Beachcombing in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
By Kenneth Blaine
If you are a seaglass enthusiast with a love of tropical island getaway vacations, say no more. Puerto Rico is the destination for you! An island 35 miles north to south by 100 miles wide, Puerto Rico holds a diverse and adventurous landscape, stunning beaches, enchanting culture, culinary delights and rich history… not to mention many beaches famous for their quantities of fabulous seaglass.
Puerto Rico’s capital, Old San Juan, was settled in 1521 by the Spanish. Declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, it is the second oldest city in the Western Hemisphere. The city holds two large historic forts: El Morro and San Cristóbal, both of which began construction in the 16th and 17th centuries. The entire city of Old San Juan can be explored by foot and is filled with history, museums, art, world class restaurants and shops.
Old San Juan’s best seaglass-producing beach, Playa Capitolio, can be accessed from the sidewalk across the street from the Capitol building. Bring a nice sturdy bag with you and take the staircase down to the beach. First, take a moment to breathe it all in. To your left you have picturesque views of the historic fort walls of San Cristóbal and to your right, stretches of beach sprinkled with treasures waiting to be discovered. Kick off your flip flops and start walking toward your right along the water’s edge. If you don’t immediately start finding seaglass you are in the wrong place. Now picture centuries of city residents trashing bottles, windows, china, and anything else you could imagine off the cliffs and fort walls. It is not uncommon to find many pieces of perfectly tumbled black glass here. San Juan was a port and many ships came through importing rums and other spirits. The glass on the beach reflects this activity through pieces of historic bottles (onions, case gins, porters & ales). You may also find a high quantity of lavender glass, indicative of old clear glass bottles that were produced with manganese and turn a delicious shade of purple over time spent in the sun. Playa Capitolio is also known to occasionally produce seaglass marbles, stoppers, rare and exotic colors, patterned privacy glass from stained glass windows, beads, sea pottery and even whole bottles.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro, commonly referred to as ‘El Morro’ was constructed in the 16th century to protect the entrance to the san Juan Bay. Today, it is a leading tourist attraction in Puerto Rico.
Castle of San Cristóbal, also known as Fort San Cristóbal was completed in 1783 and built to protect against attacks on San Juan with walls that wrapped around the city of San Juan.
Casa Bacardi, With Puerto Rico being the rum capital of the world, your visit to San Juan would not be complete without a stop at Bacardi! 4 different tours are offered from historical to tasting, mixology and bottling. To plan your visit: www.bacardi.com/casa-bacardi/
Where to stay:
La Concha Resort, Beachfront Resort in Condado situated on Ashford Avenue. Easy access to beach, pools, casino and endless dining options. www.laconcharesort.com
La Terraza de San Juan, Small boutique hotel built in a Spanish Colonial era building and close to most attractions within Old San Juan. Terrific rooftop pool, terrace and views. www.laterrazahotelsanjuan.com
Hotel El Convento, Boutique hotel in the center of Old San Juan. El Convento, originally a convent built in the mid-1600s, is now a beautiful restoration of Spanish Colonial architecture. www.elconvento.com
St. Germain Bistro & Tapas Bar, Rooftop tapas bar and restaurant. A great happy hour stop with a terrific Spanish tapas menu.
156 Calle Sol, San Juan, PR 00901
Ladi’s Restaurant, Sweeping views and a chill but elegant environment offering an extensive menu of Puerto Rican Cuisine and outstanding mofongo. Ladi’s Restaurant is a perfect lunch stop and a quick walk from Playa Capitolio (seaglass beach). www.ladisrestaurant.com
Pirilo Pizza Rústico, Regarded by many as the best pizza in Puerto Rico. Pirilo is tucked away in Old San Juan and offers a huge menu of specialty pizzas, many featuring a fusion of Puerto Rican cuisine.
207 Calle Tanca, San Juan, PR 00901
This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine July/August 2018 issue.