In July 2017, my daughter and I saw the musical Hamilton in San Francisco. I am confident in saying we both know 90% of the soundtrack by heart (she’s probably at 100%, but with my less than stellar rap skills we average about 90%.) When they announced in early 2018 the show would be produced in Puerto Rico, we didn’t hesitate to start making plans – whether we got tickets to the show or not.
We (well, mostly daughter) found a hotel and AirBnB in San Juan, and we finalized our dates. On November 10th we (mostly me) got 2 tickets to #HamPR. Vacation was officially a dream come true trip.
We left Atlanta, GA in a balmy 24 degrees fahrenheit. Because of the US government shut down, we were at the airport a good 3 hours before our flight. A huge shout out to the TSA agents who were friendly and polite despite not receiving a paycheck. We breezed through security and managed to kill the 2 hours we had left. Once onboard, we learned the flight was nowhere near full. I jumped back a row to give us each a full row (3 seats) to stretch out and snooze.
We landed in San Juan early, and caught the shuttle to pick up our rental car. (The major US rental companies are onsite the airport. We rented through a European company which was a short 5 minute ride away.)
Suitcases loaded into the trunk, GPS set to the hotel, and we were on our way. We soon learned the “rules of the road” in Puerto Rico seem to be “there are no rules.” Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), daughter opted not to be a driver, so it is all up to me. I live and drive in Atlanta – I am good with ‘no rules’ rules!
Our first two nights are at Acacia Boutique Hotel in the Condado area of San Juan. There is on street parking only, which was difficult when we arrived. We opted to drop daughter and bags off to check in while I searched for a nearby parking space. When that failed, we headed to the DoubleTree Hotel parking garage, maybe a half mile walk or so from our hotel. We opted to find a spot for dinner directly from there as we’d had very little in the way of food for the day. We started at Cocino Abierta where we shared tuna tataki, ceviche and emanadillas. This took the edge off the impending ‘hangry’ and was quite delicious.
My internal GPS led us back to the car where we gathered our remaining items, verified the car was good for overnight parking, and walked back to the hotel. It was still too early to call it a night, so we opted to check out another area near the hotel. We had no location in mind, and were happy to stumble on Tresbe, a fun, hip location. A few mojitos, empanadillas and fried plantains, and we were full, relaxed, and ready for bed…but not before a quick dip in the heated pool literally outside our room.
Tuesday morning dawned early as we had reservations on East Island Excursions for a catamaran tour to Culebra. We stopped at the sister boutique hotel for coffee, grabbed the car and headed out for our roughly hour drive to Fajardo. We were among the first to arrive, and enjoyed people watching for the next hour or so. The ride out to Culebra took about 50 minutes, and was rather choppy. We stopped first near a large reef and snorkeled for about 30 minutes before heading back on board to stake a claim on the roof area. Lots of yellow tail snapper, coral and several other species of tropical fish. It felt like we were swimming in am extra large fish tank. Unfortunately I forgot the underwater camera cover, so we only have our memories.
Once lunch and adult beverages were complete, we took a short 20 minute ride or so to Flamenco Beach where we had about an hour to enjoy one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Daughter swam the wetbag overhead from the boat to the shore (and back!) I did offer to carry it as long as my feet could touch the bottom!
The heart shaped cloud on the return to Fajardo seemed appropriate as I believe a piece of mine remained on Culebra.
A parking spot directly in front of the hotel was open when we returned, a good omen after a wonderful day! We took a quick stroll to the beach and watched the wind surfers and beach volleyball game before heading back to the hotel for a quick dip in the pool.
Dinner was at Jose Enrique’s restaurant. He was the chef with Jose Andreas who fed Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. To say the food was incredible would be an understatement. Words really cant describe the flavors.
We wandered the square a bit after dinner. Lots of music streaming from restaurants and bars, and locals out enjoying the cool breeze, some rum, cigars and conversation. We had a fun conversation with an older gentleman on the square. He probably had had a few, but he was sweet, enjoyed telling us about Peru (where he was born) and his international travels, and he complimented the young one on her Spanish.
We opted for an Uber back, another dip in the pool, and it was lights out!