Yesterday I posted about why you should take a winter getaway, prefaced with gross pictures of New York in the winter. On Wednesday, the sidewalks were covered in 6 inches of slush that had turned brown. Lovely.
I went on a girl’s trip to Puerto Rico last year and had a fantastic time. Those four days in the sun were so needed and I felt great when I came back. I can’t say enough good things about Puerto Rico as a winter getaway location:
- You don’t need a passport
- You can use your phone without incurring international charges
- Most people speak English
- The locals were extremely nice and welcoming
- It’s a short flight from east coast and midwest cities
- It has great food and lively nightlife
- It’s relatively cheap. As I mentioned yesterday, my friend and I booked a vacation package through Priceline, which included round-trip flight from New York and four nights at the San Juan Marriot Resort & Casino for $700 per person. Two more friends got in on the deal, which lowered the cost to $500 per person.
- The language, infrastructure, and culture are familiar enough that you feel comfortable and immersed right away, but the beautiful weather and scenery definitely make you feel like you are on vacation
Our pool and beach at the San Juan Marriot Resort and Casino.
PR. Get it?
View across the bay.
Here are some of the highlights from our trip:
Dinner at Jose Enrique
Probably one of the best meals I’ve had, ever. Headed by the only Puerto Rican chef to be nominated for a James Beard award, this restaurant has a relaxed Caribbean feel but serves high-end, spectacular food. The menu changes nightly and is written on a white board which they prop up near your table. There was a mix of tourists and friendly locals. It’s slightly off the beaten path, so it’s best to take a taxi from most of the San Juan hotels. It’s also PACKED at all times of the night so go early, put your name on the list, go around the block and have a drink at one of the many bars, and be prepared to wait about 2 hours. It’s worth it.
My meal at Jose Enrique – whole fried red snapper, still in the shape of the fish, with avocado and corn salsa and cilantro mashed potatoes. *Drool.*
Old San Juan
A small, narrow island on the west side of the city, Old San Juan completely surprised me. It’s super quaint, with restaurants, shops, museums, and bars lining small, winding cobblestone streets. Take a day and just wander.
Yay Caribbean hair.
Getting there sounds more complicated than it actually is. Take a bus to Old San Juan, take the ferry over the bay, hop in a cab, then you’re there! Actually, all involved have perfected this system so it’s a breeze. The factory is one of the top attractions in Puerto Rico and…it’s free! Entry includes a tour of the distillery and two rum drinks in their beautiful outdoor pavilion.
All of this fine rum behind a glass case. Why?
El Yunque and Luquillo Beach
My favorite part of the trip was renting a jeep and getting out of San Juan for the day. El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States, boasts lush foliage, waterfalls, and wildlife (and bug life too). It’s a quick one hour drive from San Juan and the driving wasn’t too bad. The main trail through the forest was relatively easy – we hiked to La Mina falls in about 45 minutes and a person with moderate fitness would manage fine. There’s plenty to do in El Yunque:
You can hide in a leaf.
You can take pictures in front of a big tree.
You can see this lovely view from Yokahu Tower.
You can gaze dreamily up at palm trees.
You can sing Kelly Clarkson in the car on the way there.
And you can drink huge glasses of wine at the end of the day without judgement.
After hiking around the rainforest and getting super gross and sweaty, we went to Luquillo Beach, which was right up the road (15 minutes) from El Yunque. And it was so beautiful.
Hope you enjoyed this short & sweet Puerto Rico profile! Next up is Costa Rica and Mexico.