I’ve taken you to St. Croix and Guana so far this year and to wrap up my Caribbean trip I’ve got Puerto Rico to share with you. I only had one day there, but I made the most of it and have picked out some fun things for you to do, eat and check out if you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico.
While Puerto Rico is pretty large in size for a Caribbean island, I decided to spend my time in Old San Juan. I didn’t feel the need for more beaches, but wanted culture and history, so Old San Juan was just the ticket. Now, one of the first things you must know is that taxis from the San Juan airport to Old San Juan are super easy, quick and pretty cheap which is nice. However, be warned that the quality of drivers, really ranges. The first taxi driver I had was fast and efficient. The second one drove like he was drunk. I’m not sure if it was an age thing (the first guy was young, the second old), but all I can say is that it was amazing we didn’t get into an accident the way he kept driving in two lanes.
Once arriving in Old San Juan, I took to the streets to explore and found the candy colored buildings, unique doors, intricate and varied balconies and the blue tiled streets really fun to see. It was interesting not just from a design perspective, but really showed all the different character this place has.
There are souvenir stores a plenty and as I’m sure you guessed, tons of tourists. It is a major port for cruise ships, so you will see a plethora of tourists, but the crowd somehow doesn’t really take away from the old city. It feels like a city meant to be filled with people (kind of like Rome). As you are wandering the streets and exploring, don’t forget to hit up one or both forts (El Morro and La Fortaleza) for some history and to see the city and ocean from higher up.
Now you should definitely avoid the souvenir shops (unless you really want a shot glass), and the random big name stores like Tommy Hilfiger and instead head to some great local shops. The first place to go is Ole to get yourself an authentic Panama hat (actually made in Puerto Rico, not China). This store is fun to look around, but even more fun to try hats on. The friendly staff will help you figure out which size and style of hat works best and then once you’ve settled on a hat, you can even pick your ribbon as well. It was super fun to see the process of making my hat come to life and even more fun wearing it afterwards. Once you’ve gotten your hat, stroll on over to Concalma for a bag. They have an assortment of fabric bags in a ton of fun colors that can be used for anything from a gym tote to a backpack to an actually cute fanny pack. What I love about these two stores are that their goods are all made locally. It just feels good to support a local brand and when you leave, you’re walking away with a wonderful non-cheesy souvenir too.
Whether you are planning a destination wedding or need a place to stay, or just a bite to eat, check out Hotel El Convento, a boutique hotel with lots of old world charm. It’s situated on a cute little square and right by the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. It has lots of style and you can get married there or in the Cathedral across the street (I even stumbled upon a wedding happening the day I was there). You have to check out the center atrium/patio that is dominated by a massive fruit tree. It’s gorgeous and a lovely place to stop for some nourishment. If you do grab a bite, order the Puerto Rican Mofongo, it’s amazing!
I love my food, so I have to talk about one more place called Marmalade. It’s a delicious multi course experience where all the food is made of local, sustainable ingredients. One of the things that really stood out to me was the staff and how much they really wanted you to be happy. And if you aren’t happy with a dish, they will actually bring you something else. The decor and style of the restaurant makes you think that it might just be swanky, but it’s not. There is personality there and even the chef’s little girl helps out and brings people water. It’s more mom and pop than meets the eye and I like that about it. And let’s not forget the food which was fantastic.
If you are lucky enough like I was, you’ll get to experience Old San Juan when a festival is going on. The music, colors, and excitement is infectious. This place knows how to have fun and not take itself too seriously. There is so much to enjoy and it’s such an easy city to discover all you have to do is step outside and wander.
If you are considering Puerto Rico for your next trip or destination wedding, it’s definitely a fun place to check out. And don’t forget that if you are doing a destination wedding, it’s super easy to get married there because you don’t need a passport, they use US currency and they speak English. Easy peasy!