One of the absolute best things about living in Puerto Rico is that every weekend is a new vacation. Broc and I made a deal when we moved here– I won’t complain about his work schedule (I just created my own that’s just as gruelling) but on weekends, we travel. We’ve so far been to at least the top 20 places on the island as well as a few hidden jewels that not many tourists even know about. I’ve been a decent reviewer on Yelp and Airbnb but that seems like a lot of work for people to hunt down. So I decided to use this blog as a Puerto Rico travel guide for when friends and family come visit.
Step 1: You arrive in San Juan.
The San Juan airport is fairly simple to navigate and I haven’t had any problems with luggage. Since you’re in the capital city, I always suggest 1 of 2 options: take a cab to Old San Juan and spend a day exploring on foot, or get a rental car at the airport (you’ll have to be carted to the cheapest one- Charlie’s Car Rental– but they have vans going back and forth pretty much all the time) and drive to Condado or Isla Verde.
I personally love Old San Juan (we got engaged and married there after all!) but Broc isn’t a fan. If you love historical architecture, 19th century forts, colorful Spanish style homes, blue cobblestone streets, tourist shopping, food and a festive caribbean atmosphere, Old San Juan is the place for you. We’ve stayed in a boutique hotel (that I also love but Broc did not) called Da House that’s right in the middle of everything. They do not have elevators there so be prepared to cart your luggage up several flights of stairs. But for the price, it’s a nice option for a 1 night stay.
Other places we’ve stayed include La Terraza Hotel (where we got married) which is also close to everything and absolutely beautiful, especially the rooftop terrace & pool. If you wait until the last minute to book a room you’ll notice prices dropping drastically- I think we paid half of what the original booking rate was when i checked 3 months out. However, tourist season is November-March (roughly) so that should be a factor to keep in mind.
Another option is my personal favorite, AirbNb. We’ve stayed at this place and LOVED it. Could not believe the view for the price- and they allow pets which is often a requirement for us. I always find airbNb to be reliable and a much more affordable option than most hotels. Just read the reviews and you’ll likely be very happy with any place you pick.
If glamour, amazing upscale restaurants and high-end shopping is more your speed, Condado is a must. Not to mention it’s nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Condado lagoon so views are amazing if you find the right place to stay. (We are actually looking to buy a place in Condado, we love it that much).
The Vanderbilt is one of the nicer hotels on the Ashford strip, and once you glimpse it’s rooftop, oceanfront pool & bar, you won’t even care how amazing your room is! La Concha is another great choice, but just as pricey. We’ve always wanted to stay at the Olive Boutique Hotel but never had a reason to since we’re only an hour away from the city- but several friends have raved about it as well. Or you can go super cheap (like we did one time) and book a simple studio through Airbnb. This place was nothing to write home about but it’s location is great and all you really need is a bed and a shower!
If you want to be a little off the main strip, Ocean Park, Miramar and Isla Verde are also great options to stay in San Juan. Ocean Park is a gated residential area but with great access to one of the safest beaches and Isla Verde is right by the airport, in Carolina, with the prettiest beaches in the city. Miramar is across the Condado Lagoon but a very cool, artsy up-and-coming district with it’s own restaurants, shops, and fun things to do. You could walk from any of the areas to Ashford but you’ll have a car so why even bother.
I would actually book my first and last night in San Juan so you can enjoy a nice dinner, see some great sites, and make it to the airport (2 hours early during peak season) for your departure.
However, the question now becomes, where do you go in between? Oh the options, the decisions- there are so many great places to see in Puerto Rico, I’m excited to show them all to you in the next few posts!!!