Author: Lynn L.
Date of Trip: January 2009
We traveled to Puerto Rico Jan. 16-18, 2009. Here is our review!
*Friday, Jan. 16 — 1st Day of Trip: DC to San Juan, Puerto Rico*
A four-hour flight took us from Dulles (DC) to San Juan, Puerto Rico. A short taxi ride brought us to our hotel: Condado Plaza Hotel, near Old San Juan. Check-in was easy; staff was professional and friendly. It seemed like a 4-star hotel in most ways. Unfortunately, the decorating theme for the lobby seemed to be: “If you must sin, sin BOLDLY.” It was styled using the winners of the “Ugliest Light Fixtures” and “Ugliest, Weirdest Things that Can Pass for Chairs” contests. Our room, however, was clean, tastefully appointed, and attractive. Note that breakfast is NOT included, but wi-fi and cable are. We had a balcony with a view of the bay.
Took a taxi to Old San Juan. The weekend we were there was a huge festival (St. Sebastian) like Mardi Gras, and traffic was TERRIBLE the entire weekend. We toured the fort San Cristobal, very interesting and their video has a helpful historical overview of San Juan’s many battles and conquests. It is shown in various languages but always has English and Spanish subtitles. For local cuisine, two different people recommended a cafe called “Raices.” (pronounced rah-EE-ses, meaning roots). The waiters were superb and it was clearly very popular. We had some dish with plantains and meat, served in something like a coconut shell.
That evening we had a walking tour called “Legends of San Juan.” Our guide was Debbie. We liked her personality but she was hard to follow. She did not understand the questions we asked, so we quit trying; at one point, she lost half our group in the crowd for a few minutes. We learned that instead of a $12 taxi ride back to the hotel, we could ride the city bus #53 to the Condado district for 75 cents but NOTE that you MUST have coins! The bus driver cannot and will not take dollar bills! We enjoyed a late-nite ice cream in the Italian restaurant in the lobby.
*Saturday, Jan. 17 — 2nd day of trip: San Juan*
We plugged our hair dryer in near the mini-fridge and blew out the electricity in half the room! They fixed it quickly. Today we explored “El Morro,” the cool fort at the tip of San Juan. It was begun in 1539. Huge and impressive! Be sure to check out the original tower. Hubby caught a parade and checked out the cathedrals while I called home and caught my breath. (Make sure you drink plenty of water). Ate some delicious “Donetas,” like donut holes. I got a 10-minute chair massage at Eden Spa on Racinto Street ($1.50 / minute). We raced to the bus station but then our bus didn’t leave for 90 minutes!
That afternoon we began our *remarkable BioBay adventure.** * It takes a long time to get there, but it is WELL worth the time!!! A taxi picked us up at our hotel and took us to meet a van with other guests. The van took us to the marina on the other end of San Juan. Then we boarded a party boat for a 45-minute ride with free drinks (rum punch, etc.). After landing on the island of Vieques, we took another van ride (20 min.) to a quaint restaurant and enjoyed some delicious fajitas while the sun set. Then we boarded a funky old bus straight out of “Romancing the Stone,” for the ride of a lifetime. It took about 20 minutes of jungle trek to get us to the bay. A flat pontoon boat with a quiet electric motor took us out into the dark lagoon ringed by mangrove trees. The stars were beautiful. We swam with the little plankton creatures lit up on our skin like diamonds. They roll off your skin like little beads of light. Magical!! An absolute must. There are fewer than 10 of these bays in the world, and you aren’t allowed to swim in most of them. We were back on the bus by 8:50 PM. When we got back to San Juan there was a massive traffic jam due to the festival; total gridlock. The scene was like Ft. Lauderdale during spring break loud music, scantily dressed girls, lots of beer. Enjoyed a late-nite shake in the Italian restaurant.
NOTE: If you are prone to seasickness, you should take a Bonine the night before this BioBay adventure, due to the many car, van, and boat rides involved.
*Sunday, Jan. 18 Day 3 of trip, Departure Day*
We asked for late check-out, but it was not available. DH had wanted to go on the half-day Rain Forest hike, but he learned from some other tourists that the half-day is more like a nature walk; if you want to see the falls and swim in the pool at the bottom, you have to go on the whole-day. So he cancelled and we checked out on time at noon. We then left on a cruise with Royal Caribbean. You can find a review of our cruise there under “Member Reviews.”
The WEATHER was fantastic!! Temps in the low 80s, no rain, balmy nights.
TIP: At the San Juan airport, there are two Subway restaurants — one is before security, and the other is in the American Airlines concourse. There is also a Starbucks and a pizza place.