72 Hours in San Juan

I've always wanted to visit San Juan and thanks to Southwest Rapid Rewards, I was able to snag two tickets for $24 last October. *I'll be writing more about how awesome Rapid Rewards are soon :-)*

San Juan instantly became one of my favorite places; friendly people, beautiful beaches and comida sabrioso helped me to quickly fall in love. 

We were only in San Juan for a few days, but managed to cover a lot of ground. From waking up at 5 a.m. to drive an hour to catch the ferry to Culebra, to getting lost in the winding hills of the El Yunque National Rainforest with two almost dead cell phone batteries and a broken charger, there was no dull moment on this quick jaunt.  Below are some tips  and suggestions for travel to San Juan.

Transportation. Rent a car! We rented a car through Southwest Rapid Rewards and was able to get a good deal while earning points. For 3 days we paid about $150 including rental, taxes, gas, tolls, parking and insurance ( which we later found out was covered by my credit card). Having a car allowed us to explore the island at our own pace for much cheaper than the cost of cabs and/or tours.

 Because we had a car, we didn't shell out a large amount of money for tours and entertainment. Through a little research and asking questions, we were able to save a significant amount of money by just driving ourselves to the places we wanted to see.

Culebra. Culebra is a beautiful little island about an hour ferry ride away from the main island. Culebra is also home to one of the world's most beautiful beaches, Flamenco Beach. Make sure to check the ferry schedule and arrive at the dock at least an hour before the scheduled time. The ferry doesnt leave often so if you miss one boat, you'll have to wait quite a while before the next one leaves. Round trip ferry tickets for 2 were $9. Try to dedicate a full day to seeing all that Culebra has to offer.

El Yunque. El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. On our first attempt to make it to the main trail to the popular La Mina Falls Waterfall, we got lost! We planned to navigate through but ended up on a less developed trail; and with the sun going down and both of our phone batteries near death, we decide to turn around and try again the next day. We woke up early the next day and followed the directions from our hotel concierge, which led us straight to the trail we had been looking for. We stopped at Mt. Britton Tower to take in the breathtaking views, then hiked about 30 minutes to La Mina Falls. It's better to go early in the morning before it gets too crowded. La Mina Falls was peaceful and beautiful. Next time, I will definitely bring my swimsuit. The hike wasn't too difficult but be prepared for stairs and lots of uphill paths. This trip was free!

Flavors of San Juan Food Tour. If you don't take any other tours, take THIS one! I knew I wanted to take some sort of cooking class or food tour and Flavors of San Juan was perfect. The tour takes you through the streets of Old San Juan to various cafes and restaurants where you sample local cuisine. We even got a chance to make the signature Puerto Rican dish: mofongo! The variety of food and filling portions made this tour worth the tad bit pricey cost. Our tour guide was also very personable and knowledge about the history of the city. I definitely recommend taking this tour.

Food. Puerto Rican cuisine is amazing; we didn't even scratch the surface. My favorite restaurant among the ones we visited was The Mezzanine at St. Germain in Old San Juan. The inside reminded me of a speak easy in the 1920s. Dark and mysterious. We went for the $4 happy hour and indulged in specialty cocktails and yummy tapas. The service was excellent and the food and drink were delicious. 

Stay.  We wanted to stay near Old San Juan on our first trip to the island and found a nice room at the Sheraton San Juan. This hotel was in a great location, not too far from Old San Juan and the popular Condado area. Our hotel was nice, clean and had a casino - where I won money for dinner on a penny machine :) Hubby and I are headed back to San Juan in January and scored a cute Airbnb apartment on the beach in Ocean Park.  I can't wait to explore San Juan again!

Below is a printable quick guide for your next trip to San Juan