Published on August 28th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
LF Weekend Vacation: A Perfect Getaway in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The concept of unlimited vacation days would allow us to spend as much time as we like discovering the world. But real life and pesky bosses always seem to interrupt those daydreams, reminding us of the necessity of budgeting free time to maximize our travel possibilities. With that in mind, LatinFlyer.com launches a new series of posts called LF Weekend Vacation. Each post is designed to provide inspiration to people who yearn for a Latin America vacation but find themselves a bit short on time.
The first entry in this travel series is Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island very dear to my heart not only because of my partner (who’s originally from Ponce and Lajas), but also because of its variety of activities and attractions — not to mention the easy accessibility from North America and its increasing connectivity with Latin America and Europe. You can easily do a three- or four-day weekend vacation in and around the capital city of San Juan, and enjoy a variety of historic, sophisticated and sun-soaked activities during your trip.
Here are some travel tips for spending an ideal weekend vacation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
FRIDAY: Arrive and check into your hotel — if beach time is a priority, choose someplace in the neighborhood of Condado, Isla Verde or Ocean Park (check my article, “Condado vs. Isla Verde: Which is Best for a San Juan Vacation?” to help you decide). Among the most recent hotels that I’ve enjoyed is the Olive Boutique Hotel, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World that also has a divine restaurant.
Spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach, and sip a frothy piña colada at its birthplace — which, depending on who’s doing the talking, is either at Barra China restaurant in Old San Juan or at the Caribe Hilton hotel. You might also consider dinner and tropical cocktails at Oceano, a hip oceanfront bar and restaurant in Condado; the later it gets, the more festive and stylish the vibe here.
SATURDAY: Take a fun-filled day trip outside of the metropolitan area. Top destinations include El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System, or the Camuy River Cave Park, part of the third largest underground river in the world. If you prefer to stay closer to the hotel, consider renting a stand-up paddle board or a sea kayak in tranquil Condado Lagoon.
That night, consider dining at Zest, a chic restaurant at the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel in the Isla Verde district, or stopping for cocktails at La Concha, A Renaissance Resort, a beachfront hotel in the Condado district with one of the city’s hippest lobby bars (live DJs often provide extra beats on the weekends).
SUNDAY: Tour Old San Juan, the beautiful historic heart of the city, where you can stroll the narrow streets, admiring well-maintained colonial architecture while popping into shops, galleries and historic sites including an stately cathedral, centuries-old fortresses with spectacular views and the one-time home of Juan Ponce de León. Be sure to visit the Iglesia San José — San José Church, one of the earliest surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere, which this year became the first site in Puerto Rico to make the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Enjoy authentic Puerto Rican cuisine for lunch in Old San Juan or near your hotel before heading to the airport.
MORE PUERTO RICO TRAVEL TIPS & INSPIRATION
• Top 5 Reasons to Visit San Juan, Puerto Rico
• What’s Happening in Condado, Puerto Rico’s Urban Beach Paradise
• Tropical Drinks, Rum Cocktails & Baskin Robbins: 5 Cool Drinks in Puerto Rico
Special for LatinFlyer.com readers: Great deals from Apple Vacations on Puerto Rico