Puerto Rico is definitely a great destination for vacationing. Be it a quick getaway or a family vacation, Puerto Rico’s lush beaches, spectacular scenery and world-class cuisine offer a rich mix that guarantees a great Caribbean vacation.
Not only can you leave your passport at home, but you also don’t have to worry about currency changes. Another perk of traveling to Puerto Rico is the fact that English is widely spoken due to its status as a U.S. territory. However, it never hurts to make an effort to know at least the basics of Spanish, especially if you want to get a local experience.When it comes to partying, the same rules apply to Puerto Rico as to any country that you’re visiting: there are tourist spots and then there are the local spots. If you want to get the real flavor of Puerto Rico, not the sugarcoated version that the tourism company tries to portray, then you’ll want to visit cities that are off the beaten path.
Besides getting the local experience, you can also save money by avoiding tourist traps: these places won’t charge you as much as the popular resorts.
Where to Stay in Puerto Rico
First, and most important, is where you’ll stay. In Puerto Rico, there are two main tourist hotel spots: Isla Verde and Condado. Isla Verde is closest to the airport (about a three-minute cab ride). A number of fancy hotels with beach access and almost everything you may need is within walking distances.
Sounds good, right? Well not if you want to party with the locals. While you might like the idea of having Pina Colada service while you listen to the waves, Puerto Rico has much more beautiful beaches to offer.
It’s probably no surprise to mention that Puerto Ricans don’t really hang out in Isla Verde due to the fact that it’s a tourist haven. The only place where there you can really party in Isla Verde is Brava, a disco in the Wyndham San Juan Hotel. As a popular tourist destination, San Juan is filled with hotels that are pricey.
Condado also has a number of fancy hotels with beach access (although not all have direct beach access), and it has a number of advantages. For example, you will find places to party within walking distance of the hotels and there are a number of good restaurants.
A nice compromise between local flavor and tourist attraction is the Marriot, right across the street from Moorings, a bar where the locals hang out.
Partying in Ocean Park
If you really want to blend in and party while you vacation in Puerto Rico, you have two choices: Ocean Park and Old San Juan. Ocean Park is an area of Condado that has the beach (the one the hip locals go to religiously). This long strip of beach transforms every Sunday into the place to see and be seen in San Juan. It’s also a good place to get the inside scoop on all the hot nightspots.
Ocean Park also has convenient amenities, including people walking around selling beer and water. You can get a beach chair for $5. Some weekends there’s even a DJ right on the beach. If not, your beach neighbor will probably have a radio and you can listen in to his or her tunes.
If you are looking for a taste of the local flavor, walk across the street from the main Ocean Park beach to Pinky’s. At this local favorite, you can get sandwiches and natural fruit shakes. And if you don’t want to interrupt your tanning, they even deliver right to the beach.
After the beach, you can go to Dunbar’s, which is also within walking distance. This local hot spot is a good place for an afternoon beer, a game of pool or to watch a sporting event.
Another unique feature of Ocean Park is the lack of big resorts. Tourists that travel here likely stay in small guesthouses.
Partying in Old San Juan
Old San Juan, on the other hand, is very different. It’s the only place in Puerto Rico where you will find a number of great party spots and restaurants within walking distance. While Old San Juan lacks beachfront, it has a number of must-see spots.
Old San Juan is the spot where the cruise ships dock. In addition to finding a lot of shops in Old San Juan, you can also find El Morro (Puerto Rico’s fortress) and beautiful cobble stone streets lined with amazing Spanish-style buildings from the Colonial era. While it’s filled with tourists from cruises shopping (mostly for jewelry and art) or sightseeing during the day, it lights up with numerous restaurants and bars at night.
Dining in Old San Juan
The area to be at is SOFO (South Fortaleza Street). A good local tip is to go to Parrot Club if you are looking for a good meal. If you want to experience the hippest dinning in Puerto Rico, go to Dragonfly. The food is addictive, the drinks are amazing and it’s the hippest place around (Because of its popularity, the Dragonfly always has a wait). If you want authentic Puerto Rican food, Café Puerto Rico is the place to go.
After your belly is full, you can walk around Fortaleza Street, where you’ll find the hippest lounges, such as Kudeta and Blend. Or you can go to Nuyorican Café and dance some salsa or up to San Sebastian Street, where you’ll find a number of bars.
If you’re looking to stay at Old San Juan, small guesthouses and El Covento Hotel, a beautiful colonial-style hotel, are the best options. Keep in mind that El Covento is more expensive.
Tips for Vacationing in Puerto Rico
Here are a few important tips to keep in mind while vacationing in Puerto Rico:
- 1. Never, ever let a taxi driver charge you more than $20 between any of the places I’ve mentioned.
- 2. There’s no bargain shopping in Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for cheap deals you have to go to one of the outlet malls, which are located out of the metropolitan area (either in Canovanas or Barceloneta). There you’ll find the same stores as in the mainland, so I recommend that you spend your money on other things.
- 3. Don’t stay sequestered in the metropolitan area. Puerto Rico is very rich in natural resources. As with most Caribbean destinations, the most beautiful beaches and landscapes lay off the beaten path. So, so take a few days and explore the island outside of San Juan.
Puerto Rico Vacation Video