Puerto Rico Trip Report

Oct 21st, 2007, 09:45 AM
  #1  
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Puerto Rico Trip Report

We just returned from a week in Puerto Rico (Oct 13-20) -- great weather, great people! We found October to be a great time to visit -- no crowds, great weather, easy to get a table at restaurants, deserted beaches. A quick overview:

We flew in to San Juan, rented a car and drove to Luquillo where we stayed three days at the Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn. This is a new, small hotel that opened in January, but we stayed in the apartment in the front that is older but the front porch is the closest to the ocean. The area is pretty rundown, as is much of PR, but the hotel itself was very nice. One thing about Puerto Rico - it is common to have a nice hotel right next to a boarded up disaster. There aren't really any grounds to speak of with the hotel, and there is a road between the hotel and the ocean, but the road was small and not busy. Breakfast was included with the room -- a full buffet of fruits, breads, cereals, pastries plus a hot entree (was french toast one day, scrambled eggs & potatoes another). The ocean outside the hotel has great waves to play in -- not calm, but if you want a calm beach you can walk to the public Luquillo Beach which is about a 25 minute walk along the beach. We had a full kitchen, and there is a grocery store fairly close, but we really didn't use the kitchen except for the refrigerator. We walked to the kioskos for lunch -- about 45 minutes away. We enjoyed eating PR fare at La Parilla (Kiosko #9) but it is not cheap (entrees are $20+). There are not really any other places that are easy to walk to, but we drove and ate at Antonino's pizza (would recommend only as takeout or delivery).

The hotel is in a great location for going to El Yunque -- only a short drive. We took the La Mina trail (long walk with lots of stairs) and swam in the waters below the waterfall -- very cool. The rain forest was very comfortable and although we wore bugspray we didn't notice any mosquitoes around.

We heard great things about the Spread Eagle snorkeling tour out of Fajardo, but my daughter was not feeling well so we skipped it and played on the beach instead.

Next, we left Luquillo Beach to take the ferry to Vieques. We left our rental car at one of the secured lots ($5 per day). The ferry was an interesting experience - we arrived early (10:30am) planning to buy our tickets for the 1pm ferry, but the 9:30am ferry was still at the dock with mechanical problems. We could not get on the earlier ferry because it took so long to buy our tickets, even though there were only two people in line in front of me! I finally got my tickets for the 1pm and the 9:30am ferry left at 11:00. We drove up to Los Croabas to waste some time and went back to the ferry at about 12:30. The ferry station is very rundown. All announcements are in Spanish only. We ended up leaving at 1:30, which was much better than we anticipated. Based on conversations with friendly locals, the ferry runs in streaks -- there will be months without a problem, and then a couple of months where nothing runs on time.

We arrived in Vieques and were immediately greeted by taxi drivers. We took a taxi to the Crows Nest which is in the center of the island but centrally located between Esperanza and Isabel. We could check in and then walk over to Maritza car rental where we had reserved a vehicle. Both the Crows Nest and the Luqillo Sunrise were nice, but far from luxury. At the Crows Nest, we were in #1, which was right next to the outdoor bar and just down from the upper level breakfast patio (the breakfast is a typical continental breakfast, nothing special, although the banana bread was good. No coffee, just a Nescafe machine that has espresso and cappucino). There was a very loud group that went to breakfast at 7am -- and it was impossible to sleep through one woman's loud laughter even with the air conditioning on and the windows closed. The bar area was also loud, although they were only open one of the two nights we were there. The grounds were nice, and we had the pool to ourselves the whole time we were there.

On Vieques, we did the biobay tour with Abe (recommended), spent time collecting shells at Sun Bay, exploring the island and snorkeling at Mosquito Pier (really good) and in front of Tradewinds (just ok). Wear beach shoes if you go in front of Tradewinds as there is a lot of glass. We mostly had the beaches to ourselves.

I would recommend Bananas and Duffys; both had very good, reasonably priced food. We also ate at Tradewinds but we found it to be very mediocre and higher priced. Richards Cafe in Isabel was recommended to us, but we ran out of time before we tried it.

The only time we found mosquitoes to be a problem was during the biobay tour. We took the kayak trip, and it was fine until after we were done swimming and we kayaked slowly by the mangroves. I started getting lots of mosquitoes -- and wished I had brought our lotion with me.

We were warned several times about thieves on the beaches at Vieques, and to bring nothing with us and to leave the car unlocked with the windows open. When we returned from the biobay tour, our car door was open, but we hadn't left anything in there anyway. The only disappointing thing was that I could not bring my camera on many occasions that I would have liked to take pictures.

Maritza car rental gave us a ride to the ferry, and we took the 3pm back to Fajardo without incident.

We stopped at the kioskos in Luqillo on our way to San Juan, and had dinner at Conga (kiosko #9). We enjoyed this more than #2 -- the owner, Edwin, opened 4 months ago and is still fixing it up. He is the only kiosko with a rooftop patio (not open yet). The Mofongo was great (don't have it at Tradewinds) as was my daughter's hamburger.

We arrived at the Marriott Courtyard in Isla Verde about 8pm. We checked in, unpacked and went down to use the pool. The setting was beautiful, but we were dismayed to find that the pool had been drained for maintenance and would not be available for our stay! The next morning I talked to the manager, Ingrid, and told her I was very disappointed and wanted to move to another hotel. Ingrid was fabulous, understood that we booked the hotel for the combination of pool and ocean and kept working until she found a solution that would satisfy us. We moved next door to the Ritz Carlton - we were all checked in by 10:30am. We were refunded for our Marriott charges.

The Ritz is a very nice hotel with beautiful grounds. I noticed that the soundproofing is much better at the Ritz than at the Marriott -- both are very close to the airport but I didn't even notice the noise in our room at the Ritz. We took advantage of the water sports that were included with the room including boogie boards, kayaks and the hobie cat catamaran. We did not eat at the hotel because the prices were really high, but we did enjoy a drink at the pool bar ($12 per drink, $7 for the kid's nonalcoholic). The pool is very nice but only 3.5 feet deep. There is also a nice hot tub overlooking the ocean. The beach is not as nice as the beaches at Luquillo or at Vieques, but for someone from the midwest, it still is a nice beach. There was more seaweed churned up, and the waves were not nearly as high as those in front of the Luquillo Sunrise, but it was great to have the beach chairs and umbrellas all set up and the water sports available.

We spent one day in Old San Juan. We ate lunch at a small, very puerto rican restaurant on Sol Street just east of San Juan Street (I can't recall the name). Very authentic Puerto Rican food including Pork Pot Roast and Mashed Plantains and a great Grouper. We spent an hour touring El Morro; it was 91 degrees, so we decided to head back to the hotel rather than walk around Old San Juan. We ate at Lupis Mexican restaurant in Isla Verde for dinner; very good and reasonably priced. Our last morning, I woke early and walked along the beach at 7am. I was caught in a 10 minute rain (the only daytime rain we had during our week) and then saw a beautiful rainbow stretching out over the ocean. We were able to checkout an hour later than checkout time at the Ritz and left at 1pm, plenty of time to make our 2:30 flight.

All in all, it was a very good week and we were happy with our choices. The Martineau Bay Resort on Vieques was closed for maintenance when we were there, but if I were to go back, I would probably spend a bit more money and stay there.

That's all -- hope you found this long winded report useful!

paulav is offline  
Oct 21st, 2007, 10:20 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 524
Thanks for the report, paulav. I have often considered doing a week in PR, and your itinerary has some spots that I'd like to see. How old is your daughter?
seasweetie is offline  
Oct 21st, 2007, 02:26 PM
  #3  
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We have two girls, ages 11 and 13. They really enjoyed the trip.
paulav is offline  
Oct 21st, 2007, 02:47 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,567
Thanks for posting. I enjoyed reading it. That's great that you we able to switch hotels without losing any money.
caribtraveler is offline  
Oct 21st, 2007, 03:05 PM
  #5  
owa
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I enjoyed your report. I appreciate the mention of the Spread Eagle snorkel trip. I went to the web site to check it out. If we ever have to stay in PR, I would like to do their trip. Thanks.
 
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