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San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is a booming tourist destination. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. Founded by the Spanish in 1521, it also is the oldest city in the United States. The city has an eclectic combination of sights and sounds and has much to offer its visitors: centuries-old architecture; stunning beaches; wonderful eateries, including those serving authentic criollo food; enjoyable museums; and lively nightlife.

Most cruise ships dock right in the heart of Old San Juan. Old San Juan comprises seven square blocks of cobbled streets and colonial architecture. The 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings have been exquisitely preserved and carefully restored. For people with mobility impairments, touring the city by foot can be challenging. The sidewalks are very narrow and the streets are paved with cobblestones. So choose your tour based upon how much physical exertion you can endure. Most of the old buildings in San Juan are not wheelchair accessible but a few of them are and definitely worth visiting.

To protect the beautiful city of San Juan from its enemies, the city built a massive wall and forts. San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico’s best known fort, was constructed to defend the port of San Juan and keep seaborne enemies out of the city. Overlooking San Juan Bay and providing stunning vistas, the dramatic El Morro also is a labyrinth of tunnels, dungeons, barracks and lookout towers. Fort San Cristobal is one of the largest forts built in the Americas. Built between 1634 and 1790, Fort San Cristobal’s impressive walls reach over 100 feet. The Fort’s primary function was to protect San Juan from land-based attacks. Both of these Forts are – for the most part – wheelchair accessible. As cannons needed to move between levels, these forts were built with ramps – a built-in bonus for accessibility. Some ramps are very steep, though, and so it is advised to bring a companion for assistance.

In 2000, Puerto Rico opened Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, a true 21st Century, state-of-the-art museum. The 130,000 square foot building was once known as San Juan Municipal Hospital. After approximately $55 million worth of renovations, the museum’s permanent collection now includes over 1,000 pieces of Puerto Rican art ranging from painting, sculptures, photography and new media. The collection showcases the island’s rich cultural heritage by featuring local artists as well as international artists. The museum is fully wheelchair accessible.

Interesting Fact: Most of the beers sold in Puerto Rico vary from 7 to 10 ounce bottles or cans.  Puerto Ricans prefer their beers extremely cold so the portions are small in order to be consumed before the beer has time to warm up.

Cruise Lines out of Port of San Juan: Azamara Club Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Silversea Cruises