Puerto Rico Trip Report

Old Oct 25th, 2012, 09:18 PM
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Puerto Rico Trip Report

Just wrote but forgot to tag Puerto Rico under Caribbean islands. Sorry for double post.

Thanks to all of the Fodorites who helped our planning. My apologies for this late report. Please excuses typos and run-ons My family spent 13 days in Puerto Rico in August. We had a great trip. We spent 4 nights in Old San Juan at the El Convento and the rest at the El Conquistador in Fajardo.

We (including my eight year old son) loved Old San Juan. We toured the forts and museums, wandered the shops, flew kites and took the Tales of Old San Juan Night Tour. Kite flying at dusk was a highlight. We really liked the Museo de Las Americas.

The El Convento was fantastic with a perfect location, great service and comfy rooms. We did not partake of the wine and cheese but I flew high from the terrific coffee served all day long there. My family threatened to cut me off! The rooftop patio and plunge pool (open 24 hours) were a perfect way to end each evening. The food at the hotel was very good. Across the street is a Ben and Jerry’s like I have never experienced. They serve a full menu including all day waffles, sandwiches, burgers, coffee and other food along with ice cream. The food was fantastic and inexpensive. My son started each day with a waffle and it is a great place to cool off midday.

We were in Old San Juan during a very slow time – no waits at restaurants or crowds anywhere. We ate twice at Barrachina. Not overwhelming but easy with a child and we couldn’t resist the pina coladas. We ate at an incredible Italian restaurant called La Cucina di Iivo. It was empty (as were most restaurants) so we didn’t know what to expect. It was outrageously good. The best pumpkin ravioli I have ever eaten. My happiest eating moment though was the mallorca at the Cafeteria Mallorca. Sidle up to that counter and order on day one. If you wait until the end of your stay, you will be very sad like me.

We had wondered if four days would be too much in Old San Juan. We did not think so at all. We let time slow down there at the beginning of our trip. We slept late and we swam after midnight. Maybe if the area was packed with tourists we would have felt differently. Because we were going to a resort later, we did not go to the El Convento’s sister beach club in Isla Verde (with signing privileges). We drove through Isla Verde but never went to the beaches so I cannot comment. I would not have liked to stay in that area though. We are from California and the area around the resorts didn’t do much for me. If we did stay there, I imagine we would have stayed mostly on-site.

On to Fajardo. I had some serious concerns about the El Conquistador from the lousy reviews I read. I even spoke to the manager before our stay. We decided to go for it because of the water park, private island and proximity to the rain forest and the bay. First, the hotel. I have mixed emotions. The bad – the rooms (and we stayed in an more expensive room) are problematic. They have good size but they are …moldy. Yes, moldy. There was mold on our walls, we had to have some smelly pillows removed and I disinfected a bit. I spoke to the manager again and was told all of the rooms are like that and mold is just a problem in Puerto Rico. Inexcusable. I was prepared based on the reviews so we lived with it. The common areas of the hotel are fantastic. Big lobby, lots of stores to buy groceries and necessary items and fun gift shops. The restaurants are fine. We ate at the Japanese restaurant and it was adequate. The Italian restaurant was very good. There is a Starbucks. We did not eat at the seafood restaurant but we probably should have. Our favorite was the poolside pizza restaurant – really good pizza and appetizers. The restaurant on the island was adequate.

The water park was beautiful and really fun. We spent a lot of time there searching for iguanas as we floated on the lazy river and my son gives the slides two thumbs up. He liked it so much that we didn’t get to the island often. If you go in the late afternoon, it is pretty cheap.

All in all, I might consider returning to this hotel with water park loving children because it is easy and really fun for kids. Here is the caveat: some of the lousy reviews noted that when the hotel runs deals for Puerto Rican residents it is full beyond capacity and people bring shopping carts of food and alcohol to the pools and hang out 10 to a room, service is horrible, etc. (I am not exaggerating – read them yourself). The manager assured me these reviews were written by one disgruntled person (there are several nasty reviews though). It was really slow when we were there but an employee of the water park told me it would be packed the next week when there was a deal going on. Beware.

We ventured out for several day trips. The rainforest is a must do. We toured the visitor center area then parked near the top and hiked down for a swim in the waterfall. Go in the morning to beat the crowds. We did the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. We did the electric boat. Most people kayak and I think it would have been nerve-racking with a child. We took the last boat trip out and had the bay almost to ourselves. Magical!

We went to Arecibo Observatory. I can’t recommend this enough. Must do. While there, we would have gone to the Rio Camuy Caves but they were closed due to weather.
We went to Ponce. It is a good, long drive from Fajardo. We were not enamored of the town but the Museo de Arte de Ponce has an impressive collection. The contemporary art really impressed my son.

Best meal on the island was at La Estacion. Don’t miss it! Finally, we bought masks as souvenirs from El Galpon in Old San Juan. It is a little shop but packed with high-end crafts, hats and cigars. The owners are helpful and shipped our masks back home for us.

I know we missed a lot and can’t wait to go back.
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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 05:44 AM
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Sounds like you had a wonderful time. We love Puerto Rico and all it has to offer.
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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 09:03 AM
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I really enjoyed your report. There is not much info here and yours is good.

Thank you for posting,
Sandy (in Denton)
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Old Oct 26th, 2012, 02:37 PM
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I'm taking notes, thank you for posting a report!
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Old Dec 25th, 2012, 03:54 PM
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Wonderful report and very helpful. Thank you for posting.
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Old Dec 27th, 2012, 05:50 PM
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ReneeS, thanks for posting the report of your PR visit. We're returning in late January for our second visit, mostly to enjoy the warm weather and beautiful beaches. We intend to visit the El Yunque Rainforest which we missed on our last visit. Glad you enjoyed your trip!
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 08:40 AM
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We are thinkiing of going to Puerto Rico and someone told us last night that there experience was that everything was very expensive and the locals were rude to the Americans. Any comments?
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 06:26 AM
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1.Very expensive compared to what? It isn't Mexico so don't go there expecting comparable prices. The hotels can be pretty pricy depending on what time of year you go. There are food choices that range from cheap to very expensive.
2.I have been to Puerto Rico probably 20 times in the last 25 years and would be hard pressed to think of anyone who I encountered that was rude to me.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 12:57 PM
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For example, the woman I was talking to said this hotel was charging $20 for a mixed drink or beer. That seemed like a bad omen.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 01:12 PM
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You can find hotels in any resort area that charge those prices.
We LOVE Puerto Rico and find the people to be warm and helpful.
Perhaps the person who told you they are rude has a bit of an attitude problem themself!
I just had a friend return from their first trip to PR. They said, "Not only was the sunshine warm, but so were the people."
Most times you get what you give!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 01:34 PM
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Where? Prices at the lobby bar at El San Juan hotel aren't even that high and that is one of the pricier venues in town.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2013, 04:34 PM
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$20 for a drink? Can't be true! Maybe a total for a group of people? Our son and his girlfriend were there in the summer, they didn't complain about anything, only that their vacation was too short.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2013, 03:57 AM
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Thanks for the input. Sounds like I need to go my homework now.
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