Guaynabo Travel Guide: The First European Settlement in Puerto Rico

Adventures, Local Travels, Travels

Guaynabo was the first European settlement in Puerto Rico. Because of its historical importance, I came up with this travel guide. I’ve changed the layout a bit to make it easier to navigate through and make the reading experience better. I hope you enjoy it!

Museums

Guaynabo has three museums which I think are worth visiting. Each has its own theme and vibe, but they are all great in their own way!

Ruinas de Caparra

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Caparra Archaeological Site

In English, it’s called the Caparra Archaeological Site, but if you translate its Spanish name directly, it’s the Caparra Ruins.  It was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1994 due to its significant historical importance. It’s the oldest known European settlement on US territory!

This was Juan Ponce de León’s residence prior to the construction of Casa Blanca (see this post to read about it). It is believed that the native Taínos helped in the construction and formed a village, with houses surrounding the primary building. Unfortunately, it was abandoned in 1521 and part of the ruins were destroyed later in the construction of a nearby road.

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Cannon (replica)

As for the museum, you’ll find all kinds of artifacts from the colonial period, such as: an armor, part of a horse’s armor, a shotgun, a baptistery, a crucifix, among others. This place is small but you’ll find an hour isn’t enough if you want to take everything in. If you get the tour, you’ll end up spending well over 2 hours here. Trust me! The people who run the museum are very knowledgeable and will be able to answer most (if not all) of your questions.

Interesting fact: even though there are a lot of books written about Ponce de León’s “contributions” to history, there are no actual paintings of him. The paintings and busts around the world are representations of what he would have looked like.

This museum is located on Route #2, km 6.6. For now, they are only opened Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM because the guide quit and moved to the US after hurricane Maria. Prior to that, it was opened Wednesday through Sunday.

 

Museum of Transportation

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Us at the Museum of Transportation next to a really cool classic car.

When we visited the first time, it was closed. It was working on a generator because it still had no electricity after hurricane Maria. However, they open on special occasions.

My husband is a huge car fan, and was very disappointed it wasn’t open when we visited the first time. He was really looking forward to it! The second time around, there was a special event and he enjoyed it very much. However, he felt it was too small. It does feel small, but it’s just that cars take up so much space. Plus, they have like a daycare center on the second floor, which is weird. Why wouldn’t they use that space for the museum?

First, they play a short video about the history of transportation in Puerto Rico. It talks about carriages, trains, ships, and (of course) cars. The main exhibitions are about cars! There’s a mural at the entrance I loved, but I wasn’t able to take a picture of it because it was VERY crowded.

They also have a small exhibition about the Cars movie. Baby L LOVED it! He identified it the moment he saw it and didn’t want to move away from the display.

On a side note, they said the government is planning to expand the Tren Urbano (a fully automated rapid transit system) to other towns. That’s huge! It’s currently limited to some areas of San Juan, Guaynabo and Bayamón. However, it doesn’t go to important areas like the airport in Carolina and Old San Juan. When I used to live near one of the stations I’d get to work in 15 minutes, but when I lived with my parents I’d take at least an hour thanks to the horrible traffic jams. The construction of Route 66 helped a lot, but it would’ve been better to not have to drive there.

This museum is located at Santa Rosa Avenue. For more information, you can visit their Facebook page. You can also  send them a message. They are very responsive!

Museo del Deporte (Sports Museum)

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Statue of Roberto Clemente in front of the Museo del Deporte

This was a real treat! I’m not an avid sports fan, but I LOVED visiting this museum. They first play a video about the museum, what their goals are for the future, the process of making the wax figures, and important Puerto Rican athletes.

After seeing the video, I was left with a huge sense of pride for my country and the men and women who have represented us worldwide in sports. Did you know that Puerto Rico has the most athletes per square mile?! I’m sorry if I can’t contain my pride! Even the music played in the video is 100% Boricua! ♪ Puerto Rico, patria mía. La tierra de mis amores. ♪ That’s the song played near the end of the video. You should totally check it out on YouTube! I’m listening to it as I write this post.

This museum has so much information! From the first sport played in Puerto Rico, to the current ones, we spent around two and a half hours there. On the first floor, you’ll find Batú (the first sport played by the Taínos) and everything baseball. On the second floor, you’ll find basketball, boxing, soccer, and equestrianism.

Finally, at the back they have the wax figures. This is the main attraction of the museum. They have life-size wax figures of important Puerto Rican athletes, such as Roberto Clemente, Roberto Alomar, and Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

The museum is located on Bulevar del Deporte #3 Sector Bellomonte. If you’re a sports fan, I totally recommend visiting this museum!


Malls

I’m not one to visit malls when I’m traveling internationally, but I’ve visited a few out of pure necessity. Like one in France where nobody seemed to understand me. That experience taught me to learn the basics of the language spoken in the country I’m visiting. As a side note, I highly recommend you learn a little bit of Spanish if you come to Puerto Rico, as that’s the language that most people speak here.

Also, in Spain I went searching for a spice my mother asked for as a souvenir. That one was very cool (and easy to find) and I actually had fun at the store there! Plus, when you visit a mall or store, you get to experience the place as the locals do. I honestly think it’s worth it.

Now, these two malls I’m about to tell you about are right next to each other. They are located on San Patricio Avenue.

San Patricio Plaza

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San Patricio Plaza’s main entrance

This mall has been given new life in recent years! It has bumper cars, an arcade and best of all, local shops. Stop by Carreta Zona Típica! It’s a cart located on the first floor. They sell local candy. The Marrayo is my favorite! It’s made out of coconut, sesame seeds and brown sugar. This is something you must try and buy some more to give people at home as souvenirs. You can see the whole list of stores HERE.

Galería San Patricio

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Galeria San Patricio

I honestly only come here ’cause of Scrapbook Gallery. It’s a locally-run scrapbook store. They have the latest trends in the scrapbook world. Plus, they offer classes like bible journaling and mixed media. The parking fee is too high, in my opinion. This mall also has some boutiques with beautiful items!

Food & Beverage

A travel guide can’t be complete without this section! I feel the need to give a disclaimer before I continue with this section, though. Everything I write here is my honest opinion. I haven’t received payment of any kind to give any reviews (yet). I just like to feature some places because I honestly love them! However, that does not mean that I will not accept sponsored posts in the future. I will definitely let you know if/when that is the case, but it will ALWAYS be my honest opinion.

Hazel Bar

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Hazelnut pastry with hazelnut coffee, of course!

This place gives honor to its name. They serve everything hazelnut!! From pastries to coffee, you’ll have trouble deciding which one you’ll have because they all look decadently delicious.

The best thing I’ve had so far is what they call the Cookie Shot. I had it with vanilla ice cream and it is A-MA-ZING! The coffee was REALLY good! I recommend the hazelnut latte. The hazelnut puff pastry pictured here is also a local favorite. Additionally, I once had another pastry with pistachios that was very good too, because of course we have visited more than once. However, my favorite is by far the Cookie Shot!

This is a small spot, but big on character. I loved the quote on the wall! It says, “a day without pleasure is a day lost.” Head over to my Instagram feed and you’ll see it.

Hazel Bar is located in San Patricio Plaza, on the second floor next to Chili’s.

 

 

Places to Stay

Guaynabo doesn’t really have any places to stay, which is why I recommend you stay in either Old San Juan, Condado or Isla Verde.


Booking.com

Outdoor Attractions

The following attractions are (still) closed due to hurricane Maria but they used to be one of the top attractions in Guaynabo, which is why I decided to include them anyway. I’ll update this post once (if) they reopen.

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Warning Sign Reads: “Due to Hurricane Maria, these facilities have suffered damages. Please maintain your distance for your own safety.”

Mirador Gavillán

This is a quick stop, but well worth your time. In fact, there are two gazebos available but the main area was destroyed by the hurricane. It has one of the most impressive views of the Metro Area! Mirador refers to a scenic overlook or lookout point. The featured image on this post is the view from the Mirador.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for the views. A stop like this is a great opportunity to think and meditate on the wonderful things the world has to offer, and thank God for such a beautiful creation.

Maybe it’s because of my medical condition (I went blind for a day when I was a child), but I always stop whenever I find a spot with gorgeous views. And if my husband (who is usually driving) doesn’t stop, I get mad sometimes (sorry, honey!).

This mirador is at about 670 feet above sea level and is located on PR835. I’m sure it won’t dissapoint!

Parque Forestal La Marquesa

This is an ecopark and is located just 20 minutes from San Juan. However, it’s closed “until further notice”. It seems it was heavily damaged by the hurricane. We stopped by and the security officer there told us it was severely hit by the hurricane and it would be a long time before they reopen.

That’s really sad because it was a great place for the kids! It has a funicular, zip line, restaurant, butterfly house, and aviary. It’s also great for scenic views and beautiful photos spots.

The park is located on PR-834.

Before you go…

Make sure to take some cash. Some places only take cash (no credit or debit cards), or only take certain types of credit cards. The only museum that does not have an entrance fee here is the Caparra Archaeological Site. The rest do have an entrance fee. As for malls and restaurants, most of them take all kinds of credit and debit cards. Dress comfortably if you’re visiting during the summer, as it gets hot and humid! Plus, we basically get summer weather year-round.


So that’s it!

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Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help this site stay online. I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Thanks for your support!

Thank you so much for reading!

P.S. Head over to my Instagram feed to see more pictures about Guaynabo City! I have SO MANY pictures from the museums I want to share with you!

 

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