While you’re wandering round Previous San Juan, you’ll really feel worlds away from the USA.
Quaint cobblestone streets. Murmurs of Spanish. Centuries-old fortresses.
However the capital of Puerto Rico is just some hours by aircraft — and since the island is a U.S. territory, you gained’t want a passport to get there.
It’s also possible to use your cellphone and spend U.S. , and since virtually everybody speaks flawless English, you gained’t want to fret should you don’t converse Spanish (although most individuals will fortunately allow you to observe).
I not too long ago spent 10 days on this tropical paradise. It makes an ideal weekend getaway for Individuals searching for unique sights, sounds and tastes with out having to journey removed from dwelling.
What to Anticipate
As you most likely know, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The storm induced $90 billion in harm, in accordance with the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many residents went with out energy for nearly a 12 months.
Given all of the unfavorable information protection, I wasn’t certain what to anticipate. What would it not seem like? Would there be scorching water and electrical energy? Would eating places and motels be open?
Once I hopped off the aircraft, I used to be stunned to see that San Juan appears, properly, regular. Eating places, motels and sights are open, and town has been welcoming cruise ships for months.
I’m not saying the work in Puerto Rico is finished. It’s $71 billion in debt, and the island faces myriad challenges. Whereas I hope you’ll take a while to be taught concerning the territory earlier than visiting, that’s not what this text is about.
So, as a substitute of diving into Puerto Rico’s politics and historical past, I’ll simply guarantee you: The typical vacationer can have a superbly pretty go to.
And you must, as a result of one of many greatest methods to assist the island is to spend cash there. Puerto Ricans are a few of the friendliest folks I’ve encountered in my travels; they may possible welcome you with a smile.
When to Go
A view of Previous San Juan in Puerto Rico. Picture courtesy of Susan Shain
The temperature in San Juan is round 75 to 85 levels year-round.
Excessive vacationer season lasts from mid-December to mid-April and comes with greater crowds and costs. Spring’s shoulder season (mid-April to June) has fewer crowds.
It’s hurricane season from June to November, although that shouldn’t essentially deter you from visiting. The climate can nonetheless be nice, and you will discover discounted charges on motels, in accordance with U.S. Information & World Report.
What to Do
You gained’t end up hurting for actions whereas visiting San Juan. Right here’s a sampling of choices on this historic seaside city.
Previous San Juan
For many guests, merely wandering the charming streets of Previous San Juan might present days of leisure.
With 16th- and 17th-century structure, swaying palm bushes, blue cobblestones and stray cats sleeping on stoops, you’ll really feel far faraway from big-box shops and strip malls.
Cease into shops, sit in one of many many plazas, seize a cup of world-class espresso from Cuatros Sombras and watch the world go by.
Museums and Points of interest
Historical past lovers, rejoice! San Juan’s museums are extremely inexpensive.
Entrance to the San Juan Nationwide Historic Website, which incorporates the 16th-century El Morro Fort and Fort San Cristóbal, is $7. La Casa Blanca, the oldest repeatedly occupied home within the western hemisphere, prices simply $three to enter.
Prepared to boost your day of historical past? Take a $15 historic tour of the Bacardi rum distillery.
Tons of-year-old partitions surrounding San Juan. Picture courtesy of Susan Shain
In relation to seashores, you often need to get out of town to search out lovely ones. However that’s not the case right here.
Neighborhoods like Condado, Ocean Park and Isla Verde all have pristine seashores and are simply minutes from Previous San Juan. Many guests select to ebook waterfront motels right here.
However even should you don’t keep by the seaside, put aside no less than a half day to benefit from the solar, surf and white sand whereas pretending you’re in a Puerto Rican postcard.
To get out of town, essentially the most budget-friendly choice is to lease a automobile. (Once I seemed, it was solely $17 per day.)
You’ll be able to then cruise 30 miles to El Yunque, the one tropical rainforest within the U.S. Most of its trails closed after Maria, however they’ve been steadily reopening. Even so, you may all the time absorb its lush environment and waterfalls.
In your approach again, hit up Piñones, a beachside city well-known for its laid-back meals kiosks.
The place to Eat and Drink
Tray of croquettes from La Croqueteria, one of many kiosks at Lote 23. Picture courtesy of Susan Shain
Though you don’t hear about it as a lot as different foodie locations (but!), Puerto Rico’s culinary scene has obtained it happening.
Its most well-known dish is “mofongo”: garlicky fried plantains, typically formed right into a bowl and stuffed with meat and broth. You’ll find it anyplace from hole-in-the-wall institutions to fine-dining eating places.
So far as finances choices go, right here have been just a few of my favourite spots:
Lote 23: This industrial lot is stuffed with over a dozen meals kiosks — it’s an absolute should go to. You should definitely attempt manchego croquettes at Croqueteria (two for $four) and selfmade cashew milk lattes at Cafe Regina ($7). El Jangiri’s poke bowls ($Eight-$12) are additionally glorious.
La Bombonera: One of many oldest eating places in San Juan, this bakery has been open since 1902. Its most well-known providing is the “mallorca”, a flaky pastry stuffed with cheese and topped with powdered sugar ($three.95). Yum.
Café Manolín: Cease by this unpretentious native joint to pattern rooster mofongo ($10.95) and “empanada de lomillo”, or breaded beef steak ($11.95).
Señor Paleta: In San Juan’s tropical local weather, you’ll most likely get a hankering for one thing chilly. This connoisseur popsicle store has a spread of creative flavors; my favourite was Nutella-filled strawberry ($four).
Barrachina: This restaurant claims to have invented the piña colada. Though one other bar within the space claims it, too, all you really want to know is the piña coladas right here ($Eight) are delicioso. Sit on the bar within the courtyard, and also you’re assured to have an excellent time.
La Placita de Santurce: For a enjoyable evening out, seize a beer ($2) and wander round this vigorous bar space, the place the streets fill with locals and vacationers alike. It’s excellent for people-watching — and should you keep late sufficient, you’ll undoubtedly see some spontaneous salsa dancing.
The place to Keep
Room at The Dreamcatcher, now referred to as “The Gallery Suite”. Picture courtesy of Susan Shain
When deciding the place to remain in San Juan, you’ll face a troublesome resolution: outdated city or the seaside. Whereas Previous San Juan provides loads of allure, staying on the seaside is, properly, staying on the seaside.
The excellent news is that the majority choices are pretty shut collectively, and by selecting one, you’ll most likely solely be a $5 to $7 automobile trip from the opposite.
Since Previous San Juan is small, its lodging decisions aren’t as strong as elsewhere within the metropolis. Some moderately priced choices I discovered have been the Fortaleza Visitor Home and the Decanter Lodge.
It’s also possible to select an Airbnb, however be aware that it isn’t all the time greatest for a metropolis’s residents.
Giant, resort-style motels abound in Condado, a touristy seaside space just a few miles east of Previous San Juan. I’d advocate staying a bit additional afield, although; you’ll get extra in your cash, and gained’t, be sleeping at a Vacation Inn in Puerto Rico.
Listed below are two fantastic choices:
Nomada City Seaside Hostel
This stylish hostel is positioned just some blocks from the seaside. It has a wonderful rooftop — full with hammocks and lounge chairs — that overlooks the ocean. It additionally has a shared kitchen, permitting you to cook dinner meals to save cash.
Regardless that I’m previous the purpose of sleeping in dorms, I typically nonetheless ebook personal rooms at hostels. They’re an effective way to benefit from the low charges and sociability of a hostel with out listening to different folks snore.
Listed below are its nightly charges:
Dorm mattress: $32 and up
Rooftop tent: $45 and up
Non-public room: $64 and up
Deluxe personal room: $88 and up
The Dreamcatcher Lodge
This boutique vegetarian bed-and-breakfast feels prefer it’s out of an Instagram catalog. (I do know that’s not a factor, but when it have been, this resort would play a starring function.)
Every room is uniquely adorned with classic finds, and the grounds, stuffed with vegetation and hammocks, ooze tranquility. Charges rely upon which room you ebook however begin at $89. You’ll be able to go for recent vegetarian breakfasts ($11) and in addition make use of a shared kitchen.
Tips on how to Get to San Juan
San Juan’s Presbyterian Church on Calle Fortaleza. Picture courtesy of Susan Shain
Many airways, together with Southwest, Spirit and JetBlue, supply each day departures to San Juan. (Observe that with Spirit, you’ll need to pay further for all baggage, together with carry-ons.)
When taking a look at flights a few month out from my journey, listed here are some round-trip charges I discovered:
From Chicago O’Hare: $279 (Spirit)
From Newark: $307 (JetBlue, direct)
From Baltimore: $331 (JetBlue, direct)
From Atlanta: $182 (Spirit)
When you get there, renting a automobile isn’t crucial should you’re simply staying for the weekend.
Ubers and Lyfts are plentiful and low-cost — except for arriving on the airport, while you’ll need to take an official taxi to your resort. Throughout the metropolis, strolling and biking are nice choices; some motels even supply free bike leases.
Though you gained’t get to see the whole lot in Puerto Rico in a weekend, you may all the time save issues in your subsequent journey. As a result of, when you go — there’ll all the time be a subsequent journey.
Susan Shain is a contract author and digital nomad. She covers journey, meals and private finance (mainly, how to save cash so you may journey extra and eat extra). Go to her weblog at susanshain.com, or say hello on Twitter @susan_shain.
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