It was just another Tuesday night when my friend Carol asked, “Hey do you want to go to Puerto Rico this weekend?” I checked my calendar, and I had a pretty flexible schedule. Hmm. I had never visited PR and Carol was one of my dearest friends. She is actually my very first friend in Miami, we met during the summer before Freshman year and have been friends ever since. You know those friends that you just click with? So I said f*ck it, let’s go! We booked our tickets and landed in San Juan Puerto Rico. Last minute, spontaneous trip, my favorite. Here we go.
The reason this whole trip even came to being is actually pretty political. Caught you off guard? Well so did the Venezuelan consulate. Miami has one of the highest populations of Venezuelan’s in the United States, yet the Venezuelan government closed its Miami consulate in 2012. Therefore, the next closest options for Carol to renew her passport were New Orleans & Puerto Rico. She figured PR sounded pretty fun and if we could make it into a fun trip why not? We planned to stay in San Juan from Sunday – Tuesday late afternoon. ✈️
As we landed we were famished and ready to eat some local food. After we checked into the Best Western Hotel we stepped outside to the strip of shops & restaurants in the town of Condado. Since we were very hungry we pretty much agreed on the first restaurant that had a local menu. It ended up being a good decision except for the overpriced pineapple filled piña coladas that we didn’t finish lol. Once our bellies were satisfied, we were unsure of what to do since we got rained on.. So we headed to something indoors that was listed as the #18 top activity to do according to Trip Advisor, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Overall, the museum was smaller than we had imaged but it was interesting and it had some good pieces. Would I recommend you to go there? Not really, unless you’re into museums and are being rained on. Afterward, we explored the rest of the shops, restaurants and general area by the hotel. Nice day and good hotel option, Carol chose it as it was in a centrally located, well priced, 4-star rating and free breakfast. 🙂
On day 2 we had better luck with the weather. We were up at first light, had breakfast and headed straight to explore some castles. There are two main castles that you should definitely wander if you visit Puerto Rico, Castillo de San Cristobal & Castillo San Felipe del Morro, they are part of the San Juan National Historic area situated in Old San Juan.
We started at Castillo San Cristobal and since we arrived as soon as they opened at 9am, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. Both castles were impressive, each had unique architecture and craftsmanship, almost made you feel like you were in a time machine taking you back to the 16-th century. Though the castles were somewhat similar to one another, we still enjoyed exploring them and seeing the forts and history of Puerto Rico. The monuments offer one ticket entry for both castles and include transportation from one to the other. Instead, we opted to ditch the trolley and walk from one Castillo to the next and really see the streets, culture, people, the Old San Juan. Plus we were looking for la Calle San José to find the red, white and blue iconic door situated in the middle of the town and what some call the ‘Puerto Rican Flag Door‘ but what is really known as La Puerta de la Bandera.
However, once we got to the famous door we were greeted by an unfamiliar site as the once colorful door was now black & white. We later learned that the local artist whom originally painted the door, Rosenda Álvarez, revised the mural as a sign of rebellious mourning. We would have preferred the vibrant bandera, but either way the door was a noteworthy stop.
After seeing both Castillos, we were starving so we ventured out to hopefully find a good and authentic Puerto Rican restaurant. My friend Carol has a great sense of direction and that’s how we pretty much got around the whole place but she was also unsure of where we should eat. We walked a few blocks around Viejo San Juan and asked a policeman for the best route, we thanked him for the tips and continued along our way. As we traveled, we stumbled across some male shop sellers outside a boutique. They were asking questions etc, Carol was already walking away and not paying attention but I figured if they worked there they probably knew the best place to eat lunch, so for the heck of it I asked if they recommended anything. They said that there was actually a great place one block over. It ended up being a great decision, hands down the best authentic Puerto Rican food we had the entire trip. Café Manolín Old San Juan, it’s not a fancy restaurant, for that I recommend something on the strip, but most of the time I’m all about the food and not necessarily a luxe environment. It was authentic & yummy. One of their signature dishes is the Mofongo.
Afterward, we thought of what to do next since everything was last minute, the whole trip we had been going with the flow and deciding at the spur of the moment. We ended up enjoying the scenery and stopping along the various shops in Viejo San Juan. Then on our way back to the hotel, we came across two great boutiques where Carol and I found some new favorite wardrobe pieces. The two shops, Nativa boutique & Glam boutique both had helpful attendants and the quality of the clothes & style were right up our alley. Unfortunately, their online website and social pages pale in comparison to the clothes that they have at the store. If you’re in town and looking to shop, I would definitely recommend that you visit them in person!
Some last helpful tips from PR, Uber works in San Juan and was a life saver! However, since it is still relatively new they cannot pick you up directly at the entrance of the hotel. I thought it was weird too but they will assimilate sooner or later. The people in Puerto Rico were extremely nice, everyone was very friendly and helpful all throughout the trip. Also even though all of the people there spoke Spanish, most of them also spoke English, even more so than people in Miami! lol. Activities that we didn’t get to try were Ziplining, PR has one of the world’s longest Ziplines, and last but not least the Bioluminescence Kayak Tours. Also on a side note, a great place to have pizza is at the restaurant called di Parma Trattoria. Yumm.
Overall a great trip with fun memories!
Coming up next: Workout routine or How I grind. TBA