My Trip to Puerto Rico
Last week, I went on a much needed vacation to San Juan Puerto Rico. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t been on a real vacation in years. Over the past 8 years or so, I have been hustling and grinding with no results lol but also without taking time to get away. This year, I swore to myself that I would take advantage of both the changes in my life as well as benefits that allow travel. Because, I wasn’t slammed with work, managed my finances much better, and have flight benefits I took una vacaciones a Puerto Rico. This trip was so special because it was my first trip with two of my loves— my mother and sweet Jasiel. Here’s our trip…
Our flight to Puerto Rico was great with a few bouts of turbulence but still calm. And Jasiel, well he was calm as well. He did amazing on his first flight. He spent time cuddling with grandmother, watched Toy Story and napped. There wasn’t one cry on the flight. As we deplaned the passengers complimented how great of a flyer he was. I’m sure they were worried that a little infant would cry the entire three hours. Nope not mine.
We arrived in San Juan Sunday afternoon around 1:30 pm. We took a quick taxi ride from the airport to Sheraton Casino Hotel in San Juan. Oh, FYI, ubers are not permitted to go into the airport, just so you’ll know. During our taxi ride, I just thought about all the countless times I’ve wanted to visit San Juan. While in pharmacy school, I thought of relocating to San Juan due to a recruitment initiative from Walgreens. They were offering pharmacists and technicians high incentives to move to PR. I even called to one of the pharmacies and started the application process. So I say all that to say, I was finally here, finally on the Island of Enchantment.
After getting settled and changing, we made dinner plans at Raices in Old San Juan from my brother and hotel concierges suggestions. Nicely decorated restaurant located in the heart of Old San Juan, Raices serves Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin cuisine. The restaurant is very thematic in its decor and waitress uniforms—very Afro-Caribbean. It is like taking a trip back in time.
The food seemed to be attracted to tourists, however. Carnival ships were docked the evening we arrived so many of the diners were from the cruise ship. I wondered if the food is geared towards tourists. It was just average for me. We ordered the Typico de Festival platter— cod fritters, crab taquitos, and plantains stuffed with meat. The crab taquitos were good but everything else was pretty average. So, I ordered the Seafood Paella. The presentation was beautiful but the paella was very very fishy and salty. I am not one to complain at all and will eat what I ordered but I had to send it back. It was way too expensive and too much food to waste and not eat. Next time, I’ll order something else and give them another try. We ended our first night in San Juan at Raices after taking a walk to Walgreens to pick up some pampers lol.
After waking up our second day in San Juan, I committed to making some sort of itinerary. Traveling with my mom, we have two different travel personalities. I am an immersive traveler. I like to really immerse myself in local culture and food and see museums, guided tours, and local attractions. My mother is a resort type of traveler. She would much rather lay on the beach all day and have cocktails and eat at “safe” restaurants. However, being a mom she sacrificed and was a trooper allowing me to see Old San Juan for one day.
I called an Uber and off to Old San Juan we went. First, we took the time to walk the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan to people watch and view the old architecture of the buildings. There was so much beauty and nostalgia in walking through Old San Juan. I loved seeing the street names written in Spanish on the bricks of the buildings. I also really loved the view. San Juan is positioned right along beautiful waters so you get the hustle and bustle off a city and serene waters all in one.
We walked up a pretty good appetite after shopping for souvenirs and taking pictures along the way, check my Instastory highlights for more. Cafe Manolin was up for lunch. Initially, we were supposed to go for desayuno but my mom was undecided. We doubled back for lunch. I ordered the Puerto Rican Sancocho, which is just a beef stew. It was pretty good. The service was really great. I enjoyed conversing with our waiter. He was very charming and helpful. After having a great conversation with him, I noted how much he loved Puerto Rico and was willing to give all suggestions of places we should visit.
Our next stop, Castillo de San Cristobal. Castillo San Cristóbal, is a fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was built by Spain to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of the San Juan National Historic Site. Castillo San Cristóbal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. We walked through tunnels and very steep hills to witness a gorgeous and breathtaking view of the island. I mean my heart is still fluttering from feeling utterly overwhelmed by the waters and view.
Our evening was winding down and we had begun to work up a snack craving. We stopped by Marshalls for a bathing suit and Himalaya Ice Co. for some rolled ice cream. I hadn’t tried rolled ice cream in the states so I was pretty excited to try it in Puerto Rico. Not that it would be any different but I was craving something cool because it was hot there. I ordered the mint and chocolate chip. My mom ordered strawberries and cream. I ended up mixing them together while trying hers. It was divine.
Our last couple of stops were the Instagrammable and Pinterest stops lol. Before the trip, I took to Pinterest to discover a few “must see” places in San Juan. The infamous umbrellas and doors of the black Puerto Rican flags were everywhere. On Fortaleza Street, in Old San Juan, the colorful umbrellas have been installed during the summer season, giving this street a festive air. There were so many people lined up to take pictures under the umbrellas. It was a beautiful sight to see. Just a few weeks prior, they were taken down to the government protest. I’m so happy I was in the city just as they had reinstalled them all.
As the sun began to set, we trekked uphill through an artsy community to the door with the black Puerto Rican Flag located on Calle de San Jose. I took several pictures and also took pictures of tourists. This door has become very popular. Tourists were lined up taking pictures. It seemed as if the people who lived in the neighbor were becoming accustomed to it. They were sitting on their rooftops people watching.
New hotel and change of scenery, days 3 through 5 would be spent laying on the beach relaxing and recharging. The Courtyard at Isla Verde Beach would be our home for the next couple of days. As much as I said, I am not the “lay on the beach” type of person, my soul needed to come here, another post about that. Water and rest are no friends of mine but over time I realize how important they both are especially while on vacation.
Our first day on the beach, I indulged in a pina colada and a very good nap with Jasiel. I made sure to place his feet in the ocean as well as take loads and loads of pictures of him lying on the beach. We were total beach bums, not doing too much but relaxing.
Our last full day in San Juan and we didn’t have any solid plans. We just wanted to eat a really good breakfast and spend the last day on this beautiful island relaxing. I asked a couple of the hotel staff members for local breakfast recommendations and Bistro Cafe was highly recommended. Another Uber drive about 10 minutes away, led us to an incredible breakfast restaurant. I loved this place so much that I have a separate restaurant review post scheduled. We arrived back to the hotel satisfied and ready to chill. I booked a massage on the ocean to ensure that I would fully relax. I mean having the ocean playing its own music in the background was so angelic.
Discovering San Juan, Puerto Rico allowed me the opportunity to discover a bit more about myself. Essentially, that is the purpose of travel, right? It was an island that I feel enchanted me and also embraced me. I am so glad that I went off the beaten path by immersing myself in the local culture and the people. Visiting Walmart, taking Ubers with non English speaking drivers, eating at local restaurants and conversing with the locals all made this trip so memorable. I didn’t get a chance to see half of the things I wanted to or try somethings I wanted but the island will be there and so will I again. I went all the way to Puerto Rico and didn’t try a Mofongo, didn’t see the countryside or go dancing.
Until next time, Puerto Rico!!!!