The main population center of Puerto Rico is the San Juan Metropolitan Area. It has 3 distinct parts: Old San Juan, the Beach & Resort Area (comprising the areas known as Condado, Miramar, Ocean Park, Santurce, and Isla Verde), and the Surrounding Communities: Bayamón, Carolina, Cataño, Guaynabo, and Trujillo Alto.
San Juan , Beach & Resort Area
This area starts just outside of Old San Juan and includes the areas known as Condado, Miramar, Ocean Park and Isla Verde (which is part of Carolina). Here you will encounter world-class hotels, casinos, night-clubs, restaurants, and boutiques. The accommodations offer a wide range of prices. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is just south of Condado in Santurce. This is one of the two most important museums in Puerto Rico (the other is in Ponce).
San Juan , Río Piedras
This city was founded in 1714 and has been part of San Juan since 1951. A block from the central plaza, vendors offer fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs at the largest marketplace on the Island. The main campus of the University of Puerto Rico is located in Río Piedras. The Roosevelt Bell Tower may be found at the center of the campus. The University also maintains the Agricultural Experimental Station and Botanical Gardens. This beautiful area is best known for its orchid garden (with more than 100 species of orchids), picturesque ponds, sculptures, and walking trails.
Founded in 1772, Bayamón was named after a Cacique Indian. The city’s historic zone includes a plaza, church and mall. Today, with its artists, museums and theaters, this is one of the most progressive cities in Puerto Rico. Close to downtown is the Luis A. Ferré Science Park, featuring museums, an amphitheater, a planetarium, and the Space Rocket Plaza. Other attractions include the Museo de Archivo e Historia de Bayamón (for information on the history and development of the city) and the Museo de Arte Francisco Oller. On the last Friday of each month the city celebrates the Noche de Nostalgia y Bohemias, featuring music and local artisans. There is a free trolley service and activities for children.
Don Gaspar Martínez donated the land where the municipally was originally founded. He named the land “San Fernando de la Carolina” in honor of his daughter Carolina de San Juan. The city is known as “Tierra de Gigantes” (Land of Giants), not only for Don Felipe Birriel González (who was 7'11"), but also in deference to the eminent people from Carolina such as Julia de Burgos (most well known poet of her times), Jesús T. Piñero (first Puerto Rican governor of the Island) and Roberto Clemente (baseball player and humanitarian).
Carolina is actually a very large and important part of the San Juan Metro area. For example, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and all the hotels in Isla Verde are located in Carolina. The Piñones Forest, a recreational area just north of the airport, is also part of Carolina. The forest area includes an elevated boardwalk through the mangroves, a lookout tower, and stunning beaches. Cyclists, kayakers, beach lovers and walkers, are attracted to the area. In town you will find the Parque Conmemorativo Julia de Burgos. The city also offers a trolley service to major points of interest.
Cataño was founded in 1927 and is one of the youngest towns on the Island. Its original name “Hato de las Palmas de Cataño” was shortened to Cataño when it was formally established. It is also known as “La Antesala de la Capital” (the Prelude of the Capital) because of its location across the bay from the capital. Primarily an industrial area, this city is home to the Bacardi Rum Distillery, which provides tours of its facilities. Since Cataño is just across the bay from San Juan, you can take the ferry from Pier #2 in Old San Juan and then take a taxi to the plant. The ferry is the successor to the original long boat transportation system inaugurated in 1894 (known as “Hicoteas de Valdés”). The name has been changed to “Lanchas de Cataño” by the “Catañeses,” (the owners of the Ferry Service). The ferry runs between Cataño and Old San Juan every 30 minutes from Pier #3 (check the directory details).
Guaynabo was founded in 1769 and its name comes from the word Gay Na Bo, which means “Lugar de Agua Dulce” (Place of Fresh Water). The annual International San Juan Cinemafest at San Patricio Plaza exhibits more than 100 films from around the world and is recognized by the International Film Critics Circle. Centro de Bellas Artes de Guaynabo is a great weekend option because you can usually see presentations of plays, concerts or other cultural events (check a local newspaper for current activities). For nature lovers, there is the Bosque San Patricio. Decades ago the land was used for military housing; now it is a small forest is undergoing regeneration of its ecosystem. During the regeneration the forest is still open to the public.
Founded in 1801, Trujillo Alto is the second fastest-growing city in the San Juan Metropolitan area. In 1925 Don Angel Rivero Méndez and his wife founded La Gruta de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. This replica of the Lourdes Shrine in France is a place of pilgrimage during Holy Week. As the last Spanish officer of high rank on the island, Don Angel Rivero formally surrendered Puerto Rico to the United States after the Spanish-American War.
Source: Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Go North & San Juan Metro Area, Travel Planner (2003).