect the city from attacks by sea. One of the largest defenses ever built in the Americas, San Cristóbal Fort rises 150 feet and covers 27 acres of land.

The more contemporary, elaborate area of San Juan is defined by high-rise beach strips and a major commercial center, resembling that of Miami Beach. In the sophisticated Condado and Isla Verde areas you'll find upscale shops, casinos and the best beaches.

Just an hour outside of San Juan, the Caribbean National Forest, or El Yunque, is the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. This 28,000-acre forest preserve gets 120 inches of rain a year, and is home to more than 250 species of trees. Learn about the ecosystem at the El Portal Tropical Forest Center, or enjoy the view from the Yokahu Observation Tower.

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