Puerto Rico

3/10 – 3/15/17

We went to Puerto Rico over Spring Break. I really wasn’t very excited about this trip. We needed a place to go and found a low points fare on Southwest so I booked it. We had spent a night in San Juan before and got to explore the city a little bit that first trip. It was pretty cool, but I had very low expectations this time and boy was I wrong. Puerto Rico blew us away and is now one of our favorite places in the Caribbean.

We skipped school on Friday and took a 7 am flight out of Dallas. We were routed through Tampa. We arrived on time and got our small SUV at National. We were staying about an hour outside of San Juan. On the way to the hotel, we stopped at Walmart and bought some snacks, drinks and sunscreen. The best part of the stop was the Gaby’s. There was a little stand outside of Walmart called Gaby’s that sold mini donuts. They were awesome! Our hotel was about 15 minutes away from Walmart. We were staying at the El Conquistador Waldorf Astoria Resort. The drive up to the resort was stunning. You drive through an amazing golf course in a tropical rain forest type of setting. I really want to play that golf course someday. Upon arrival, we quickly checked in and headed to the room. We were staying on points (only 48,000 Hilton Points per night). I had pre-paid to upgrade us to an ocean view on the Las Brisas wing. I asked about a suite, but it was going to cost too much extra to upgrade. We were not real impressed with the room. It was pretty much a standard hotel room that was in desperate need of a renovation. The view was amazing, though. They also had balloons and a birthday cake made of towels for Natalie’s 16th birthday! We got settled in the room and freshened up before heading out to explore the hotel grounds. This resort has a lot of stuff going on. In the main lobby area, there is a large nightclub area with pool tables, shuffle board and 3 different arcades. There were also some Puerto Rican parrots that said “Hola”. Outside, there were several pools and hot tubs (one with an amazing view). Some nights, they show movies out by the pool. They also have the golf course and the Waldorf Astoria spa. Since we are Diamond members with Hilton, we were able to use the spa facilities for free. The resort had more rooms and things to do down at the bottom of the cliff. They had a funicular that you could ride to the bottom to go to the Coqui Water Park or catch a boat to their private island, Palomino Island. After exploring the hotel, we got our car and went to a restaurant called La Estation. It was in an old gas station. The ambiance was great and the food was even better. They specialized in grilled and smoked meats, but our favorite was the mac and cheese. After dinner, we returned back to the hotel, watched TV and went to bed early. Right around 10pm, we were awoken by the guy in the next room puking his guts out. It sounded so loud, like he was in our bathroom. Thin walls and doors was one of the flaws of this resort, apparently. We tried to wait him out, but he kept going, poor guy. We called the from desk to change rooms and I decided to just go speak with them. After working on them really hard for over 2 hours, I got them to put us in a suite. It was amazing. It had a huge parlor and separate bedroom. It also had huge windows with views of the main beach and side views of another bay. It was after 1 a.m. by the time we were finally in our new awesome suite.

On Saturday, we woke up slowly and then went to eat breakfast. Included in our stay was 2 adult breakfast buffets ($30 each). They gave Trey the kid rate and Susan would order something healthy off the menu. The first day, she got an acai bowl. The kids and I had three plates of food each, every day. We loved the bacon, french toast, mini pancakes, and yogurt parfaits. After breakfast, we took the funicular down to the marina and then took the boat over to Palomino island. This island has beautiful beaches and lots of stuff to do. All the towels and chairs are provided. They did have other things you could rent. We picked a nice spot and hung out for a while. We then went and played a game of mini golf which left everyone mad from the arguing and cheating. I won, so I thought it was pretty fun. After golf, we spent more time in the water. I tried to snorkel a little, but where I was, the reef was too shallow. The water was gorgeous and felt amazing. We took the ferry back to the mainland and got in the pools and hotubs for a bit. We tried to go to the spa, but it was just about to close. That night, we drove about 15 minutes to eat Mexican food at Lolita’s. It was good but we loved the queso fundito! We returned to the hotel and hung out in the club area. We played some boys against girls games of shuffleboard and foosball. While we played, the VJ played music videos and we could watch the World Baseball Classic. Before heading back to the room, we bought some stuff for smores and cooked them over the fire pit.

On Sunday, we had breakfast in the buffet, then went to the water park. The water park costs extra, about $20/person. They also have lower rates after 1 and then even lower after 4. It is a small park with only 3 big water slides and a lazy river, but we really enjoyed it. We left the park by 1 and went to the spa for a few hours to relax and get cleaned up. We then drove into San Juan to a fancy mall. The girls shopped and the boys found a place to watch baseball. We had dinner above the mall at a really cool Italian food court restaurant. We heard about it in a magazine where they described it as Puerto Ricos version of Eataly. After dinner and gelato, we went back to the hotel where we played more shuffle board before bed.

At the breakfast buffet on Monday morning, I ran into Jamey Newberg and introduced myself. He is a Texas Rangers blogger who I have followed for 20 years or more. His family was on a short Spring Break trip too and had just arrived the previous day. After breakfast, we drove to ferry port to try to buy ticket to Culebra Island the next day. All the advanced tickets were sold out. We could have gotten their early the next morning, but we decided we’d do Culebra some other time. Our next stop was the El Yunque National Rain forest. It was really well done. You could drive around and then stop off to see a site, like a waterfall or a big tower. The main attraction, for us, was a long hike to a waterfall. The hike was in deep rain forest, but had a paved sidewalk. It wasn’t super strenuous, but had lots of elevation. The waterfall, was really crowed with people. Susan encouraged the kids and I to get in and wait our turn to get under the waterfall, and I’m glad she did. It was definitely a highlight. The water was cold, but so worth it. After we dried off, we hiked back to the car and and drove down the mountain, out of the park. On the drive back to the hotel, we stopped at a roadside area that had lots of food and souvenir stands. Then we stopped at Walmart for more drinks, sunscreen and Gabys! That night, Susan and I drove down to Las Croabas for dinner. This is a little town where all of the kayaks launch for the bioluminescence tours. It’s a pretty popular scene because of this and several restaurant choices. We decided to eat at a food truck called Bistro Del Mar. It was phenomenal. Susan got a pineapple bowl and I got the fish tacos. The best thing we had here was the empanada. We returned to the hotel and joined the kids while they were having dinner. When they were finished, be played Mrs. Pacman and some other arcade games.

After the breakfast on Tuesday, we went back to Palomino Island. We got a nice spot and rented a float. Jamey Newberg was playing catch in the water right in front of us, so I went a talked to him for a while. We had another game of minigolf. This time, we made sure to keep proper score. Susan led the whole time, but Trey ended up beating her on the last hole. We had lunch at the cafe and more water time. We ferried back, just in time to go to the water park at 4 for more slides and lazy river. That night, we took the kids to Bistro Del Mar in Las Croabas. We had one last game of shuffleboard, with the same result and then played more arcade games before going back to the room to watch Netflix and baseball.

We were flying home of Wednesday. We got up and packed and did breakfast before checking out. We then drove to walk around old town San Juan for some souvenir shopping. There were a couple of cruise ships in port, so the town was hopping. We then headed to the airport to fly home, via Tampa .

The weather was gorgeous each day we were in Puerto Rico. The temp topped out at a warm 88, but it made the water feel even better. At night, it got down to maybe 75. We had no rain even though it was forecast for just about everyday. There was so much to do at and around the resort that we are planning on returning some day, maybe next Spring Break.

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