Forward to the Islands: Guide to Puerto Rico

Forward to the Islands

Just like the Drake song… Last month I traveled to Puerto Rico for an island getaway. Keep reading to hear all about my trip & my recommendations to plan your next island vacay!

Day 1: Flight to San Juan

Last month I traveled to Fajardo and San Juan, Puerto Rico with my boyfriend, Davis. Our first day got slowed down a bit when our flight was delayed two hours. When we finally flew into San Juan, it was pretty rainy out but luckily this only lasted for one day!

I highly suggest renting a car in Puerto Rico. We rented a car from Charlie Cars, which we read good reviews about online prior to our trip. Charlie Cars is a lot cheaper than other “brand name” car rentals, but the service was excellent and the process to get our lil ride was quick and easy! We ended up getting a red compact car, which we dubbed el pequeño rojo (pictured below) and made our way to Fajardo for the first two nights.



Fajardo is located on the Northeast coast of Puerto Rico. The ride there from San Juan was just over an hour and because I had phone service (s/o to AT&T, which is found all over the island), we could easily use Google Maps to get us to our first hotel. The first hotel we stayed at is called El Conquistador Resort, which is basically an all inclusive resort on a beautiful property with several pools and slides, a Waldorf Astoria spa and, our favorite part, a private island that they take you to! Because it’s not quite the height of the summer season, the hotel felt pretty empty. But the service was still great and the hotel was lovely.

Day 2: Palomino Island & the Waldorf Astoria Spa

Palomino Island

Palomino Island is the private island that you can get to from El Conquistador’s catamaran. This island is actually pretty enough to be a desktop screensaver… It has a lot of beach activities that you can rent, like jet skis, horseback riding, kayaks and giant floats. But, these rentals were pretty expensive (we’re talking $75 each to ride a jet ski for 30 minutes), so we decided to lay out on the beach chairs and swim, which was perfectly fine with me!

There is even a restaurant and full bar on the island, which were pretty good and not as expensive as some of the other restaurants in the main resort.

Tip: I highly recommend venturing off the resort to eat if you choose to stay here! The food is way too expensive and very average. Because this resort is one of the biggest attractions in Fajardo, there are many restaurants that are tourist-friendly and feature some yummy, local food for a reasonable price.

The Waldorf Astoria Spa

After a long morning in the sun, we made our way back to the resort for our spa treatments – one of my favorite parts of our entire stay! Davis got me a spa package for our birthday and we signed up for a 60 minute couples massage at El Con’s Waldorf Astoria Spa. The massage technicians were great and the spa itself featured a hot tub and sauna that you could relax in before/after your treatment.

That night, we ventured outside of the resort property for dinner because we were sick of the high prices and not so great food. We researched nearby recommended restaurants and found La Estación, just down the street from the resort.

La Estación

La Estación was created by a chef from NYC and is known for its BBQ style food. The servers were all very friendly and had a lot of information about their menu and their locally sourced products. We both opted for the Mofongo, which is a traditional Puerto Rican dish, consisting of mashed up plantains and either vegetables or meat on top. I, of course, got the vegetable mofongo and Davis got the meat option. I also got their freshly made sangria – everything was amazing!!

Day 3: El Yunque Rainforest & The Dreamcatcher

Las Vistas Cafe

On day 3 of our trip, we checked out of El Conquistador and made our way to El Yunque rainforest, which was on the way to our airbnb in San Juan. But first, we stopped at Las Vistas Cafe for a quick breakfast. Las vistas, the view, was unreal and the lady who managed the restaurant was so sweet and welcoming! We made sure to have a big meal (pictured below) before our trek to the rainforest.

Everything is pretty close together on the island, so it only took us about 30 minutes to drive from the resort to El Yunque national rainforest. Once you’re in the rainforest, there are tons of little cafes and shops throughout the drive up!

El Yunque

If you’re visiting El Yunque after May 31st, I recommend visiting Juan Diego Falls. Unfortunately, it was closed for a preservation period when we were there, but we heard that it is the less crowded and more beautiful spot. Because this was closed, we ended up going on La Mina trail, which took us down a 40 minute trail with several small waterfalls and one large one.

The Dreamcatcher

After our hike through El Yunque, we drove back to San Juan, which was only about an hour from El Yunque. I was so excited to get to our airbnb, The Dreamcatcher, which is rated as the #1 Bed & Breakfast in San Juan, and I agree! I cannot say enough good things about The Dreamcatcher; if you’re looking for a place to stay in San Juan, this is the place… the only place that you should even consider staying at!

The Dreamcatcher is a vegetarian hotel and features 12 different, and equally adorable, rooms ranging from shared rooms to private suites. They have an in-house chef, Chef Jerome, who cooks unique breakfast dishes each morning, as well as daily yoga and meditation classes on-site. It is located in a quaint gated community, just steps from the beach and is close to a popular road that includes some great restaurants and boutiques.

I obviously took a ton of photos around the property because I was so inspired by their decor! I suggest looking at their Instagram stories to get an real time feel for the daily activities on the property.

The property featured two separate kitchens, which is so nice for those who travel a lot or have meal restrictions to be able to prepare their own food!

Calle Loíza

Calle Loíza is a street within walking distance to The Dreamcatcher that features trendy local restaurants, cafes, and boutiques with a hipster vibe. The concierge at The Dreamcatcher had a hand drawn map suggesting where to stop along this road for dinner and drinks. I highly suggest coming to this area for dinner and nightlife!

That night, we had a less authentic meal – pizza! The pizza was great but it took a while to make because the restaurant was so busy, so we each got a free drink (no complaints here!). After pizza, we stopped in a beer bar called El Tap. They had over 20 different beers and even some American craft beers.

Day 4: Calle Cerra, Old San Juan & Oceanlab Brewing Co.

We packed our last full day with a couple different sights to make sure that we accomplished a successful San Juan trip! We started the morning with a breakfast at The Dreamcatcher. The Dreamcatcher is a vegetarian/vegan property, mainly meaning that meat cannot be cooked on premises. Because of this, we were unsure how filling their breakfast would be for a long day of activities.

We headed to the dining room to check out the meals for that Saturday (they change daily) and, after hearing the one vs. three course menu, were so excited to try. For the main course, you could choose between french toast and an egg/veggie/salad dish. I got the egg and Davis got the French Toast. Davis also opted for the three course menu, which included coconut water, coconut and banana oatmeal, and a pitaya berry sorbet for dessert after the french toast.

As you can see, the meals were cooked with the freshest, local ingredients (my fave!). The dining room was also perfectly decorated, just like the rest of the property. As an interior design student myself, I was just in awe of the vernacular design across the property and it has inspired me in designing my New York apartment! 

After breakfast, we first stopped at a street called Calle Cerra. I first heard about this mural-filled road after reading Free People’s BLDG 25 blog post on Puerto Rico. Once we got there, the area was very empty, but we were still able to see what I like to call “the Wynwood Walls of San Juan”.

Calle Cerra

I like to think that Calle Cerra is the Wynwood Walls of San Juan! We stopped here first on day 4 to get a glimpse of the artwork along the road.

Old San Juan

Of course, we had to visit Old San Juan during our trip, one of the most iconic areas on the whole island. For those of you fellow Florida natives, you’ve probably visited St. Augustine at some point. Old San Juan felt a lot like the setup of St. Augustine, specifically with the fort being a centerpiece in the town and an overall Spanish Colonial feel.

This city is a very popular tourist attraction and is known for its brightly painted buildings and historic architecture. It is very easy to walk throughout the town to visit museums, the two forts, restaurants and shops.

It’s not hard to find shopping in Old San Juan, but pictured below are two shops that I loved stopping in!

For lunch, we stopped at Cafe Manolín and had some more mofongo, my new favorite dish! This time, both plantains and yucca (if you know me, you know) were mashed together to create the mofongo. Chicken and salad were also added to this dish.

Oceanlab Brewing Co.

Before we headed back to The Dreamcatcher to freshen up, we decided to stop at a brewery (one of our favorite things to do together!). I think it’s fair to say that this is the most beautiful brewery location that I have ever seen! Oceanlab Brewing Co. is located within the Vivo Beach Club property, which feels just like a South Beach pool along the ocean, only with a huge AT&T stage in the sand for concerts and a brewery attached!

Acapulco Taquería

That night, we had dinner at a famous local taco shop, Acapulco. We sat outdoors on the rooftop seating area and ordered a a few different types of tacos, but they were all equally good!

Day 5: Last Morning at the Dreamcatcher 

Because we had an early afternoon flight, we weren’t able to do much besides pack up to leave on our last morning in San Juan. We had one last breakfast at the dreamcatcher, where Davis got the frittata and I got a specially made omelette. 

I think that The Dreamcatcher was one of my favorite hotels I’ve ever seen! It was so quaint and relaxing, and the decor gave me so much inspo for future projects. Overall, the staff was so accommodating and friendly during our whole stay and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this spot to anyone!  

I hope you liked following along with my Puerto Rican adventure! Stay tuned for many more travel guides coming soon…

Comment below and tell us about your favorite island adventure. Who knows, it could be our next vacation destination!

XX,

J

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