Pampering resorts, awesome eco-adventures, historical sites and the birthplace of the Pina Colada all await on this enchanting island.
The main city of San Juan is divided into old and new sections, and both are easily accessible from the airport just minutes from town. My stay of choice for my first trip to Puerto Rico was the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in the newer section. I really like a surf side playground with a wild and restless side, and Condando Beach where the resort resides certainly fits that bill. Plus, the Marriott there also has a good range of dining options from Italian gourmet to barefoot grill and even late night Chinese noodles at the casino. (I am a nighthawk, so did partake of that often!) And the arty lobby bar with local entertainment is within easy walking distance of more sizzling nightlife and upscale shopping as well, so it was a perfect base for exploration.
Postcard perfect view of Condando beach from my room at San Juan Marriott.
Though we were loathe to leave our comfortable stay, we did want to explore some of the island’s eco-adventures. First up was to try zip-lining at Hacienda Campo Rico which was only fifteen minutes from the resort. It was my first time flying through trees like that, and though I was a little nervous at the beginning, the fact that they had a mojito bar waiting at the top of the five lines going up the lush, rain-forested mountain was just the incentive to keep me going until I finally got the hang of it.
The next night, we were off to Fajardo, Laguna Grande home of one of Puerto Rico’s famous “bio bays” an hour away from San Juan. These waters are best visited at night since you can see the shimmering bioluminescence- motion stirs the millions of the tiny organisms that make traces of the movement appear to glow neon in the dark. We embarked on our journey with Enchanted Island Eco-Tours at 10 pm aboard kayaks through a narrow canopy of mangroves until we came out on an open bay. The two-hour tour was very interesting- though I was hit by a flying fish in the dark which was rather unsettling- our guide was very knowledgeable about the eco-system, and we left totally ‘enlightened’ about this mysterious natural phenomenon.
Old San Juan
A visit to San Juan would not be complete without a tour of the historic sites like El Morro one of the best preserved forts in the entire Caribbean, and a stroll around the colourful cobblestone streets. So we did soak up some local culture and history on our last day, but I have to say, though colonial architecture can be cool, my absolute favourite discovery in the old town was Barrachina- birthplace of the Pina Colada!
Back in the 60’s one of their bartenders came up with the now famous cocktail recipe and they even have a certificate to prove it. Today, they serve millions of them to thirsty tourists and locals alike using the original ingredients! At night they have sultry Latin music and dancing and during the day the open air fountain courtyard full of greenery is a lovely oasis to refresh with one of the world’s most famous tropical libations!