Vacation was amazing! So for anyone who couldn’t make it, I thought I would share the experience here! For any place we visited or anything that we did, I’ll try and include a link so you can check it out in depth if you so choose.
After the long travel day starting at about 3am, five hours of flying time and some other moving around time, we finally arrived in Puerto Rico where we checked into our hotel, At Windchimes Inn.
This hotel was awesome! From the moment we got there, the staff was absolutely terrific. We had an issue with our credit card going through (not our fault of course) as well as had to make a room change and instead of keeping us in the lobby until everything was figured everything out, they gave us our rooms anyway so we could drop off our luggage and then we walked a block away to the ocean to hang out. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to call our credit card company and get everything straightened out. They were really friendly the entire time we were there and were more than willing to help.
You can probably see from the picture on their website that the whole building is fortified by a cement wall. The rooms are of course inside of the wall, as well as the pool, an outside bar and a patio area. The rooms weren’t fancy by any means, but they were definitely nice and what you would expect to see in an island boutique hotel. I don’t believe all rooms had it, but ours included a sink, mini stove and mini fridge. When we were hanging out by the pool or on the patio, you would occasionally get a whiff of sewage, but keep in mind it’s an island and isn’t the only place that has this problem. This is bound to happen on a majority of islands or if you have been to Mexico, you know what I am talking about. The smell is easy enough to forget about.
Our first night we went to a place called Bebo’s Cafe for dinner. Another island caveat, services is slow. Island people are very laid back so expect meals to take longer than usual. I had ribs and Kelly had mofongo. Mofongo is a fried plantain dish that contains some form of meat like chicken or pork and then has some vegetables. I highly recommend you try this whenever you have a chance, it is delicious! The restaurant was nice and the food was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t go back just because I think there are other places I would rather try, but overall it’s a good place to eat. After dinner we hung out by the pool and had some beers. If you are looking for something different/local, try Medella, Carib, Presidente or Modello (Modello is a beer out of Mexico). Otherwise the 24 Seven (basically a 7 Eleven) store has some US beers as well. Most gas stations do to, but I love the 24 Seven stores there. We had one that was one block behind the hotel and two blocks over. There was also a Quiznos where we got a quick breakfast on occasion. But remember, quick is still slow in island time.
On day two of San Juan, we went to Old San Juan. We talked to the person at the front desk and they told us that bus 53 goes to the bus terminal to Old San Juan (I could be wrong on that number so make sure to check if you decide to take the bus). We walked west down the road that the hotel was on a little ways and found a bus stop. A lady who was out walking suggested walking a little further down to the bus stop near the Walgreens because they apparently pick up more often than at the stop we were waiting at. So we walked down and got on the bus. We ran into to ladies who we found out were on the same cruise as us. They recommended Condado beach if we were looking for a nice beach to go to. I’ll talk more on that later.
When we arrived in Old San Juan, we just roamed around for a while checking out the city and looking for a potential lunch spot. I really wish I could remember the name or the location of the place we went, but I can’t*. All I can tell you is that the place was a couple of blocks away from the bus terminal in a little square. There was a bar at the front of the building with an open wall/doorway. There were two memorable signs, “Best mofongo in the world” and “Best margaritas in the universe”. When you walk in, the restaurant is at the way way back of the building. I’m pretty sure they do have the best mofongo in the world, it was so good! After lunch (well, beforehand to) we looked through some of the shops. Our plan then was to go to the Bacardi factory as well as the forts.
There is a free trolley that will take you to the forts as well as a nice little cruise around the area. We waited near one of the signs and jumped on the trolley headed to El Morro. I would highly recommend this fort as the view was gorgeous and the history behind it was very interesting. After walking around and taking advantages of all the photo ops, we decided it was time for a drink.
Because of our time restrictions, we decided not to go to the Bacardi factory. To get to the Bacardi factory, you have to take the ferry. One thing we learned was the the Don Q distillery was right down by the port, which is relatively close to where the bus station is. We decided to go there instead. It really wasn’t much of a tour, but more of a self guided “read the history on these posters that we hung” type of tour. Either way, there was a free drink at the end which AMAZING! I don’t care for Pina Coladas, but this was the best frozen drink I have ever tasted! On that note, we purchased two bottles of rum from the distillery. On another note, getting it there was cheaper than anywhere we found on our cruise. We did end up buying another bottle at the duty free store in the PR air port before we left for home and paid a couple dollars more for it.
After the tour, we did some more shopping around and then found a spot for dinner right near the port called Tijuana’s Bar and Grill. I think a majority of the people got fish tacos, but I got regular tacos. I also got a chorizo and cheese dip with chips. The dip was really good, but definitely greasy and was quite a large quantity. I would recommend sharing it, otherwise you’ll just feel sick from eating it all… like I did. Probably the best part about this place was that they had Red Bull Margaritas! It honestly wasn’t all that great, but it definitely gets a reaction when you tell people you had one.
Red Bull Margarita
Now that dinner was over, it was time to head back. We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the hotel. If you are unfamiliar with the area, I suggest taking the bus when it is light out. Because of the standing room only on the bus, the darkness and the combination of being somewhere new it was really hard to see where we were. Thankfully we met a comedian on the bus who was somewhat familiar with the area. She was able to help us find the correct stop and entertained us on the way. And if you haven’t noticed by this point, almost everyone in Puerto Rico has an awesome attitude and are extremely nice. We got back to the hotel and had some beers in hand, only to find out the pool was broken. We sat on the patio for a bit while we were deciding what we should do, when all of a sudden one of the hotel workers came out and told us that their sister hotel down the road has a hot tub that we could use.
The other hotel is literally one block away and is above the Niche restaurant (which is also the place that serves breakfast for the two hotels. The key for your room (as well as the hotel) will also let you into the side door at the sister hotel which is just after the entrance to the restaurant. From there, you walk up some steps to the roof top hot tub. This hot tub was amazing! It was literally two to three times bigger than the pool. If you stay at either hotel, skip the pool and hit the hot tub in the evening time.
On day three, we took the recommendation of the ladies on the bus and went to Condado beach. We decided to walk to the beach and stop at shops on the way. The walk was 1.7 miles from the hotel. Fair warning, if you walk, do not wear flip flops and your suit. It was a bad idea. The bus goes right past that area too so you can do that or take a cab. Since the bus is only $.50, that is probably your best bet. It was a nice and long relaxing day on the beach. Snorkeling was pretty good and the view was awesome! It was a bit rocky so might want some sort of waterproof shoes for the water. Once you got out far enough it wasn’t rocky at all, just getting in and was kind of a pain. There was also a guy selling some delicious beef on a stick right near the beach. Very good stuff! You’ll also see people walking around all over Puerto Rico selling frozen slushy drinks/treats. That is also very good. On our way back to the hotel (walking again) we stopped at a few more shops and then eventually dinner.
Our group split up a bit for dinner. Some of us went to Subway and the others went to a place called The Taco Maker. The Taco Maker is kind of a combination of Taco Bell and a mediocre sit down Mexican restaurant. Overall, pretty good though. After dinner, it was back to the hot tub for a while and then off to bed. The next day was the day that we were leaving for our cruise.
Because we couldn’t board the ship until 2pm on our last day in Puerto Rico, we stored our luggage at the hotel after our checkout and went to the beach across the road. The beach was beautiful and the waves were huge. This is also another place where you will want to have shoes to go in the water. It’s not that there are a ton of little rocks like at Condado Beach, but complete rock once you get about five feet out from the shore. That’s a dangerous combination with the big waves. After the relaxing day at the beach, it was time to catch our cab and head to the cruise port.
That is the end of part one of our vacation. I plan to post about the whole vacation, but as you can see, it took a month to get the first post up. Feel free to ask questions if you have any and I’ll try to respond promptly. Also, I am sure that I missed a few things, so as people remind me I’ll probably post some updates.
Stay tuned for more to come!
At Windchimes Inn
*I believe this was roughly the location of that resturant
The Taco Maker