Otherwise known as: All the Things I’m Obsessed With About Puerto Rico.
A lot of people feel like they have to put their big dreams of travel on hold when they have kids.
I get it.
It’s a lot to coordinate and especially if you want to go somewhere that isn’t well suited to children. It’s hard to find someone who will watch your kids for you for a week+ while you and your partner leave at the same time.
Sean and I feel this way more and more as the sheer volume of children in our house grows.
We didn’t want to wait until they’re all half-grown to go on adventures, though, so we decided we would regularly make going out individually happen.
This year was our first time and it was awesome! We picked fun destinations and went exploring with friends. We had such a great time that we’re already planning for next year’s big trips.
Planning the Trip and Where to Stay
For my girls’ trip, we picked Puerto Rico. A few factors played into that decision:
1) Neither of us had ever been
2) It’s a bit exotic with a beach
3) It’s not just a beach
4) Southwest flies there so POINTS = free flight!
5) It’s a relatively short flight, so less time is eaten up with travel
Bonus: No passport/going through customs is required.
In lieu of the big resorts, we decided to stay at the Tres Palmas Inn in San Juan so that we could have a slightly less mainland-America-type experience. It’s a cute little place with clean rooms and extremely friendly and helpful staff. My only disclaimer is that the doors adjoining rooms are super thin and you can hear EVERYTHING in the next room.
We were “blessed” with an excited group of 20-somethings on the other side of that adjoining door for half of the trip and that made night time interesting if we needed to get up in the morning. So if you go there, ask for a room with no adjoining door, or go with a big enough group to take up both rooms. That would also be fun!
Old San Juan
An important side-note before we continue: Ilde and I are both MUCH more comfortable behind the camera, so our go-to is to do something stupid. We didn’t think you’d want to see a whole post of us looking like idiots, though, and we’d also like our children to have something half-way decent to remember us by. So there are lots of awkward attempts at looking natural, casual and happy while a camera is pointed at us in here.
Old San Juan is beautiful and there is definitely lots to tell, but first let’s talk about Banyan trees and how I’m completely obsessed with them and NEED them in my life.
You think I’m exaggerating, but in fact I am not.
I was obsessed with the Banyan trees; Ilde was obsessed with the cats, which is funny since I’m pretty sure that of the two of us, I am definitely the cat person. They are everywhere in Old San Juan and they’re all surprisingly well fed because the residents leave food out for them. If you like cats, you’re going to love Puerto Rico.
Here’s a post I wish I would have found before we visited Old San Juan. I found it just now while trying to figure out what makes the cobblestone pavers in Old San Juan blue.
Add that to my obsession list.
Puerto Rican Obsession #3: Mofongo.
Go to Hecho en Casa and get the Mofongo with Chicken and garlic cream sauce.
Now go into a high-pitched singing voice and belt out “YUUUUM!”
That’s what this dish will do to you.
(Whatever was in front of me in the photo above was delicious too, but that face is definitely the result of a reach across the table for a stolen bite of Mofongo.)
Now I will insert random photos of Old San Juan because it’s pretty and you should go there…
Ok, now back to the details.
While in Old San Juan, we spent a lot of time touring the two forts there: El Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal. They are most definitely worth a look. The Spanish architecture is so pretty and there’s lots of history to soak in.
It’s also a cheap add-on at $5/ticket for adults and free for children 15 and under (as of May 2016). If you keep your receipt at one fort, you can use it to get into the other fort for free at any time over the following week so it’s a lot of bang for your buck.
I like history, but I still didn’t expect to enjoy these as much as I did. Let’s just tack old Spanish architecture onto my list.
You can also add this book I found in the gift shop that is based on an old Puerto Rican folk tale.
I like to find a children’s book in every country we visit and this was my pick for Puerto Rico. (
I know, I know – not a country – but I still think it counts! Whoops! Apparently I’ve stumbled into a very hot-button internet debate and didn’t realize it. Is Puerto Rico a country? Is it not? I just like pretty picture books from pretty places and I’ll leave it at that.) If you’re a collector too, look for this one while you’re there!
If you can be in Old San Juan in the evenings on a weekend, the city really just gets even cooler. There was lots of live entertainment going on while we were down there on a Friday night and this drum circle, complete with traditional dancers, was incredible. If they had a CD for sale (are those still a thing?) it would be mine and I would be jamming out to it right this minute.
Unfortunately they did not.
And now more random photos. Why aren’t you dropping everything and planning your trip already?
El Yunque Rainforest
Hiking through the El Yunque Rainforest reminded me of how much I love being in the woods. It’s so peaceful and refreshing.
Underneath that beautiful canopy is also a great place to be if you just happened to have gotten a pretty decent sunburn the day before — not that pasty ol’ me would know anything about that.
There’s also a tower along the side of the road where you can climb to the top and see some amazing views of the island.
Our main objective for the rainforest was to see the La Mina and La Coca falls. We read somewhere that the tour buses start arriving around 10am, so we were aiming to arrive before they did.
Boy was that a GREAT idea! Our hike down to La Mina was pretty deserted and we were able to enjoy it for a bit before the tours started to arrive. Once the people from the tour buses made their way down though, it was SUPER crowded. The trails are very narrow and it was hard to squeeze by people to make it up the steps right around the falls. On our way out, we also noticed that La Coca, which is just on the side of the main road, was covered in tourists as well.
Definitely get out there early if you can.
I had never swam (swum? What?) in a waterfall before so I had to get in. I wasn’t brave enough to dive under by myself because I still swim like a 3rd grader and don’t like to go under water without holding my nose with my fingers.
Lame, I know.
It was awesome to just be at the base of it though.That makes La Mina Falls, Puerto Rican Obsession #6, if I’m counting correctly.
The Sweet Stuff
Puerto Rican Obsession #7 is easily Sugar Lab macaroons.
I know! I’m surprised too!
I have tasted macaroons all over the world, including in France and you would really think the French would have the market cornered on the best tasting macaroon, but no! It’s Obed Garcia and Agustin Rodriguez who make the best macaroons in the world, it turns out. Who knew when we struck up a conversation with them in a restaurant one afternoon that they would change my macaroon-world forever? I just thought what they were eating at the time looked really tasty.
For real though, this is how Ilde and I feel about it…
They also make lots of other wonderful goodies, so if you have a rental car, take a quick little trip into the San Juan suburbs and treat yo self.
Ilde and I found the Choco Bar de Casa Cortes one night after they had closed and then we hunted it down again because it just looked that amazing inside.
While I sat and sipped on my chocolate-mango milkshake, I posted this on Instagram.
I think that pretty well sums it up.
Vieques Island and The Bioluminescent Bay
Now, oh my gosh you guys – how about those Bioluminescent Bays? Did you know that we have those just a skip, hop and a jump away in Puerto Rico?? I’m legitimately asking because I shared them on social media and a lot of you talked about how you had been already, so apparently you knew and didn’t tell me!
For those of you who didn’t know, let me just tell you – there are bio bays in Puerto Rico.
And they are amazing.
If listing my Puerto Rican obsessions by order of importance, this is absolutely, positively at the top of the list.
Kayaking in that bay was an incredible bucket list experience. I’ve never seen anything like it and really, it needs its own post
so I will be writing that up later in the week. For now, I will just share a few photos from our experience, which don’t even begin to do it justice. Aaaand here it is:
Finally, my top tip for traveling to Puerto Rico: take this handy little water filter system with you (afflink).
This is probably my top tip for traveling anywhere, but especially for Puerto Rico because it’s hot there and you’re going to want a lot of water, so this thing will be your best friend! We filled our water bottles with this so many times on this trip, and it stored easily in my purse in case more was needed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into our trip and that it’s got your wheels turning for planning your own trip to Puerto Rico!
If you can’t tell, I liked it a lot and I think you will too. :)
Photo Credits: Photos of me or food, probably by Ilde Cook (SheHeWe Photography). Photos of Ilde, probably by me. Details and landscapes, by one of us. It’s really anyone’s best guess.