Puerto Rico

In December 2016, Alex and I desperately needed an escape from the frigid New York City weather, so we headed south to sunny Puerto Rico. We started our long weekend in Old San Juan, where we stayed at a small boutique hotel centrally located to all the shops, restaurants, bars, and historic sites. Our flight got in a bit late, so after getting settled, we walked along Paseo del Morro to watch the sunset. We were totally surprised to find that Paseo del Morro is home to “Save a Gato”, the Old San Juan cat sanctuary. There were hundreds (and hundreds) of cats!

Paseo del Morro – how many cats can you spot?

Paseo del Morro at sunset

San Felipe del Morro Fortress

Hungry and thirsty, we made our way to the Mezzanine at St. Germaine, a speakeasy hidden on the second floor of a colonial building in Old San Juan. After enjoying one (or two) mojitos, we headed to El Jibarito for dinner. Despite great reviews, our authentic Puerto Rican dinner was just okay… By the end of our trip, Alex and I decided Puerto Rican food (even in Puerto Rico) is not for us. Nevertheless, I won’t discourage you from trying mofongo at least once 😉

On our first full day in Old San Juan, we toured Castillo de San Cristobal and Castillo de San Felipe del Morro — UNESCO World Heritage sites built in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Spanish to protect the city of San Juan. The forts survived several attacks in the fight for the New World and were later occupied by the U.S. military from 1898 to the early 1960s. After exploring the forts, we got lost on the streets of Old San Juan. The old colonial-style buildings are so colorful, and the streets are blue cobblestone, supposedly brought by European merchants in the 1700s.

After a full day of exploring, we were ready for happy hour! We ventured over to La Factoria, another speakeasy in the center of Old San Juan. The bartender, a local, recommended Cafe Puerto Rico for dinner. Ready to give Puerto Rican food a second chance, we were once again let down! Did I already mention we won’t be eating Puerto Rican food for awhile???

Views from Castillo de San Cristobal

A prison cell in Castillo de San Cristobal

Views from Castillo de San Cristobal

Views from Castillo de San Cristobal

Views from Castillo de San Cristobal

The colorful streets of Old San Juan

On day two, we started our morning at Waffle-Era (probably the BEST meal we had the entire trip). In food coma, we made our way to the beach.

Breakfast at Waffle-Era

Balneario El Escambron

After soaking up the sun for several hours, we found ourselves back at La Factoria — this time, in the wine bar. If you ever visit La Factoria, look for the wood door behind the main bar. It leads you to a wine bar and then to a salsa club, all hidden from the main street. Definitely worth the stop! We had dinner at La Madre, a Mexican restaurant with great reviews…but apparently, Old San Juan doesn’t have Mexican food either 🙁 maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

Dinner at La Madre

On day three, we rented a car and headed to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. I wish we could have spent more time in El Yunque. The rainforest is absolutely beautiful, and there is so much history and so many trails to explore. We spoiled ourselves and stayed at the Treehouses of Yuquiyú for two nights, and boy, did they not disappoint. El Yuquiyú is very secluded, and it felt so nice to disconnect from the rest of the world. The grounds are inspired by the Puerto Rican god Yuquiyú, which also means a natural place so beautiful, the people could feel the presence of that god. Tropical plants, a river with fresh water from the rainforest, and singing tree frogs created the most magical place — I can’t wait to return!

Yokahu Observation Tower

Yokahu Observation Tower

La Mina Falls Trail

Our Treehouse at El Yuquiyú

The rainforest view from our treehouse

The rainforest view from our treehouse

On our fourth and final day in Puerto Rico, we headed to Fajardo to catch the ferry to Vieques, a Caribbean island off of Puerto Rico. During World War II, the United States Navy purchased (or seized…depends who you ask) Vieques as a safe haven for the British fleet in the event the British were overcome by Nazi Germany. Locals were forced from their land and sugar fields — the natural mainstay of the island’s economy — were destroyed. Following the war, the United States Navy continued to use the island for military exercises, and it was not until 2003 that the U.S. Navy left. Today, the island is a national wildlife refuge, and the beaches are some of the top beaches in the Caribbean. Vieques was the perfect beach getaway — not to mention we had the entire beach to ourselves.

Wild horses near the beach

Sun Bay Beach — we had the entire beach to ourselves

Sun Bay Beach — we had the entire beach to ourselves

Overall, Puerto Rico was a great weekend getaway, and I can’t wait to go back to the Caribbean! I’m already missing the sun and warm water. What are your favorite Caribbean island destinations? I’d love to hear from you!!

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