Another whirlwind weekend trip, this time to San Juan. If I’m being completely honest, Puerto Rico was never a destination for me. Why would I want to travel deep into the Caribbean when I’m merely just traveling to the USA? With my WestJet dollars expiring, I took the plunge and brought my friend, Ceci, along for another crazy wild weekend.
Because I was going down with my work perks, my hotel was set in stone – and I couldn’t have been happier with any other hotel choice. I stayed at the newly-opened O:LV 55, an adults-only boutique Design Hotel located on the Condado Lagoon. It is perfectly situated a mere 15-minute drive from the airport and a less than 10-minute ride to Old San Juan.
The hotel itself was beautiful. Dark, sexy, ornate adorned with gold embellishments, white and black marble and equally good-looking crowd of people. It was definitely a place to see and be seen. The rooms were very spacious. Our Gallery Suite housed two queen-sized beds, a wraparound patio and a large double vanity bathroom with an even larger, 7-stream shower with rainfall features. The highlights of the hotel were definitely its buzzing rooftop bar with jetted Jacuzzi and infinity pool – exclusive to guests of the hotel only. Service here was impeccable and the complimentary and boozy drinks added to our experience. Perfection achieved.
Because I was there for a very quick 36-hours I was limited as to where I could go and what I could see. The hotel’s location was proven to be super central which I was very thankful for. We were walking distance to Atlantic Beach, which was surrounded by many hotels and restaurants and the La Placita de Santurce area which I would highly recommend if you’re looking for some nightlife. Of course, many will find themselves in Old San Juan where there is a plethora of restaurants, bars and history. Castillo San Felipe El Morro is the main attraction and is the only piece of history that I had visited during my short stay. An old fortress hugging the edge of the Caribbean Ocean? Yes, please.
Getting around San Juan:
Uber – This is by far the easiest (and cheapest) way to get around San Juan. On average, it was about $7 to $8 USD to get to San Juan from Condado. Very reasonable and efficient. Highly recommend!
Taxi – We took a taxi once as Uber is not allowed to pick up at the airport. It was $22 to Condado and they are set rates depending on where you are going. They are safe, they’re metered and they were completely fine to take – no troubles here.
Walking – It’s incredibly to walk around in different areas of San Juan! We even (drunkenly) walked one hour from Old San Juan to Condado in the wee hours of the morning. But generally speaking, Old San Juan is completely walkable, same with areas in Condado and Miramar.
Things to do in San Juan:
Old San Juan – The place to be, although touristy. I can simply spend a good day here wandering through the many ocean side fortresses, sneaking into little rum bars for an afternoon mojito, and trying all of the delicious local food. It’s an excellent place to get lost in.
La Placita de Santurce – This plaza comes to life at night time. Although I never got the chance to visit before the sun went down, I can say that this was the best place to pregame and get the party started. Honestly, I think I might have preferred staying here than going out to Old San Juan to party. This whole square is completely alive, complete with small bars, salsa dancing in the streets and great food. Man, I would have loved to stay here just a tad bit longer!
Castillos – There are a couple castillos, or castles, located in Old San Juan if you’re vying for a piece of history. I only visited Castillo San Felipe El Morro so I can’t speak for the other historical fortresses on the island but it was a great step back in time.
Eat and drink everything – There is an abundance of rum bars and bustling restaurants in San Juan, each of them with their own charm and flavour. I was able to hop around a lot of different places to get a real, authentic feel for the city. Drinks are cheap, food is very filling – you’ve been warned! I highly suggest sharing your items unless you have a larger appetite!
What to eat in San Juan:
Mofongo – If there’s one dish you must eat when in Puerto Rico, it must be mofongo. A (literal) mish mash of green plantains and garlic and typically mixed with various meats or seafood. SO good. If you’re a garlic lover, you will be really into this dish! I had mine served with rice and beans and was in a food coma for the rest of the morning! Don’t forget to add some herbaceous chimichurri on top! A true taste of what Puerto Rico has to offer.
Fresh seafood – Island life = fresh seafood. You’d best believe I gorged out on fresh fish during my short stay in San Juan. I saw a lot of red snapper on menus and had that with a beautiful garlic sauce. Do it!
Alpaccuria – Fried plantains stuffed with minced meat. I would say that this was an addictive mash up between an empanada and a tamale – so good and addictive! You’ll be able to find various alcapurria around Puerto Rico – makes for a great snack or nibble! I loved the ones at the La Cocinata food truck in Condado (their crab salad was also to die for!).
Chicharrones de pollo – Puerto Rican fried chicken? Yes, please! Really can’t go wrong with anything deep-fried. Garlic and oregano-studded chicken with a light, crispy coating – yum! I also loved the ones at La Alcapurria Quema.
Empanadas – Yes, more meat-filled deep-fried pockets of deliciousness. Every Spanish-speaking country has their own version of the empanada – and Puerto Rico is no exception. My favourite ones were the one at Dihistoria: Birra & Empanadas. Their accompanying guava hot sauce was to die for!
Rum – Obviously, if you’re in the Caribbean, you must have rum! There are many rum bars around San Juan and the drinks are strong and cheap! From $5.00 mojitos and rum punches to excellently-balanced cocktails, it’s hard to have just one. My favourite bars were at JungleBird and La Factoria – really talented mixologists here.
All in all, San Juan makes for a fun, sleep-deprived weekend trip! I actually wish I had atleast another evening to spend in San Juan but all the more incentive to come back and revisit! Hasta luego!