A trip during the rainy/hurricane season of Puerto Rico. a
by benlin on July 28, 2006
Although the Embassy Suites Hotel is not the classiest of them all along hotel row, you’ll definitely get the bang for your buck. Given its close proximity to the airport, this hotel is convenient for those on a short stay in San Juan. The rooms are quite spacious with a separate bedroom and living room area equipped with a coffeemaker, microwave and refrigerator. The living room couch pulls out for extra overnight guests. The pool area is nice, but nothing you wouldn’t expect at a large hotel chain in the Caribbean. The interior of the hotel lobby gives off a rainforest-like atmosphere with large plumed trees and mini waterfalls placed around the atrium. The hotel does not have a large nightclub like the El San Juan Hotel and Casino, but there is a dance floor where a live band plays salsa and merengue. The perks of the hotel include complimentary breakfast every morning from 6 am-10am and a daily free happy hour from 5-7 pm, serving ice-cold pina coladas, daiquiris, and stiff long island iced teas. The staff is very helpful and welcoming and is always willing to provide suggestions on where to eat and where to enjoy San Juan’s nightlife. The front desk will often have copies of local maps and driving directions to the main sites of the island if you decide to take a day trip. All in all, it was an enjoyable and comfortable stay at the Embassy Suites for a budget traveler. Testalert('test');
I’m often reluctant to try restaurants that seem to be swarmed with tourists, because most often than not, I will be paying the highest premium for dishes that don’t really reflect the native cuisine. But, if you were in my situation, smack in the middle of San Juan’s hotel row, it’d be a bit difficult to find anything supremely authentic. I was pleasantly surprised, however, with Mi Casita restaurant, just steps away from the Embassy Suites Hotel and El San Juan Hotel and Casino on Isla Verde Avenue. Though the prices are still above average, this restaurant will serve one of the better meals you will have in an area replete with fast-food chains. The lunch started with a simple yet satisfying toasted garlic-and-butter bread washed down with a refreshing pitcher of sangria. For the main entrée, I highly recommend the mofongo dishes. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican specialty of mashed tostones (or fried plantains) molded into a dome filled with your choice of meat. My personal favorite was the beef mofongo with creole sauce, although you can choose from other sauces. The combination of the plantains and mild sauce was excellent, and it quickly filled my appetite. Another crowd favorite was the seafood paella, but come prepared with an empty stomach or two, because the amount of food is massive.
Along Isla Verde Avenue is the Metropol restaurant and bar packed with locals dining on the best of Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine. Despite the fact that it is located next to a cockfighting arena, the restaurant displays a very clean and pleasant atmosphere. Average prices range from $10 to $20, and the portions will satiate your hunger for the next 2 days. The waiters are very welcoming and are always willing to recommend their favorite dishes. Although not the healthiest of all meals, you will not be disappointed with dishes like the chuletas can can (pork chops), churrasco 10 oz. (skirt steak), and the pollo frito (fried chicken). All dishes are served with rice and beans; maduros, or sweet fried plantains, can be ordered separately on the side, which I highly recommend, to accompany the dishes. All the meats were cooked to perfection as they slid right off the bones. The restaurant’s fruit smoothies and cocktails are also highly enjoyable, specifically the passion fruit smoothie and the mojito. If you have enough room left to squeeze in dessert and coffee, then order their café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) paired with the tres leches (three milk cake). The cake is extremely moist, packed with sweet flavors coming from the vanilla and condensed milk. The dessert was an excellent end to a very satisfying meal.
If you are a fan of water sports and activities then I highly recommend taking a day trip out on the FunCat catamaran for high quality snorkeling off the coast of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Just an hour away from San Juan, the boat dock is easily accessible by rental car or by tour bus (i.e. Rico Sun Tours), which may be the preferable mode of transportation since rum punch and beers conclude the boat ride. We were taken out to two locations approximately 45 minutes and an hour respectively out of Fajardo. Both areas were rich with marine life, although the second location thrived a bit more due to the abundance of coral. The boat provided all snorkeling equipment as well as flotation devices for the water averse. The majority of the fish boasted brilliant purple, orange, and yellow colors, while others were difficult to spot with their suitably camouflaged bodies. We also had the chance to swim close to the shore where remains of a past shipwreck were strewn on the ocean floor. As expected, the Caribbean waters were crystal clear and warm despite the intermittent rainstorms that passed by. Even if you aren’t a fan of water sports, sailing and sunbathing on top of the two trampolines on board are enjoyable experiences. The captain and deck crew never failed to entertain as they set up lunch and passed around plates of freshly cut fruit. If you’re lucky, the boat will turn into a musical booze cruise on the ride back while you shake the FunCat tambourines and maracas to the beat of local salsa music.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009