We traveled to Puerto Rico for this past week and stayed in the Hotel El Convento. We were two people, aged 18 and 45.
MONDAY 7/14- We arrived in Puerto Rico in the early afternoon and walked around Old San Juan to find something to eat and figure out our way around the city. We ate in a restaurant called Mojitos. At first, we sat outside, but then it started to rain pretty hard, so we moved inside. I had carne frita (pork), which was one of the best things I had the whole trip, while my mom got some seafood dish that she said was OK. I regret that we really didn't do anything Monday other than walk by the forts and around the city. But, for the 10 miles that my phone says we walked, we should have done a little more. That night, we went to a tapas place near the Plaza del Colon for dinner (unfortunately, I can't remember the name of it). Most of the stuff was pretty good, but nothing was that memorable. Also, I will say that the hotel was very nice and perfectly located.
TUESDAY 7/15- This was designated as our Old San Juan day. We started by walking down the Paseo del Morro before we realized that we could not actually get to El Morro from that, so we turned around about halfway through. Finally, we got to the fort, which was impressive, though they are no longer doing guided tours during the week (at least this time of year). Then, we took the open-aired trolley (the white one) to Castillo San Cristobal. At first, it just seemed like a El Morro-lite, but then, right before we were going to leave, we saw a tunnel leading to the old dungeon. We went to the dungeon and kept going. Back there, there were a couple of "mini-forts" that were used for exterior defense. The best thing about it was that almost nobody was there, which allowed us to really explore it. For lunch, we had really good empanadas from the second place in the Old San Juan Food Court. That afternoon, we went to San Juan Church, where Ponce de Leon is buried, and to a couple other little places. We kept trying, with no success, to get into Casa Blanca. It was closed, despite the sign saying it was open at that time. That night, we went on the Flavors of San Juan Food Tour, which I would recommend to anyone. All of the food was good, and our guide, Rocio, was very knowledgeable about the food and the city in general.
WEDNESDAY 7/16. First, we went to La Fortaleza and were told to come back that afternoon for a tour. While we waited, we went back to Casa Blanca and got in this time (it is now open on Sunday instead of Tuesday). However, there was not as much to it as I would have hoped (the majority of the building is not open to the public). We also went to the cemetery near El Morro, but, while very sad, it had little historical significance without a guide. We also walked into Museo de San Juan, which was fine. For lunch, we went to El Jibarito, which almost everybody had recommended to us. It was a bit of a letdown, as my pork ribs were fine, but my mom got sick from her conch. By the time we got back to La Fortaleza, the road was blocked off and the police told us that no tours would be offered that day. Our hotel offered passes to go to the beach at the Courtyard Marriott Isla Verde, so we went there for the afternoon. It was nice, but loud at times from the nearby airport. When we got back, my mom was not feeling well, so we picked up pizza from Pizza e Birra in our hotel (the atmosphere in there was very funny, though).
THURSDAY 7/17- We did the trio tour with Natural Wonders PR for the entire day. First, we went to El Yunque, where we went to the Juan Diego Falls. It was a challenge to climb up to the third pool, but it was really fun and the water was refreshing. A couple of people in our tour went off on their own and got lost in the forest, costing us two hours. Then, we went to the observation tower, which had great views of the area. We had to cut one of the other areas because of the time we lost earlier. Then, we proceeded to Las Pailas, a natural waterslide that is frequented by locals. It is one of the best-kept secrets that there is (though it is certainly known by locals)! I actually cut my finger going up to the slide, but it was still a lot of fun. There is also a 10-foot cliff to jump off. Later, we went to Luquillo, which, apart from the kiosks, is nothing special. But, the food from the kiosks was great. That night, we went east to Fajardo for the bio bay. I loved it, but my mom said that she expected more from it. Since the tide was leaving the bay, the water continued to glow in the mangrove on the way out. Our guide, Yamile, was very helpful and handled the situation that morning well.
FRIDAY 7/18- Breakfast was usually fine, but nothing special, but this morning, I had a grilled cheese and chocolate sandwich on Mallorca bread at ChocoBar at Casa Cortes. Surprisingly, cheese and chocolate are good together. We would do another full day tour with Natural Wonders (though this one got us back in time for a late final dinner). This one was called the Arecibo Tour. First, we went to Cueva La Ventana, which was fine, but overcrowded for what it was worth. But, the rest of the day was much better. Next was Charco Hondo, which is so little-known that I can barely find anything on it. The waterfall was much bigger than the ones at Juan Diego and was fun to stand near. There was also a 15-to-20-foot cliff to jump off, along with a rope swing. I didn't do the rope swing, but the jump was fun if you can climb up to get where you have to go. I hear that there was also a second waterfall, but I never went down that way. Like Las Pailas, this was a place where locals would go for a family day and bring a BBQ. For lunch, we stopped at a barbecue place, where I had very good pork (carne frita) and yucca. That afternoon was La Posa Beach, which had great views of crashing waves from the various limestone rock formations along with a natural pool for swimming. Finally, we went to Cueva Del Indio, and it was spectacular to walk on the arches and down in the "cave". It was not crowded at all, but that might be because it was getting to be the late afternoon (the sun was starting to set when we were leaving). Our guide, Hector, was very experienced and knew seemingly everything about the area. I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS COMPANY!! For our last night, we ate at Cafe Puerto Rico, where I had a mofongo relleno con churrasco (mofongo with steak), which was one of the best things I ate the whole trip. Then we went to Carli's Fine Dining and Piano for dessert (we had sampled the granny's stomach as part of the food tour), which was a great way to finish the trip.
Overall, it was a lot of fun, if at times exhausting (we walked 53 miles in 5 days, according to my phone, plus all of that climbing in the rainforest and caves and on limestone rock to see things). I am going away to college in a couple of weeks, and it was a great way to spend some time with my mom before I move away!