Always wanted to visit the Caribbean Islands, and PUERTO RICO is the pearl of the Caribbean. This tiny Island is steeped in Spanish history and heritage. Puerto Rico offers a melting pot of cultures including a lively mix of African, Taino, American and Spanish influences. This exotic blend extends to almost every aspect of Puerto Rican life including the cuisine, art, craft, music and the festivals.
I was so excited to leave Boston’s freezing cold weather in January, that I packed my bags at least a week before 😜 I planned this entire trip with my better half sitting in a beautiful & cozy bakery in Brookline. Here is my Itinerary, and experiences on this pearl of the Caribbean.
Day 1: Old San Juan
Day 2: Old San Juan
Day 3: Isla de Vieques
Day 4: Culebra
Day 5: Culebra
Day 6: El Yunque National Park
Day 7: San Juan
Day 1: Old San Juan
Old San Juan is a vibrant gem of culture and history, transporting you to another time, where large forts overlook colourful houses and plazas resplendent with music, food and culture. Old San Juan is a favourite port of call for cruise ships, and the town offers incredible shopping, from the largest mall in the Caribbean down to local boutiques, and street artisans.
We stayed in Hotel El Convento, a 350-year-old property in the heart of San Juan. Hotel El Convento is an alluring mix of Spanish colonial architecture and contemporary styling with a panoramic terrace on the rooftop with a plunge pool and Jacuzzi. I highly recommend this place, great service, beautiful room, and unbeatable location!
We checked-in and spent some time enjoying the view of the city from our room. We started our day with Mofongo, a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains and a glass of Pina colada at Punto De Vista Rooftop Restaurant, which is one of the best restaurants, if you are looking for authentic local cuisine. And yes they have happy hours throughout the day!
We both were full and little high! The Pina Colada’s were definitely strong!!! Our first stop was El Castillo San Felipe del Morra. Built in 1500s as a military structure, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Do take a guide, the history is very interesting.
After exploring El Morro, we let ourselves get lost in the colourful streets. The buildings are historic and super photogenic and quintessentially “Old San Juan”.
Next stop was La Perla, a colourful neighbourhood in Old San Juan. This place got really famous because of the song “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. This is east of the beautiful Cemetery of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis. La Perla is not the safest place to be, but you got to see what you want to see. Period!
Walked till Castillo de San Cristobal, a fortress built by Spanish. The best view of La Perla can be seen from here.
After a tiring, and colourful day, it was time to hit the Rooftop Jacuzzi, I remember it was drizzling and the view from up there was divine. You can see San Juan Bautista Cathedral and listen to the music played by locals on the streets.
Time for some Wine & Dine! Got ready, and to our surprise there was a protest going on which looked more like a party just outside the hotel. We spent some time roaming around, shopping, and found a cozy place to dine, Barrachina Restaurant. Great place for Seafood and this is where Pina Colada was born!!!
Day 2: Old San Juan
Started our 2nd day with a bang! Tried Mallorca, a sweet bread, for the first time at La Bombonera Restaurant. Hands down best breakfast place!
After a delicious meal we explored the other side of Old San Juan. The cobblestone streets, artist’s performing, local artisans boutiques, outdoor markets, ports, and colourful buildings basically sums up this old historic town! Just pick up your map and start exploring…We visited some open markets selling local handmade art, enjoyed few cocktails in some really cool street bars, loads of window shopping, and last stop for the day was Pigeon Park.
Evening spent at the rooftop bar, overlooking the city, we talked about life and all things nice! And this blog will be incomplete without the mention of one of the best, and my favourite restaurant of this town, Verde Mesa. Their Lamb Stew with basmati rice, and Purple Cloud is out of this world.
1. Visit San Juan in early winter ( January-March) to enjoy a pleasant and comfortable temperature
2. Plan day trips to El Yunque National Park and near by islands
3. Carry comfortable shoes and beach wear, and don’t forget your favourite Hat & Sunglasses
1. El Castillo San Felipe Del Morro
2. Cemetery of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis
3. Castillo de San Cristobal
4. La Perla
5. Go Souvenir Shopping
6. Walking tour of the city
7. Museo de las Américas
8. Condado and Ocean Park Beach
9. Fortaleza Street
Day 3: Off to Isla de Vieques
We woke up with so much excitement as tonight was going to be the best night! We witnessed one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons on Earth. Bio Bay is home to millions of bioluminescent organisms, which emit bluish light when agitated, and are quite stunning against the backdrop of the black Caribbean sea at night, specially on a no moon day. And that’s how we celebrated our Third Anniversary ♥️
To reach the two islands Isla de Vieques and Culebra you can either fly or rent a car to Fajardo, and then take a ferry from Ferry Terminal Ceiba. We drove to Fajardo, 80 miles from Old San Juan. It took us almost an hour and half. The drive was beautiful, and scenic as we crossed the Tropical Forests of Puerto Rico.
We reached the Ferry Terminal at Ceiba just on time! I recommend to book the tickets in advance (Porferry.com). It takes about 30 minutes to reach the Island. We stayed close to the Mosquito Bay, eighth wonder of the world! Everything was walking distance from our cute & cozy Airbnb.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a breezy, sunny day near one of the beaches. This is a wonderful destination for one seeking to get away from civilisation and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
And finally it was time for the magic! We booked the Bio bay tour from Viator. They had all the equipment’s, and were very knowledgable, and made sure we had fun. We had the time of our life!
Day 4: Culebra
Of course, if you’re going to the Caribbean, you want to see some beaches! And what if they are the most beautiful beaches of the world 🌍. To reach Culebra, we took the early morning ferry from Isla de Vieques back to the Terminal at Ceiba and again took another ferry to Culebra from the same terminal.
We stayed in Mamacitas Guest House. This place was perfect for our needs, nothing fancy. Rented a golf cart as our preferred mode of transportation from Jerry’s Jeep Rental. A golf cart will run you about $45/day.
Culebra is home to one of the top beaches in the world: Flamemco Beach, and I wanted to get there ASAP. It’s truly just as nice as everyone says- full of that pure, white, silky sand that curves up and down the coast and that crystal clear turquoise water that just makes anyone go crazy, and even though I visited in the heart of high season, it wasn’t too crowded. A main draw is checking out the tank further down the beach. It’s been covered in colorful graffiti and is a must-see.
We rented beach chairs, umbrella, and ice bucket full of beer.
After spending full day at the Flamenco beach, we indulged into some really delicious cocktails, and local catch of the day!
Day 5: Culebra
We started our day with beach hopping on our little cart. But before that, the most important part was a good Breakfast at Blac Flamingo Coffee.
After a short 10 minutes drive we reached Melones Beach. Melones is a beautiful beach equipped with swings, picnic tables by the sea and some great folk art. But the real beauty is only a couple of steps into the water. The coral here is spectacular, vivid purple sea fan, and an active reef makes this my favorite. This is a great spot for sunsets too. Next we headed to Tamarindo Beach, here the waters are very calm and you will find yourself snorkeling with sea turtles, many fishes, stingrays and more. The beach is full of corals so wear water shoes or rent a snorkel gear. One of the highlights of Culebra
In the evening
Day 6: El Yunque Rainforest
At nearly 29,000 acres, our single day of exploring didn’t allow us to see much of the forest, but we were able to check out a lot of terrific waterfalls that inhabit this beautiful piece of earth. Do collect a map from the visitor center.