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Trip Report Ponce and San Juan in January

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My husband had business in Puerto Rico, so I took the opportunity to tag along. We flew non-stop from Chicago to San Juan and rented a car through Enterprise. Drove to Ponce on a Monday afternoon and enjoyed the pretty countryside.

Hotel: Stayed at Hilton Ponce Golf and Casino Resort and found the grounds and accommodations to be quite lovely. There is beach access at this resort and lounge chairs available. The pool area is inviting and relaxing and has full bar and restaurant service. Our room was large with a balcony overlooking the yard and pool area.

Sights: I spent 3 days sight-seeing in Ponce, a city with varying architectural styles most of which were constructed between 1890 and 1930. The city’s main square, Plaza Las Delicias, is a bustling little area with inviting park benches and fountains. Many little shops line the streets around the park. I toured the Parque de Bombas (firehouse) which was erected around 1883 and a gorgeous cathedral that sits behind the firehouse. That afternoon I visited Castillo Serralles, a former home of the Serralles family who produced Don Q rum. This is a pretty Spanish-style hacienda that sits atop El Vigia Hill.

Second day I did a snorkeling trip with Caribbean Image Tours. The boat picked us up at La Guancha Boardwalk and we left around 9 a.m. for Isla Caja de Muertos—about 8 miles off the coast. Captain Dave and his tour guide, Juan, were wonderful. The reef was 2-10 feet deep and filled with beautiful hard and soft coral and fish.

My final day in Ponce I drove to the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center. This site is considered the most important archaeological find in the Caribbean. It was discovered in 1975 and unearthed over 200 skeletons dating as far back as 300AD.

Food: La Terraza: restaurant at Hotel Ponce. Pretty good food—great salad and dessert bar.

Tompy’s Café: a local favorite in Ponce. Good inexpensive Puerto Rican food.

Pito’s: great seafood restaurant with outdoor dining right on the water.

We left Ponce Friday afternoon and drove to San Juan. (My husband had a bad migraine and I had asked for late checkout at the Hilton. Fortunately the clerk was very nice about it and said we could stay until 1:30 pm without being charged. )

Condo: we arrived in San Juan late afternoon and found our condo pretty quickly. We checked in and found the unit to be small, but comfortable. Got hubby tucked into bed and I went our exploring the area. Luckily there was a Walgreens and Starbucks nearby, so I was able to get supplies and strong black coffee for my husband. I almost forgot, our condo did not have a parking space and we had to find parking on the street which turned out to be a pain. I drove around for ½ hour before finding something three blocks away. We would have returned the rental car but had plans of driving to El Yunque. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Sights: Saturday we explored Old San Juan. There is rich history here. The narrow cobblestone streets are inviting and lend themselves to wonderful walking tours. There are many parks with fountains and benches where one can relax. And there is definitely no shortage of shops and restaurants. We toured Fort San Cristobal before heading back to the Condado area.

Sunday we took it easy in the morning and enjoyed the view from our condo. Around noon we started walking along Ashford Avenue heading west. We crossed the bridge to Old San Juan and continued walking. We were actually hoping to find a taxi, but that wasn’t happening and we ended up walking to Cristobal Colon square. We visited El Morro in the late afternoon. It was refreshing to see all of the families flying kites, picnicking, and playing in the yard. The fort is magnificent and grand.

Food: Via Appia—good thin crust pizza and sandwiches. (Condado/Ashford Ave)

Caficultura—had a delicious appetizer and drinks. (Old San Juan across from Cristobal Colon square)

Jam—a trendy bistro with very good food. Small portions. Nice atmosphere. (Condado area)

Miro—sat outside on the patio. Food was good, but service was slow and they weren’t very attentive.

Despite this being a business trip for my husband he was able to enjoy some time in San Juan. I am very happy to have been given the chance to see Puerto Rico. It was definitely an unexpected pleasure since the trip came together in November and I didn’t make a decision to go until after Christmas. Hopefully we can return someday to see El Yunque and Vieques.

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