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Puerto Rico – Go or no?

skytrain

I never really would’ve thought about going to Puerto Rico on my own. It just never occurred to me, especially since it’s harder to get to then a place like Costa Rica (which has all the jungle, more critters and, well, more on that later).view

However, some of the wife’s family seems to love Puerto Rico. So much so that they decided to tie the knot there. They’re from New York, so I was and am amply glad they decided to enter the ranks of the blissfully wedded there rather than in Nueva York. That’s what led the wife and I through Houston on our way to San Juan.

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A view up from El Canario by the Sea.

Now, Puerto Rico is a US territory. That means a number of things. It’s not gonna be wild, woolly and/or adventurous. They’ll take dollars. You don’t need a passport. And your dollar isn’t gonna go that far. That was obvious from the word go when we tried to book hotel rooms. Heck, we got way better prices dollar-for-dollar nearly everywhere in Australia, with the possible exception of Darwin.

That’s not to say El Canario by the Sea isn’t cute and comfortable, because it certainly is. It’s even in the very fun and lively Condado district, which is surrounded by restaurants and even one of the ubiquitous Condom World stores.

San Juan skyline.

San Juan skyline.

But it’s not $150 a night nice, that’s for certain. Most of the immediate in-laws stayed there the first night, but decided to make the jump to a Hampton Inn in the Isla Verde neighborhood. That’s right across the street from the Ritz-Carlton where the wedding would be, and it saved them a bunch of time that would otherwise go to buses or taxis. Sarah and I stuck with El Canario: It was cheaper, and it the neighborhood had considerably more flair than what we considered the rather plastic feel of Isla Verde.

The Ritz, though, has a sweet beach despite being very close to the international airport. That is probably Isla Verde’s biggest draw.

Isla Verde is close to the airport.

Isla Verde is close to the airport.

One thing that doesn’t endear Puerto Rico to us: the food. Aside from mofongo, there’s not a whole lot to it. And little of it is super-healthy. Some of the seafood is decent, though. Puerto Rico also suffers from the Latin American ailment that deactivates the skilled beer-brewing gene. Connoisseurs will turn their noses up to local offerings, where indiscriminate folks won’t even take the time to find it. Stick to mojitos.

Old-town San Juan is separate from the rest, and involves a bit of a bus ride. It’s

One of the forts in Old Town San Juan.

One of the forts in Old Town San Juan.

definitely worth it. It exudes charm, and offers some cool historic forts as centerpieces. The forts are open for tours during the day, and are creepy-cool at night. There are also lots of funky shops, some of which aren’t even that touristy.

Also worth a visit is El Yunque National Forest. The best way to get there is to rent a car. Bring hiking shoes, lots of water, some snacks and hike ’til you drop. It’s a nice rain forest, and you’ll even see some critters.

The question is this: go or no? I say no. Keep flying a bit further and you’re in

A critter in El Yunque.

A critter in El Yunque.

Belize or Costa Rica.

A tunnel in one of the forts. Cool!

A tunnel in one of the forts. Cool!

Another view of the fort.

Another view of the fort.

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