Puerto Rico: where to go, eat, and stay!
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We recently spent a week in Puerto Rico. It was our last baby-moon vacation and we absolutely loved it. Here’s a list of our favorite places to go, eat and stay on the island.
Where to go
Needless to say everyone visiting the island should visit its beaches. Puerto Rico is surrounded by water and I am yet to find a beach I did not fall in love with. From serene tropical waters to surf beaches, the island has it all. My favorite beaches are probably in the west of the island, but a lot of people prefer the ones in the north. With so much variety, there is bound to be a perfect spot for everyone, and this is probably why the beaches are not too crowded.
Ponce is Puerto Rico’s second biggest City and I personally find it beautiful. The city holds the same colonial charm and architecture as old San Juan, but it is smaller and less touristy. With a much warmer climate and a gorgeous cathedral in the center, it is a sight not to miss. The drive from San Juan to Ponce is about 2.5 hrs long, and though it can feel long, it is worth it. There are some museums, shops, tons of places to eat and of course the beautiful Cathedral. The Cathedral sits in the center of the city with a beautiful colonial style park in front of it. With shade from trees and benches for relaxing, it is the perfect place to people watch.
Probably the most popular place on the island after San Juan, Rincon is not to be missed. The best spot on the island to watch the sunset, it is also a great stop if you want to experience a different pace of life. Nothing like San Juan, Rincon is a small town full of expats and hippies who love nature and enjoy the beach. It is known for the best sunsets on the island, so we totally recommend going there in the afternoon. Truth be told, it is a bit of a drive from San Juan, so it is best to stay overnight. We stayed there for two nights and LOVED it!!!
The Caribbean’s largest rainforest and one of the most beautiful places on the island, El Yunque cannot be missed. There is a reason it is a national park! We absolutely loved exploring it for a whole day and can 100% recommend it. Not only is it a great place to explore and get to know Puerto Rico’s mega diverse flora and fauna, it is also great for outdoor enthusiasts. You can hike, bird watch, and even bathe in the rivers. Our experience in El Yunque was unforgettable! We felt like we had gone to another place altogether!
Where to Eat
Puerto Rico is paradise for food lovers. We did not have one day where we were not delighted by our culinary experiences. After the hurricanes of 2017, the island has gone through a revamp of local eateries, and now there are hundreds of amazing places to eat at. Here are some of our favorites:
In beautiful Rincon, inside the Lazy Parrot Inn, there is a new restaurant called Alioli. Not only is this a great location for watching the sunset, Alioli serves local seafood prepared Galician style. Chef Julio delighted us with two of the best meals I have ever had in my life, beating all the ones I had in Galicia, Spain. He blends Puerto Rican flavors and ingredients with traditional Galician recipes and he spares nothing to guarantee a perfect meal. The service is extraordinary, the wine selection is great, and the food is something to write home about. We loved it so much we ate there twice!
Senor Paleta is a small shop in old San Juan, with the biggest, and wildest variety of Paletas I have ever seen in my life. A Paleta is essentially a frozen popsicle, but it’s usually made of fruit and in this case, made locally and with great ingredients. We tried two different flavors and could not have been more pleased. Full disclaimer: I regret not buying two.
Chocobar Cortez “an innovative gastronomic space where chocolate plays the main role” to put it in their own words. We had lunch, drinks and desserts there. and even though it was certainly a different experience, I quite enjoyed it. They sell local beers, delicious chocolates, and regular lunch fare….with a chocolate accent. We tried their chocolate ketchup and even though Roger did not approve, I thought it was good.
Inside the Verdanza Hotel, in San Juan there is a new Pizzeria and Italian restaurant that absolutely wowed us. Verace serves the best pizza I have ever tasted in Puerto Rico, and everything else on the menu is exquisite. We had lobster ravioli, Tuna steak, amazing drinks and a wonderfully made tiramisu. They also serve local beers from the nearby breweries, and they actually have a mixologist. The staff is also amongst the best I have experienced on the island. It is the perfect place for a romantic dinner or even a friends night out. Basically, if you want a good meal, this is the place to go in Carolina!
Off the side of the road, going north from Playa Sucia, right before getting into the highway to start driving to Rincon, I spotted this little place. I immediately looked it up online for reviews and saw the reviews were great. One neat thing happening in Puerto Rico right now, is the emergence of small businesses and microbreweries.
When we arrived at Uiku, they were just opening for the day, yet the owner was incredibly friendly and welcoming. We love supporting local businesses especially when they are this great!
Aside from being a delicious place to eat, they offer an array of local artisan beers, veggie friendly food, and he made me the best virgin mojito I’ve ever had.We had a vegan burger and according to Roger, the best mofongo (Puerto Rican style mashed plantain) of his life.
Jobos Live is a little food truck on the side of Jobo’s beach in the north west of the island. We came here to meet a friend one morning, and ended up leaving the beach because a storm seemed to be coming. We stopped here for something quick to eat before driving back to our hotel, and were surprised by both the food and the service. It is a family owned food truck where the sons make the food and run the business and the mother comes and helps with service.
If you’re surfing or watching a surf competition in Jobo’s beach, you should totally stop at Jobos Live for a bite.
Que viva is a cafe inside the Lazy Parrot Inn in Rincon. It serves breakfast and lunch and light fare by the pool. Here we had our favorite breakfast on the island. It’s great help that you get to eat by the pool, on top of the mountain, looking at the beautiful west of the island. But I must admit, the food and service were both excellent. Very casual and relaxed, yet authentically charming and delicious.
Where to Stay
We stayed in 4 different places around the island, and two of them were remarkable. Puerto Rico is known for its beauty and its kind people, so it is not hard falling in love with service almost everywhere. However, two of the hotels we stayed at exceeded our expectations and made our babymoon absolutely amazing.
If you visit the west of Puerto Rico, I cannot recommend a better place than The Lazy Parrot Inn. They are a small, family owned boutique hotel with a heavy focus on sustainability. It is nestled on top of the Rincon Mountains yet close enough to town to allow for a good Rincon getaway. It’s tranquil vibe will have you feeling in your own Caribbean paradise. Everything surrounding the property is green, so it is very easy to relax and loose yourself in this very tropical piece of heaven.
Very close to the airport, and also close to old San Juan, is the Verdanza Hotel. Our time is San Juan was completely made because of them, as they were not only very attentive and accommodating, but also perfectly decorated. We were there two days when it rained a lot, and we were even able to create content inside the hotel because it was that beautiful. They are also one block from the beach and have three restaurants on site. This makes it extremely convenient even though you can walk from the hotel to tons of local eateries and bars.
Our time in Puerto Rico was absolutely perfect, and we already cannot wait to go back. The island is going through a renaissance of sorts, with tons of locals opening up businesses after the 2017 natural disasters, and it is so nice seeing how creative everyone is. The local community has no shortage of good business ideas, and since many local resources are being used, many of the experiences are quite unique.
Overall, I think these are some of the best places on the island, and definitely some you cannot miss on your next trip.
What’s your favorite restaurant? We love eating while on vacation!