san juan and the puerto rico beaches.

 

My mom and I have always been really close, but we live far apart and don’t see each other as much as we’d like, so a couple of years ago we decided to plan a yearly mother-daughter trip to somewhere neither of us had been before. For our first getaway, we decided to meet in San Juan for a 3-day Puerto Rico adventure!

ACCOMODATIONS
We opted to stay outside of Old San Juan in the Condado area based upon recommendations from friends. We stayed in this adorable little B&B called Andalucía House. I originally found the place through AirBnB, but the owner told us in the future to rent directly through their website to save the AirBnB fees. We opted for the junior suite so we had a kitchenette, but the regular room would have been perfect had we chosen that instead. We both loved where we stayed – there was a cute courtyard and terrace at the house, we were about two blocks off of the beach, there were cute little bars and restaurants down the block and within walking distance, and it wasn’t in a super busy/touristy area so felt a bit more “local”

ACTIVITIES
I’d highly recommend renting a car in Puerto Rico – it’ll made the rest of the island a lot more accessible. Double check with your hotel/AirBnB before to make sure they offer parking (Andalucía House does!). For reference, we took a cab into Old San Juan one night and it was about $15 each way from Condado, so very easy!

If you have three days in Puerto Rico, here’s how I’d recommend spending them:

DAY 1: CONDADO BEACH + OLD SAN JUAN
Spend the morning checking out Condado Beach. Some parts are more touristy than others, so try to move further away from the public beach accesses so you have more room to yourself. Then, head into Old San Juan and grab lunch at La Cueva del Mar (more on that below). You’ll want the full afternoon to walk along the wall of the old town, popping down the different streets lined with local street art and colorful buildings. There are also a ton of art studios and local jewelers that are worth popping in to see if you are looking for something to take back with you. Fortaleza is the main street and is very touristy (both in the types of shops and the number of people traversing it at any given time), so be aware of that when you go. It’s hard to avoid entirely, but try to stay away from it if you want more of an off-the-beaten path/local flavor. If you rented a car and want to drive in, I’d recommend researching parking garages beforehand. We parked at Doña Maria garage which only cost us about $5, but many other garages were charging $20 for the same amount of time. Don’t just settle for an expensive garage!

DAY 2: BEACH DAY IN AGUADILLA
Our B&B owner recommended we drive out to the northwest corner of the island to a place called Crashboat Beach in Aguadilla. The drive was about 2 hours each way, but it was completely worth it. When we arrived, there were very few people there, especially to the left of the boardwalk. Spend the morning swimming in crystal clear water on the more vacated side, then head over to the other side of the boardwalk to grab a bite to eat for lunch. Spend the afternoon swimming in, you guessed it, equally clear and beautiful waters. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some beautiful rays like we did! Note that there were more people on the side of the boardwalk with the food vendors, but even at it’s busiest there were no more than 20 people. There are also tons of beautiful boats (hence where the beach gets its name).

DAY 3: SOAK UP THE SUN IN LUQUILLO
This was another recommendation from the B&B owner, situated about an hour east of San Juan. He specifically recommended we check out Playa Azul, as it’s a local beach that tourists are very rarely aware of. I highly recommend it, as it was quite vacant and we had long expanses of beautiful beach to ourselves! You have to leave the beach to get food, so I’d recommend packing a picnic if you want to truly maximize your time, otherwise there are some restaurants nearby where you can grab a quick bite. Note that there are also no public bathrooms (that’s how untouched this beautiful beach is), so you’ll have to walk a couple minutes from the beach to get to one

ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES IF TIME ALLOWS
Beacuse we didn’t have much time in Puerto Rico, we didn’t end up doing either a Rainforest or Bio-luminescence tour, but a couple of the other guests at the B&B had the owner arrange tours for them. They all enjoyed the rainforest, but there were mixed reviews on the bio-luminescence tours – apparently they’re much better on Vieques than the mainland, so keep that in mind. If you chose to do one of these, you could easily combine either with a half day at Playa Azul

We didn’t end up doing Vieques or Culebra based upon recommendations from locals given the time we had and the fact we had not pre-booked flights. We only had 3 full days, the flights were super pricey by the time we looked, and we were told that the ferry is government subsidized and therefore very unreliable (if you aren’t on line by 4am, you probably wont get on, and even if you do get there, they’ll very likely cancel the return ferry so you’re stuck there), so we opted to try the other beaches on the mainland noted above. If you have time while you’re planning though and can spend more than 3 days in Puerto Rico, look to fly between San Juan and Vieques and do an overnight (or two) there

FOOD

We ate REALLY well while we were in Puerto Rico, mostly just finding small restaurants in random places along the way. But we did have two meals that I’d especially recommend. The first is La Cueva del Mar. They have multiple locations, including one in Condado and one in Old San Juan. The one in Condado was within walking distance of the guest house, too. It was about $12 for four of the best, most filling fish tacos I have EVER had in my life. They have other food too, but trust me, order the fish tacos! The other amazing meal we had was at Jose Enrique. It’s definitely a pricier meal than La Cueva, but if you’re looking for a nicer meal, it’s amazing!

What are your favorite things in Puerto Rico? Do you have any other restaurants or beautiful, hidden beach spots you’d recommend? 

 

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