I have recently decided that I must travel. There's no other option. #wanderlust. I have a thirst to see every reach and corner of the Continental United States and the World.
San Juan is essentially destination number one. I went with my younger sister and a very good friend from way back in high school. We had a blast. I am so happy that my international travels have officially kicked off with San Juan. (PLUS! I picked the destination in case my friends didn't have passports! US Citizens do not need a passport to travel to PR!)
Hotel La Playa
I wanted to stay somewhere right off the beach. As young 20-somethings, we love the beach. :) Hotel La Playa is located in Isla Verde, with 2 beaches to choose from, and literally steps from your hotel. There are only 15 rooms! So, that was a consideration in staying there for the time we were there. You have all of the amenities typical of a hotel: daily room cleaning, toiletries, TV, WIFI, in room refrigerator, safe and continental breakfast. On the one day we rented a car, they allowed us to Valet Park for free. Also, I got a handle of Don Q for my birthday! Really, can you beat free Caribbean rum, in the Caribbean on your birthday? The hotel staff was extremely knowledgeable and friendly! They were eager to help, make your stay the BEST, and always had answers to our questions!
The continental breakfast was pretty basic, but I personally do not need a lot to get myself started in the morning. There was cereal, bagels, fruit, coffee and tea. It was served in their restaurant, which I never got to try. The view was amazing however. You sat overlooking the beautiful water, with the waves rolling in. It was absolutely breathtaking.
We ate twice at Alambique just off the beach in San Juan. It was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We ate dinner twice there. It was just delicious, laid back, and reasonably priced. On our first day at the beach, a local recommended the place to my Sister and I. Since we had no other plans, we tried it out! I'll definitely be going back and DEFINITELY recommend it! I shamelessly ate the Spicy Ahi Tuna wrap both nights (it was amazing), and drank my Puerto Rican beer, Medalla Light.
We also stopped at Lupi's. (NOTE: The link takes you to their restaurant page for their location in Old San Juan, we went to the one in Carolina.) The wait staff was more than accomodating-they let us sit wherever. They brought out chips & queso. In all honesty, we were there for the drinks, and the Puerto Rican Margarita was AMAZING. GET IT! TRY IT!!!
Most of our time was spent laying out on the white beaches and swimming in the Caribbean. It's a vacation-what more do you need to do?! The alligator below, we passed on the beach. So much more cool than a sand castle!
We did go on a banana boat ride. We had never done that before, and had a blast! The name of the place we used has completely left me at the moment. I'll edit this post if/when it comes to me or post a quick blurb with a link back to this specific post. They were located behind ESJ Towers, and had blue flags next to their booth! There were a couple of booths, all owned by the same people with similar set up! GO TO THEM! It was $20/person!
HOWEVER, going on a banana boat ride was not our first choice. Originally, my father had contacted Kenny at Parasail Puerto Rico about reserving kayaks for the 3 of us. It was his gift to me for my birthday. The website listed kayaks as $20/rental for SINGLE kayaks. Kenny responded to my father that reservations were not needed as they had plenty of kayaks. So, on the day of my birthday, we located the booth. It was a GOAT ROPE.
FIRST, they only had double kayaks, and said, "one of you won't be able to go alone, you'll have to find a fourth." um...ok!
SECOND, the price went up to $30/person.
When I asked to speak with Kenny, they of course said he wasn't available. I showed them the emails I had, and their response was, "well our website hasn't been updated, it's $30." Obviously, they did not get my business. Nor, will they ever. I was extremely let down, but thoroughly happy that we went on the banana boat ride.
We also went on a tour of Casa Bacardi . How can you not visit the famous Bacardi distillery??? I thoroughly enjoy visiting breweries, wineries, distilleries, etc. So, this was definitely on the must see list. We opted for the $12 tour. Included in the tour of the grounds is history, a welcome drink (rum punch, right here), and you get a commemorative Bacardi cup to take home! Free souvenir! Well, relatively free. I saw some reviews on tripadvisor.com that stated the tour guides weren't informative, but I found mine to be very informative. There was also a short video on marketing of Bacardi over the years. Tons of historical information, about how the Bacardi had to flee Cuba, and thus, arrived in Puerto Rico. You also learned how Bacardi is actually distilled in KENTUCKY BOURBON BARRELS. I literally gasped. I'm a huge whiskey and bourbon fan, AND live in Kentucky. So, now I'm a big fan of Bacardi as well. ;) The man that discussed mixology, and how Bacardi "invented" the Bacardi & Coke (NOT rum & coke) ;) was also very knowledgeable! The website for Casa Bacardi linked above now gives information on the tours, which was not there prior to February 2015!
Will I go back to Puerto Rico? Abso-freakin-lutely. I'll visit San Juan again-besides Casa Bacardi, I was unable to visit OLD San Juan, which is very historical. I didn't get to the mountains or rain forest. Still so much to see!
I hope this post is useful to fellow travelers! I hope it highlights some of the tourist-y place AND local dives! I hope someone get some use out of this, and visits some of these places in Puerto Rico. You'll have a blast!!!