Puerto Rico Family Travel Guide: Cataño
Did you know that Cataño is the smallest town of Puerto Rico,with only 5 square miles? Yup! It’s small but has one of the best views of the San Juan Bay. It’s right across Old San Juan. This is a great place to visit if you’ve arrived at San Juan to take a cruise. You can compliment this guide with a travel guide I posted earlier this year about San Juan, or this other post about the 10 most photo-worthy spots in Old San Juan if you only have a few hours.
I’ve had so much fun learning about the history of Cataño for this short post I’ve prepared for you!
It was named after a Spanish hidalgo named Hernando de Cataño, who was one of the first physicians to arrive at Puerto Rico during the colonial period. He received this piece of land across Old San Juan as payment upon accepting his position. As people started moving there, it was recognized as a barrio of Bayamón, but was later separated as a political strategy. Sneaky!
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I won’t lie. Cataño doesn’t have much to do with only 5 square miles, but if you’re around Old San Juan I recommend you do this short trip. I promise it’s worth it. Even locals should take this trip at least once!
Lancha de Cataño (Ferry Service)
Go over to the AcuaExpreso Cataño Terminal (Pier 2) on Marina Street at Old San Juan to take the ferry. It’s just a 5 minute ride and it currently only costs $0.50! Sweet!! However, they’re planning to increase the cost to $2.00 which is still a pretty decent price.
I got to admit the Old San Juan terminal needs a little TLC. The Cataño terminal is way nicer!
The ferry service is open Monday through Friday, 5:45 AM to 10:00 PM, and 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM on weekends.
Taína Monument and Bahía Viva
Once you arrive at Cataño, turn right once you exit the terminal and you’ll find the beautiful Bahía Viva. This is a promenade overlooking the San Juan Bay. It has the best views of Old San Juan and the bay. You can see whenever a ship comes into the bay, and if you come on weekends you’ll most likely see a few cruise ships.
Here, you’ll also find the Taína Monument, a statue in honor of our Taíno heritage. I just finished reading a book about the history of the colonization of Puerto Rico, and I’m more compelled to honor my Taíno heritage. The colonial period was hard on the Taíno population in Puerto Rico (and the Caribbean), as it practically wiped it out of existence.
I’d also LOVE to find out just how much Taíno blood I have in me. Honestly, I don’t know much about my family prior to my great grandma. Recent studies have hypothesized that the Taíno blood we have comes from the women. Most likely because they were taken as concubines, were forced or out of self-preservation, married the Spanish colonists. However, the men were enslaved and forced to do harsh labor that eventually led to their deaths due to the horrible conditions they were forced to live under.
These people received Christopher Columbus with open arms. They even received Juan Ponce de Leon as a friend and helped him build his house in Caparra (you can read more about it in my previous post). Of course, they later rebelled but it was too late. They were no match for the Spanish forces.
That was a short history lesson for you! Sorry… I get carried away whenever I talk about this topic.
Make sure to take lots of pictures here! Did I mention that the view here is stunning? I did? Okay… LOL
Paseo Tablado (Boardwalk)
This is a pretty cool boardwalk on the water, along the Bahía Viva promenade. My little one loved walking the sometimes uneven boards, but be careful. Like a lot of outdoor attractions in Puerto Rico, it got damaged by hurricane Maria and some areas are still not safe. Just use common sense, but it’s crazy this survived a hurricane like Maria!
However, it’s got beautiful views of the whole area and the breeze makes the heat bearable. Make sure to bring sunscreen, as there aren’t too many trees to take shelter from the sun. I recommend this Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen SPF 50 and the Natural Insect Repellent Combo Pack. Insect repellent is also a must in Puerto Rico!Puerto Rico Family Travel Guide: Taking the Cataño Ferry #familytravel #puertorico Click To Tweet
Food & Beverage
A note before I continue…
Cataño has the Bacardi rum distillery and there are tours available. However, since this is a family-centered blog, I will not be featuring it on this post. In my opinion, alcohol and taking care of small children don’t mix well. I also don’t think any mother who is breastfeeding should consume alcohol. It still passes to the milk, whatever small (or negligible) amount. However, everybody has the right to their opinion and you may not agree with me… and that’s okay!
So I asked my parents about it, and they said it’s the best and most popular restaurant in the area. Plus, it’s ranked #1 restaurant in Cataño by TripAdvisor. With those kind of reviews, I HAD to try it for myself. Sadly, it was closed when we visited (Monday). Oh well… I might update this post if I ever get to go back, though.
We were famished because we hadn’t had lunch, so we went back to Old San Juan and ate there instead. I mean, I should’ve checked before going, but they don’t have their hours listed anywhere on their website or on TripAdvisor. I had to go to their Facebook page to find it.
Picky eater special: try the tostones! My toddler won’t eat anything mushy and that leaves out the mofongo. However, he can eat tostones. With a little bit of garlic salt, they taste amazing! I mean, we’ve made them at home because we weren’t able to try the tostones at Don Tello. We just LOVE tostones!
Places to Stay
Cataño doesn’t have any nice hotels, but since it’s just a 5-minute ferry ride away from Old San Juan, you’d best stay there. Here are a few suggestions!
This is the closest hotel to the pier! It has a pool, free internet, room service, and the rooms are very nice. Try getting a room with the view of the San Juan Bay if you can!
This is a more modern and contemporary hotel. It’s actually one of my favorite hotels in the island only for the rooms and the pool. It’s over by the Puerto Rico Convention Center and very convenient if you’re taking a cruise at the Pan American Pier.
This hotel is outside of Old San Juan, but it’s also one of my favorites in the area. It has a stunning pool, the rooms are seriously very nice, and you can access the beach right from the hotel. The staff is also very nice!
Things I learned by visiting Cataño
Being a local means I’ve heard and read stories about Cataño, but I seriously had a lot of fun coming up with this blog post. I got to ride the ferry across the bay! I hadn’t done that… EVER! I mean, I have taken a lot of cruises from San Juan, but I never actually crossed the bay. Anyhow… here’s a list of things I learned while researching for this blog post.
- Don’t visit on Mondays! It’s almost like a ghost town on Mondays and even Don Tello is closed. Go on weekends instead.
- Like everywhere else you go, take regular precautions. I was made to believe that it’s a bad neighborhood, but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. In fact, the people there were very friendly and stopped to say “hi” to us. However, you always need to protect your belongings wherever you travel to, not just here.
- Cataño has SO MUCH potential! With one of the most impressive views of the bay and the ferry service, I don’t understand why it hasn’t made tourism a priority.
So that’s it!
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