San Juan, Puerto Rico: Things to Do

For the most part, hubs and I did a lot of R&R by the pool and on the beach. We didn’t plan a lot of activities but these were a few of the things we did.

And yes, much of Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria. Many of the hotels/resorts remain closed and some may not reopen at all. I had to do a lot of research to make sure places were still open before putting them in our itinerary. On our way from the airport to Condado, you could see many building roofs missing and fallen trees were all over the sides of the roads. I was told Old San Juan did not suffer too much damage as it was built to be sturdy unlike the hotels and homes in different areas.

I think San Juan and its people are definitely ready for tourists. I have never encountered nicer Uber drivers and I feel that is partially because they appreciate the business brought to the island. (FYI PR Uber drivers just got approved for pickup at hotels on May 5th 2018 according to one driver. This was the day we arrived so we didn’t even know it wasn’t allowed before. Now Uber is working towards allowing airport pickup in San Juan. There is a taxi stand at the airport and prices are listed on the paper they give you). Overall, I don’t think I had a single negative experience with any person there (except my husband :p just kidding).

Also, I wanted to note, because you are by the water, it is incredibly windy. The wind and dresses don’t mix. I constantly had to hold down my dress when walking around to make sure there were no incidences. I HIGHLY suggest wearing shorts, rompers or a maxi dress, at least, instead.

If you’re interested in where to eat and drink, take a look at this post: Our Puerto Rican Honeymoon: The Food & Drink Guide.

Old San Juan Walking Tour

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Please note the beautiful traffic cones in the background

A self-guided walking tour of San Juan is completely possible in a day. Old San Juan is quite small and very walkable. I used this article to find a few points of interest. Husband then opened it up on his phone and led the way. Looking at the article now, he kind of skipped some things because he doesn’t like looking at historical buildings…but neither do I for the most part.

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We went inside El Morro after paying an entry fee. It was interesting but the man wouldn’t let me even read any signs. He wanted to leave as soon as we got in there.

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I wasn’t happy about being in the kitchen at El Morro. (It was really windy so my hair looks jank).

Also La Casa Blanca was closed that day (my fault for poor planning) but the gate was open so I wandered in anyway while husband told me not to. I definitely wished we saw more of this when open.

Do I recommend it? Definitely walk around Old San Juan as its very vibrant.

Underwater Sea Trek

We did an underwater sea trek. I cannot swim, BUT I can sink. If you don’t know what this is, here’s a description:

Like in SNUBA, Sea Trek participants have the opportunity to explore the underwater universe but by different means. In Sea trek, participants have the chance to become underwater astronauts thru the use of a helmet that allows underwater walking. The Sea Trek helmet safely delivers air to our participants allowing them to walk freely underneath the waves. It’s the closest sensation to walking on the moon. Any one above 8 years old and weighing more than 80 lbs can participate in Sea Trek, regardless of swimming ability in the water.

Although they have age and weight minimums, I still struggled to take steps forward unless I was holding my husband’s hand. And I was under the impression that we would walk into the water with the helmets on but nope. We walked FAR (or so I felt as a non-swimmer and short person) into the water and the helmets were then placed on us.

I believe the tour company had created a little Atlantis underwater, but I accidentally knocked over one of the small pillars. Oh well. The undertow had me stumbling a bit.

Do I recommend it? Yes, but I suggest going in the morning as the undertow isn’t as strong so the dirt is more settled and the water is clearer. We had gone at 4:30pm. Also, I don’t suggest it for kids as they may freak out.

Bacardi Mixology Class

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The tour was kind of short but interesting. At the end of the tour we were led into a room for the mixology class.

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Somebody was eager to get started! Just kidding but 1 hour later we were friends 🙂

We were to learn to make 3 cocktails: the Cuba Libre (rum & coke), a mojito and a daiquiri.

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The mojito was my favorite

We were told to drink them while mixing the other drinks. I couldn’t keep up so I passed them off to my husband who happily accepted my thoughtful offer.

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After the tour, we were led into the gift shop. Hubs bought this special edition rum that isn’t sold anywhere else but this gift shop. He had the option to fill his own bottle or buy it pre-filled. He chose to fill it for the experience.  He then dipped it twice in wax. They then let you label the bottle with your name so that was a nice added touch.

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During the mixology class, we made some new friends from Montreal and Arkansas. We all met up several times throughout the rest of our trip as we all wanted to explore similar places and restaurants. Plus, the more the merrier!

Do I recommend it? Yes, it was a fun and different activity. BUT! If you can find another mixology class that doesn’t rush you to make 3 drinks and chug them at the same time, that would be better.

Salsa Class

We went to a salsa class with our new friends from Montreal. It was fun and our instructor was great. The instructor’s husband was late picking up their baby so we got to look at this cute little baby girl on her mom’s hip while she taught us some steps. We had a good time. The only thing that was odd was that the class was in a public park although it was nice being outdoors. (Side note: the site does say the class is in a restaurant but to meet in the park. I don’t know what that’s about.)

Do I recommend it? Yes! I love dancing and this was one way to immerse ourselves into Puerto Rican culture.

La Placita

La Placita is poppin’ Thursday through Saturday (don’t quote me on those days of the week). It’s basically a big block party. This is where open container laws are amazing. We grabbed a mojito and enjoyed some people watching and dancing on the street.

Do I recommend it? Yes, I highly recommend this! Everyone dances so well! Watching people was mesmerizing.

La Fortaleza Street & the Surrounding Area

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We ended up on La Fortaleza street even when we weren’t even trying.

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Several great restaurants are located on it along with many gift shops. We came back here about 3-4 times just to walk around and take a few pics.

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Do I recommend it? Yes, you can’t really not end up here somehow.

Zen Spa

I would say I enjoyed our couples massage in Barcelona (around the same price) more but this was still good. We got a package deal for $200 that included manicures. It was affordable, had good reviews and was right across the street from our hotel.

Do I recommend it? Not this spa specifically, but massages as a vacation activity is baller.

Condado Beach

We spent our beach time on Condado beach. The beach area we were on was shared by our hotel, Condado Vanderbilt and La Concha. I didn’t expect any service on the beach but the hotel employees set up lounge chairs for us and supplied us with towels and water!

Do I recommend it? Go to whichever beach area your hotel owns so you can get the special treatment.

I hope you enjoyed reading more about our trip to Puerto Rico! It is definitely a place I’d like to go back to one day once the rainforest recovers further.

Our Puerto Rican Honeymoon: The Food & Drink Guide

I’ve linked out restaurants, bars and places to TripAdvisor here but if you plan on going to other places in PR besides ones below, check out Yelp as many restaurants/bars/clubs remain closed after Hurricane Maria.

Hubs and I ate to our hearts’ content in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The food and drinks were delicious. Vermont in comparison, does not utilize their spices enough while PR was just everything and more. With our Indian backgrounds, we always crave more flavor and spices in our dishes.

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On Day 1, we arrived at our hotel several hours prior to check-in. We stayed at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel which happens to be #1 in the San Juan area on TripAdvisor. We soon learned why. Our concierge named Efrain took care of our bags. He then offered us a glass of champagne or water. We obviously chose the champagne to start our honeymoon on the right foot. After Efrain gave us a tour, we decided to have lunch at Tacos & Tequila located inside our hotel. We ordered the nachos with chicken and several tacos. The nachos were like no other nachos I’ve ever had before. They were so flavorful.

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After lunch, our room was still not available so we sat at the pool bar area of Ola Oceanfront, also located in our hotel, and had a few more drinks. I had the El Yunque Cocktail and husband had the Original Pinã Colada….Oh My GOODNESS! I had a sip of his drink and I had never had a real pinã colada before. Oy, I ordered his drink as soon as I finished my first drink. Yum! Soon after this, I needed two Advils, passed out for an hour, rehydrated, and was ready to go again. #OldLadyStatus

Later, we had dinner at Santaella. We had made reservations and good thing we did as it was a busy Saturday night. Husband ordered the Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Trifongo and I had the Roast Chicken French Style with Mashed Potatoes.  As usual, I tried whatever husband was eating. He ain’t no Joey from “Friends.” He can share his food. Anyway, his shrimp was *drool*. My chicken was also delicious and not dry at all.

For dessert, we had the almond and coconut custard with ice cream. It tasted like the inside of an almond joy essentially. I wasn’t too impressed as it was overly heavy and sort of gritty in your mouth because of too much coconut. Overall, we were happy with our meal and looking forward to more good eats on the island.

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After dinner, we headed to La Placita for the usual weekend block parties with people literally dancing on the street. It was a fun scene. We got mojitos from a stand called El Coco de Luis, recommended to us by a friend. The mojitos were refreshing and the best we had the entire trip.

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On Day 2, we had lunch at Kabanas, which was walking distance from our hotel. The empanadillas (I believe they’re just a smaller empanada) were the best here out of all the places we tried…which is why we came back two more times. Husband had a pinã colada, I had a sip and liked it here as well. I also tried the chicken and fish tacos during different visits but the empanadillas definitely won my heart (and stomach).

We had dinner at Pirilo Pizza Rustica with some newfound friends. We weren’t all too impressed with the pizza. It was overly cheesy. Maybe our bar was set too high as we make great pizza at home and have American Flatbread in Vermont.

On Day 3, after a self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan, we stopped at Casa Cortes Chocobar for lunch.

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I was clearly tired after the walking tour

We weren’t daring enough to try one of their chocolate based butters or spreads on a sandwich so I settled on the Ciabetta de Pollo a la Parilla and hubs had the Un Cubano en San Juan.

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He also had the Don Pedro cocktail. I thought to hold off on a drink as I didn’t want to get dehydrated from all the heat and walking around, but I had a sip of his drink and ordered it ASAP. This clearly is a trend. Hubs is my guinea pig/taste tester. The drink first hit you with a lime flavor and then an aftertaste of chocolate. It was a treat!

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We had the churros with chocolate because obviously we wouldn’t leave here without having some chocolate. The churros were too crispy for our liking and the chocolate was fine.

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As mentioned on their menu, if you write a review for Casa Cortes Chocobar on Yelp, you get a free chocolate bar. We left with a chocolate bar that later melted in my purse because I had forgotten about it. I recalled it once husband exclaimed “BABE!” and reached into my purse and pulled out the melted bar. I said “Oops, but throw it in the fridge and it’ll reform.” He sighed, but still ate it with me later.

We had tapas for dinner with our group of new friends at La Factoria. They had run out of 3 tapas by the time we had arrived so choices were limited. I had the fish tacos and some cheese balls with honey. They were both good. At 10pm, the speakeasy portion of La Factoria opened up. The drinks were good but nothing too memorable.

On Day 4, we had an early dinner at a cocktail lounge called The Mezzanine. This was a really relaxing atmosphere during the day. We had drinks on the little balconies overlooking the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Every drink was delicious but our favorite was the St. Germain de Pres which was also our signature drink for our wedding.

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The tapas, especially the Escabeches de Gandules (essentially pickled pigeon peas), were deliciously satisfying.

On Day 5, we had lunch at Pannes and were greatly disappointed with the food despite the high ratings. I’m usually one to always clean my plate but the eggs tacos were very bland.

We ended up back at the Mezzanine for more drinks before dinner. And we had a lot of drinks.

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We continued to drink at Marmalade Restaurant and Wine Bar, the number two restaurant in San Juan. We had made reservations online and in the special request box I mentioned it was our honeymoon. Because of this, they sat us at a table with a million pillows. It was comfy. I suggest all seating have a million pillows. I now want a million pillows for my own home. Our server was great and told us how to order (everything is set up as a tasting menu). We opted for the four course tasting menu and it was plenty. Husband also went with the wine pairing with dinner. I wanted to as well but I would’ve been on the restaurant floor by the end. I definitely tried all of my husband’s drinks as usual and they were all perfect. I definitely recommend not drinking beforehand so you can get the wine pairing. This was by far our favorite meal on this trip (shockingly, despite having Popeye’s & Subway en route home).

I ordered the “popcorn” shrimp for my first course. And husband had the white bean soup. We enjoyed both tremendously.

The truffle pasta was my second course. Impeccable!

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My third course was yucca. It had something crispy on top which was a nice play on the textures.

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For my fourth and final course, I had the Caramel Corn Creme Brulee with Peanut brittle ice cream. With dessert and all those pillows, I was in heaven. *Drool*.

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For our 6th and final full day in PR, I really wanted to have some good mofongo. We found Orozcos online and settled on lunch there after lounging on the beach. Husband had the empanadillas but thought Kabanas was much better. My chicken mofongo was amazing and very filling.

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Husband tried the mofongo and liked it so we finished it off together. I think food shouldn’t be off limits when it comes to sharing. Sharing is caring. Food is just so much more enjoyable when sharing because you’re experiencing something together.

And because the empanadillas didn’t hit the spot at Orozcos for hubs, we went to Kabanas for empanadillas and our last meal in San Juan! After that we were supposed to go back to La Placita for our last night out but instead we ordered room service…

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We definitely ended our honeymoon on a sweet note.

(And somehow after all that, I didn’t gain any weight. Phew!)

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