Updated: Jan 13
Here’s my advice!
DO IT FOR THE CULTURE!! My visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico was everything plus some!! My two best friends and I decided to take a Spring/Work break trip in late February. We wanted a break from the hustle and bustle of Ohio and Georgia weather. After going back and forth on where to vacation, we landed on San Juan. Best decision ever!
Getting to San Juan is NOT as EXPENSIVE as many people think. My roundtrip flight was ticketed at just $363, which to me is a really great deal, being that we booked our flights exactly three weeks prior to departure. I’m quite sure, if we had planned further ahead, flights would have been slightly cheaper. Flight time was not as excruciating. We had only one layover, in Newark, and from there, we were en route to the beautiful Caribbean island within four hours!
WHERE TO STAY:
Deciding where to stay in San Juan solely depends on your preference! Although San Juan is only 77 square miles, there are so many unique areas within city limits! Whether, you’re choosing to go for the historic Old San Juan, Isla Grande, Miramar, or Condado; I strongly recommend researching the areas first for before booking.
Three women on vacation choosing a place to stay is worse than date night and not knowing what to eat! We were very indecisive, and so what did we do? We resorted to Instagram Stalking (guilty)! We wanted to see other peoples’ previous experiences, and their hotel/home accommodations. We came across a B E A U T I F U L hotel that offered an amazing rooftop swimming pool and bar. But of course, places like that either go quickly or they’ll break the bank to stay! Deciding between hotel and AirBnB for this trip was a tough one. We had to take into consideration, the type of vacation we wanted. After all, it’s Spring Break, right?? We found the prettiest boutique hotel in San Juan. They were condos redesigned into hotel suites. That was it! We found our place! While we thought to keep this place our best “kept secret” I’ll finally share where we stayed! It was at the Ciqala Luxury Home Suites. The rooms, views, and staff were all so beautiful!
WHAT TO DO:
There’s so much to get into in San Juan! You could hit the beach, trek the rainforest, visit historic sites, or blow a check in the shops of Old San Juan. I’d strongly recommend spending AT LEAST five days there to see ALL that San Juan has to offer.
The first day of our day vacation was spent relaxing by the pool, and taking crazy insane pictures on the rooftop. We hit up the local convenient stores for bottled water, and stumbled across the liquor store shortly after. If you’re planning to visit, I strongly encourage you and your crew to purchase liquor from El Nuevo Grillon, (tell MoMo and KiKi heyyy!). The expense of drinking in San Juan varies between locations, so it’s best to purchase your own on-the-go stash.
Our second day was jam packed with many adventures. We began with mimosas from the rooftop which lead us to food and the beach. Our first meal was at Los Pinos Café. While many locals recommend dining at one of these restaurants, I wouldn’t. The menu did not give you an authentic Puerto Rican food experience. We found our way through the city and landed on the beach, Ocean Park beach. No matter the time of the year you decide to visit Puerto Rico, please use sun tan lotion to avoid bathing in aloe vera days later (like me).
Later in the evening, we discovered there was festival taking place in the Old San Juan area. It was the Circo Festival. Hopefully while you are there, you’ll be able to experience the islands authentic culture though celebrations with local people. Sounds like a busy day? What’s next? F O O D!!! We found the infamous restaurant, Barrachina, known as “Home of The Pina Colada”; this quaint restaurant offered a great menu (chicken fajitas were everything!) You have to go! If the Pina Coladas aren’t your favorite, try the mojitos there, they were great.
On our third day, we went to the El Yunque Rainforest. First, we had to stop and feed our sweet tooth obsessions! The Uber driver recommended a really good bakery to us, La Familia Bakery (if you go, bring be back a birthday cake slice and chocolate glazed donut!) At the rainforest, we decided on horseback riding. GREAT CHOICE! While waiting to hit the trails, we enjoyed frozen daiquiris (seriously who does that before riding a horse). The trail lasted for an hour, and the pricing was very reasonable.
The next day, we hit Condado Beach. This beach was much livelier and filled with tourists and water activities. We decided on paddle boarding, which was only $20. The cool thing about paddle boarding was the pictures. You have to be strong to whither the waves and wind!
Later that evening, we returned to Old San Juan for some good ole food. LA GÜERITA, my favorite restaurant on the island. They have the BEST shrimp and fish tacos, authentic queso, and watermelon margaritas. When you visit the island, you have to try it! Oh, and the bartenders are pretty hot too!
Want to be more touristic? Visit historic landmarks like; Castillo San Felipe del Morro, El Yunque Forest, Carabali Rainforest Park, Los Morrillos Light, and the list go on!
Nightlife in San Juan is quite interesting. The clubs go all night until the sun rises. Shockingly, the most popular places are packed with tourists and not so much local people. For the most part, the DJ plays American Hip Hop music in between Puerto Rican Hip Hop (don’t sleep on it, its LIT….Despacito Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito). We also went to the gentleman's club. BIG FUN! The type of party you choose solely depends on your preference. Wherever you end up at, you’re going to really enjoy yourself.
WHAT’S SAN JUAN LIKE:
San Juan was really cool! There’s a lot of fun and trouble to get into down there. When we visited, it was the latter part of February, and even then, it was blazing hot! Local people are very friendly and helpful, as long as you present yourself that way. The beaches are beautiful and the food is amazingly authentic. If you plan to visit, you will have a very fun experience! Oh, and did I mention, they don’t care for Donald Trump either!
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Mostly only Spanish speaking people, where very few speak English. Make sure you download the Google Translate app! Saves a lot of time!
While Uber may be cheaper, taxi drivers despise them. I mean really despise them. We were almost in a car accident due to choosing an Uber ride over taxi (he tried to side-swipe the vehicle).
People are not as friendly as you would think for them to be. Many of them avoided conversations with us because we were American. Interactions with airport employees were the worst. Please be patient with them and understand YOU are trying to get to where you’re going and not them. Google Translate will become your BFF!
Unique insects all over the island! Switch out your perfume for bug spray, PLEASE!! Take nothing from NO ONE!! Everything that glitters ain’t gold! We were offered lawn chairs at the Patong Beach, well because we were not interested in buying anything after our banana boat ride, we were almost charged $100 USD to use a plastic chair!
Remember to travel together! Never go anywhere alone! Not even the restroom by yourself!
BREAK IT DOWN:
Flights: $307 (CMH to SJU)
Condo: $750 ($250 per person for 5 days)
Spending/Food Money: $200
Activities: $75 (per person)
Total Travel Expense: $832 (per person)
- Jordyn Calhoun