My friends and I like to go on at least one sort of vacation together every year. In the past this has included going to Chicago for a Red Sox game and New Orleans for some party fun. In 2012 we wanted to do something a little bit more elaborate, and ended up deciding upon San Juan due to time frames, budgets, and a strong desire to spend a week in paradise.
(August 16 2012) Day 1. Flying out from Boston, Landing in San Juan.
We landed in said paradise around 1 p.m. After the cab ride to the hotel we were famished, so we checked in and then immediately grabbed some lunch on rooftop. This also allowed to us to get our first look at the rooftop lounge, bar, pool, and beautiful view! Everything was decorated with white, aqua, and blue, which perfectly complimented the sand and beach right below.
After we were happy and fed we decided to spend the afternoon on the beach. We just lounged around napping and enjoying the view, the warm breeze, and the beachside drink service. We knew we wanted to spend the next day walking around San Juan, so we took it easy that night and went to sleep at a decent hour.
(August 17 2012) Day 2. San Juan.
Waking up refreshed and excited, we took an early morning cab to visit Old San Juan. Man, this city is gorgeous. The colors are so vibrant! And the water is blue! And the culture is present everywhere! We spent some time just wandering around and getting to know the layout of the city. The streets were clean, the shops were cute, the history was preserved, the water and views were breathtaking…yeah, I knew right away that I was going to love my visit.
We soon decide to visit the two historical forts that are located at the corners of the city: Fort San Cristóbal and Fort San Felipe del Morro. We don’t take a formal tour of either of them, and instead make our own way through the winding tunnels, stone steps, dungeons, and rooftop pathways. We were awed by the views – of both the water and the city – and the strength of the structures.
While making our way from one fort to the other we stop at Casa Don Q. The casa is small, but still lined with historical information and pictures of the rum distillary. We are allowed to try some samples, and their añejo rum impressed us so much that I bought a bottle. We also bought some empanadas for lunch from a street food vendor.
That night we went on a Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tour. Our guide was super fun and gave us a nice overview of history and culture while walking the blue cobblestone streets. The tour had four delicious stops. To begin, we were served ripe plantains and chicharrones pollo with mayo-ketchup sauce, accompanied by our first piña colada of the trip. The second stop had two courses. First came a mango smoothie and pumpkin soup, followed by beans and rice and pollo monfongo. Stop number three boasted caramelized eggplant and a kind of potato quiche with a glass of sangria. Finally, we were treated to flan with cheesecake bits and café con leche. Despite the rain that started to come down during the walk between stops three and four, we really enjoyed the tour and are definitely glad we went on it. The food is such a delicious part of Puerto Rican culture, and we wanted to be be sure we would take advantage of it.
After dessert we caught a cab back to our hotel to freshen up and begin our night. We ended up going down the street to a nearby resort’s casino. I promptly lost more money than I care to admit, but I had an absolute blast doing it. I also enjoyed watching Danielle win money!
(August 18 2012) Day 3. San Juan.
I was the first to wake up the next morning. There was no need for me to be inside even one minute longer than necessary, so I decided to gab my book, put on a bathing suit, and await the others outside. When the other ladies woke up they met me on the beach one by one. By early afternoon we decided that today would be our lazy beach day. We spent it tanning, drinking fruity cocktails, napping, swimming, and reading. At home in everyday life the four of us are hard-working, responsible adults. So we all appreciated the opportunity to have zero obligations, happy to simply sit and enjoy the perfect weather, scenery, and company.
Once we had our fill of sunshine and the temperature started to drop a little bit, we went out for dinner at a restaurant in town nearby. We then visited the hotel’s rooftop bar for ladies’ night, during which the female patrons got free drinks for a couple of hours. The drinks were delicious and champagne-based, but the bartenders could not quite keep up with the demand. Once the free drinks were over we went back down the street to visit the club at the same hotel that housed the casino. Danielle and I ducked out of the club after an hour or so and went back to the casino…where I promptly lost more money.
(August 19 2012) Day 4. San Juan.
The next day we got in a cab and returned to Old San Juan for shopping and a tour of the Bicardi factory. Unfortunately, we discovered that it was election day for the city of San Juan, which meant that there was a liquor ban in effect all day. Restaurants weren’t allowed to serve drinks to patrons, stores weren’t allowed to sell beer, wine, or liquor, and the Bicardi factory was closed to tours. We were all very disappointed. If we had been aware of the situation, we would have reversed our beach day and city days. But oh well, what can you do? We made the best of the situation and went out to lunch at one of the restaurants the food tour had stopped at. Which, by the way, was the best lunch ever: an oversized avocado stuffed with crab, rice and beans, ripe plantains, and a strawberry pineapple mango smoothie. Yum!
We spent the remainder of the day shopping. We each purchased a bunch of souvenirs for ourselves and our families. Mine included small versions of the traditional carnival masks (one each for me, my two sisters, and my parents), a white beach hat, a small painting of a bongo drummer, coffee, and a bottle of Ron Del Barrilito rum.
That night we didn’t want to stay up too late because we had to wake up early in the morning for our all-day excursion. So instead we opt for buying some drinks at a beach bar and drinking on the beach. We had fun watching the scenery, taking some quick dips in the water, and just enjoying each other’s company.
(August 20 2012) Day 5. San Juan.
The next day is our all day snorkeling trip, which we booked through Viator. We were picked up at a nearby hotel in the a.m. and then bused over to the dock. We were issued snorkels, marks, and fins, and then boarded the catamaran. It was an all-inclusive trip, so during the first leg of the ride we drank rum punch and piña coladas while basking in the sun. The first stop was at the island Icacos, where novices like myself were given some basic instructions on how to snorkel successfully. We were then given a little time to practice by ourselves before getting back on the boat for the second half of the trip. On our way to the coral reef we ate a nice picnic lunch, which included tuna and chicken salad (although one deckhand insisted that it was actually made of iguana meat).
After we anchored at the reef we were allowed to take some extra bread with us to feed the fish. I held mine for a few minutes before giving up. Plus, I was admittedly a little scared of some of the fish that would want to eat the bread right out of my hand. But that aside, the experience was amazing. I loved every minute of watching the fish and the underwater wildlife. The scene was so colorful and lively and unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I definitely want to do some more snorkeling in the future.
When we return home we make a trip to the supermarket to buy more rum (such as a $10 bottle of Bicardi) and some snacks to take home with us (plantain chips, yum!). We also buy a 6-pack of Modallas to enjoy during our last night in the hotel. We spend it lounging around and chatting about our favorite parts of the trip – which there were a lot of.
(August 21 2012) Day 6. Flying out from San Juan, Heading Home.
Our flight home is at 1 p.m. I am once more the first to wake up, so I spend a couple of hours reading outside, enjoying my last chance to spend my mornings on the beautiful beach. I really do miss waking up to this everyday.