A Long Weekend in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was one of my all time favorite trips. Ever. The beaches, the people being so excited everytime I told them I'm from NY, the way all of the food is expertly and deliciously seasoned no matter where you go. I tried a gas station empanada (don't ask) for $1.50 that could be sold for $10 in NYC. Most of all, I like to vacation by immersing myself in a city with the locals. Puerto Rico is the perfect place to eat, drink, relax and do exactly this. I spent a long weekend there and here's everything I did.
Where I Stayed.
We stayed in the Concado area. Concado is a neighborhood in San Juan.We used AIRBNB, which I tend to book for most of my trips. We were able to rent a studio apt, with microwave and mini fridge for approx. $79 a night. The apartment complex had a garden in the courtyard and was 6 blocks from the beach and 2 blocks from a mega Wal-mart. It was small, but came with central air, solid wifi and a huge flat screen. The location was the biggest draw for me. I could not figure out why San Juan felt so familiar until I realized, Concado reminds me of Miami. It's loud in the best way, cars fly down the small streets, bright colors are everywhere and you can smell the beach no matter where you are.
Right now there are luxury apartments close to the beach for under $100 a night for Labor Day Weekend.
What I Ate.
Since I love food, I went with an over sized list of places to eat and even left room for a few surprises. Unfortunately my iphone deleted the list. Or more like I deleted the list by not paying attention to my notes app.
It did not disappoint. Make no mistake, this is a splurge dinner. It is not cheap. But similar to NYC's Gato, it's worth every dime and every bite will be memorable. We ate crab on toasts, cod fish fritters, pork belly, tostones, rice mixed with black beans, fried pork chunks and vaca frita, which is a steak shredded in tomato sauce then crisped up. Amazing!
We walked to this taco truck/food stand in 90 degree heat, as soon as we dropped our bags off. A friend who is from PR recommended it. It was so good the hubs and I got into a disagreement. I wanted to order more and more tacos when we were done eating and he let me know we had dinner plans and insisted I needed to save room. I hated that moment, but I understood. Had it been up to me? We would've been there hours. The beers are ice cold. The homemade limeade was sweet and yet delciously tart. The standouts? The empanadas, the crispy tacos with chicken and the surf and turf taco, with fish and grilled steak. Most tacos come topped with a creamy, light, coleslaw mix and cilantro. A perfect first meal to welcome us to PR.
Crepe Maker. Huge crepes made right in front of you. They serve a variety of huge (!) savory and sweet crepes. This is a super affordable option for a pre or post beach meal. They have a combo that comes with smaller versions of a savory crepe, a sweet crepe and a fountain drink for $13. Me and the hubs each got a combo so we could taste a few. If you want a cocktail the Strawberry Bellini's are a must try. They literally muddle strawberries in a glass then pop open a bottle of champagne. They are $4. Four. Dollars.
Bar Gitano. Tapas done right. Right next door to the Crepe Maker, and across the street from the beach, this was a great, we just want good food and to relax, dinner option. Casual, it looks like a sports bar mixed with an Italian Villa. They have tvs over the bar that play major sporting events, including soccer. The food was excellent. The menu is one page but expertly executed. The shrimp in garlic, roasted mushrooms, and papas bravas are all tasty but nothing compares to the mini flatbread pizza with goat cheese, fig jam, arugula and truffle oil.
Other stand outs?
Pinky's. Breakfast food with outdoor seating. Also the exact place I was eating when I made the PR/Miami connection
Orozco’s Restaurant. Authentic Puerto Rican food at it's finest. A perfect meal? Oxtails, fried snapper, white rice, maduros, flan and mojito's. Plus they have homemade hot sauce!
Where I Went.
It was all about the beach. I was in PR for 4 days so I was able to go to 2 beaches. Despite conflicting reviews of which is best on yelp, I found them both to be similarly beautiful. Isla Verde Beach and Condado Beach. Both beaches had chairs for rent for $5 each and umbrellas for $10. Condado definitely had more of a family vibe. It was a few streets away from a CVS so we grabbed a disposable cooler, filled it with treats and beer and hung out with teens and parent's with small children and a guy selling 6 packs of PR beer for $10. A very relaxed, local vibe. Isla Verde was a beautiful beach with a touristy vibe. Lots of stateside Americans, hotels selling $15 pizzas, a hot dog cart with $6 hot dogs and tacos and sun bathing women in skimpy bikinis. A very Miami vibe.
The Spanish- American war had many battles in PR. The castles & architecture are worth spending a day at. I thought it may become “stale” or start to feel like you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, but each castle had its own story and own character. We were able to see where the soldiers slept, ran drills and even where prisoners were held during the war. For history buffs it's an amazing visit, for someone like me who will happily tag along if food is promised, it still felt fun and exciting.
Bonus: The area around the forts is a prime picture taking location.
The colors of the homes, the hills, and overall architecture like oversized doors, makes for a great photography session.
PR needs our support more than ever. Tourism is down at a time when they need it the most. The tourist areas have electricity and the beaches are clean & ready for swimming. Do yourself a favor and put San Juan back on your end of summer vacay list! Grab some friends or bae and book a long weekend ASAP. You won't regret it.