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Monday, April 7, 2014

{Trip Report} Old San Juan

Hey there, friends, and happy Monday. I hope you had a fabulous weekend! It was cold and rainy here, so I holed up in my closet, and stuffed more bags for donation than I care to admit. Now that I have so much more room, too bad I can't go on a shopping spree like one of you lucky ducks! Yep, the winner of the $1,000 Nordstrom gift card was announced....go here to see if it's you! Thanks so much to everyone for entering.

Writing these Trip Report posts is always a bit of a Catch 22 for me. I love going through the photos, and savoring all the memories, but it also signifies the trip is over, and I have a hard time with that part. This backwards thinking is probably why I've yet to do the final reports on our Italy trip last Spring...some places are too special to let go. Our trip to Puerto Rico definitely falls into that 'special' category.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

San Juan is a bustling, energetic, cosmopolitan city on the water, with a Miami-vibe. But Old San Juan, is a small, quaint, historic town, consisting of 400 restored buildings from the 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial period. This walkable area in San Juan is steeped in history, with an old-world and romantic European charm.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Cats are everywhere, and are a part of the Old San Juan experience. Some say these cats are descendants of the original cats that arrived on the Spanish ships to settle on the island. There is a volunteer organization that provides food, water, and neutering for all the cats on the island.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Cowboy-hat-wearing iguanas are another story.

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Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Every Saturday, the courtyard of Museo de San Juan is transformed into a community farmers market, where locals and visitors shop for the freshest local produce and traditional handicrafts.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Bright colors and Spanish influence are everywhere...from the flowers, architecture, and tile-work.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

The Spanish fortress, El Morro, sits at the tip of the island peninsula, and is really cool to explore. Every weekend, the skies surrounding it are dotted with kites, thanks to the constant coastal breezes. You can sit and watch, or pick up a $5 kite from a local street vendor.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

This picturesque cemetery is a 200-year-old burial ground, tucked between the ruins of the El Morro fortress and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

We captured this cool shot of El Morro from the plane...you can see how large, and imposing, it must have looked to ships trying to invade the island all those years ago.

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Just before dusk is the perfect time to visit the fortress, as the area and surrounding water take on a peaceful peachy glow.

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

{Where We Stayed}
 
This hotel is full of character, and is ideally located. It's in the heart of Old San Juan, but sits on a pedestrian-only street, so it was very quiet. It's 4-stories tall, with no elevator, but has a 2-room suite which was perfect for sleeping four people. There is a cafe, but we always ventured out. The staff is extremely nice and helpful.
Old San Juan is a quick, $20 taxi ride from the airport, and no car is necessary for exploring the immediate area.
 
If your budget allows, El Convento is the place to stay. It's an old convent, with the rooms circling a charming open-air courtyard. If you don't stay here, definitely stop in for a drink on their patio.

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View from room's balcony

{Where We Ate}
There is no shortage of restaurants in Old San Juan, but we sought out local favorites, that serve authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, at affordable prices. Puerto Rican cuisine is a flavorful blend of Cuban, Spanish, African, and American influences.
 
Cafe Mallorca
This casual diner-style spot, was one block over from the hotel, and packed with locals for breakfast. The mallorca is the sweet roll on the bottom shelf...you can eat it alone with powdered sugar (divine), or heated with meats and cheese inside.
 
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Cafe Mallorca
We were the only tourists here, and it was well worth the wait for a table. The chicken stew and flank steak were to-die, and don't miss the flan for dessert.
 
This cozy spot is oozing with Puerto Rican ambiance, and has the food to match. The soups are incredible, and they serve some of the best Mofongo in town. It's a dish of lightly-fried sweet plantains, and topped with your choice of meat stew.
 
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Cafe Puerto Rico
We hit this little breakfast spot on the way out of town, and I'm still dreaming about it. It was, hands-down, the best cafe con leche I've ever had. Ever. Puerto Rico knows their coffee, and this barrista was an artist!

Caficultura

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 Hi Sugarplum | Trip Report: Old San Juan

Many people view San Juan as a layover stop to the Caribbean, or just a cruise port, but we found it to be as charming a town as most we've seen in Europe. We spent one full day, and two nights in Old San Juan, and it was perfect. It was an easy flight (on Southwest Airlines...who knew?!), no passports or currency exchange is needed since it's an American territory, most everyone speaks English, and they are the nicest people we've ever encountered traveling.

Seriously, so nice that even the kids kept saying, 'Everyone is so nice!' Even our phones worked with no roaming or international plans. It's like the excitement of leaving the country, without the hassle and expense of leaving the country.

This island is packed with fun things to do, so stay tuned for the next Trip Reports! Up next...the rainforest!


Have you been to Puerto Rico? What areas would you like to see? Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico. Make sure to like SeePuertoRico.com on Facebook and follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter for tons of great trip ideas and information.

34 comments:

  1. Your photos are gorgeous! I love all of the bright colors and the architecture. I've only been to PR as a layover on our way to St Kitts but it's a place I'd love to visit.
    We had a mini getaway ourselves, closer to home.http://ourlifeinaclick.blogspot.com/2014/04/travel-spring-break-in-city-2014.html

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    1. such a fun trip, heather...thanks for sharing!

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  2. Your photos are amazing Cassie! I want to take my kids there someday for sure. My dad goes a couple times a year and rents a condo for a month or two. I may have to tag along with him sometime. ;)

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  3. GORGEOUS photos! adding PR to my must visit list! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

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  4. How FUN! It looks beautiful and I love that it is such a charming place. I'll have to add it to my bucket list.

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  5. Looks like you guys had an amazing time! I can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip! I'm looking for a beachy vacation locale for the whole family.

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  6. Lovely photos!! I need to go to Old San Juan now! My husband's adopted family is from there so we've been wanting to go anyway :-) Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Fantastic photos. Looks like you had a wonderful family vacation!!

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  8. Thank you for taking the time to detail your photos and hotels/restaurants. What a wonderful family adventure!

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  9. Hi Cassie.. First of all I am huge fan of your blog. especially Friday Five! & Travels. I loved your Old San Juan pictures. I was wondering if you were asked passport while entering or exiting the San Juan.

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    1. No ma'am....Puerto Rico is a US territory...so no passports required!

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  10. Great recap, friend. The photos are awesome. So fun to see.

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  11. So beautiful - both your family and the scenery!! Glad y'all had an awesome trip.

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  12. Andddd now I am hungry and craving a trip to PR! I love the farmers market and all the colors!

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  14. OH MY WORD! It looks DREAMY!! I wanna go!!!!!!

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  15. I just found your blog and I love it. Then I saw your comments about comments and I love it even more! What a beautiful trip your family took to PR...thanks for sharing...Lana

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  16. I want to pack my bags tonight and head there tomorrow! I love all of the bright colors and those cobblestone streets. What a wonderful trip you had and a beautiful family Cassie.

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  18. Oh my goodness! The colors are so beautiful! I just love all of the architecture, city streets and scenery! Lovely recap doll, and darn cute family!

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  19. After my husband fell skiing-resulting in surgery and was outof work for two months- I promised him a beach for our next vacation. Your post came just in time and now im planning our Puerto Rico vacay. I've poured over your sponsors website but did not see anything about Charlotte Amalie so I'm waiting to read about that leg of your trip. FYI, buy trip insurance. It is cheap compared to the costs ypu can incur if injured and need to be evacuated from somewhere. My $477 investment has paid over $12, 000 of medical bills. Our family is now the poster child for why one needs this insurance. Our insurance was under the Travel guard name.

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    1. that is so scary...and thank goodness you had that insurance! I hope he's on the mend now and you're able to enjoy traveling again soon!

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  20. Oh my goodness! What a gorgeous place to vacation! Take me with you next time! ;)

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  21. Finally a place we can agree on to take our 4 year old! Thank you for posting , I actually made my husband read it and were now booking our trip!

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    1. yay -- have a great trip and let me know if you have any questions!

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  22. Love how you break it all down for us! Definitely makes it more enticing to go! You didn't mention beaches at all?

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    1. That was the last leg...I posted it yesterday! :)

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  23. We spent a week at the El Conquistador for Spring Break this year. We also went to El Yunque and we kayaked to the bio bay in Fajarrado. It was a wonderful trip and my two teenage sons loved it. If you go back, stay at the El Conquistador and take the ferry to Palomino island, the resort's private island. It was magical.

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    1. We loved our afternoon at that resort...it's huge and so pretty!!!

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  24. Thank you for the pictures!!! This brought me to tears because of how fondly I remember this trip from our Honeymoon :).

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    1. I'm so glad you liked it...and the trip down memory lane! Such a special place for so many reasons!

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  25. Maybe I missed it, but how did you get to El Morro from the hotel? We are planning our trip and wondering if we need to rent a car?

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    1. Hi Jamie! El Morro is right on the edge of Old San Juan...so it's only a 5-10 minute walk, depending on where you're staying! have a great trip and let me know if you have more questions!

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Your comments are like popcorn with milk duds, I just can't quit them. Thanks for taking the time to share your positive thoughts! xoxo, cass

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