Cheery & Charming’s Traveler’s Guide: 10 MUST See Places When Visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico

Well, well, well . . . Puerto Rico – like other islands we’ve had the blessing to visit, was absolutely beautiful. The sunsets were stunning, the food was amazing and the culture of Old San Juan was priceless! I wish we had the time to visit all the reco’s we received before visiting, but with a jam-packed, short four days, I’m posting my personal, favorite finds here:  

1. Serafini Beach Hotel
This spot was absolutely STUNNING. Talk about feeling like you’re on the edge of the ocean – a quaintly designed infinity pool, waves crashing and live jams. I was super bummed to have stumbled here on our last day, as we weren’t able to take full advantage of the amenities, but the staff was warm, welcoming and nice enough to hold onto our luggage while we explored during our last day – even with not having stayed there!

2. Cochina Abierta 
Umm… YUM. That’s all I have to say. Although, to be transparent that it was definitely more on the pricey side of the meal options we had while in San Juan, it was worth it for sure. Wanting to try everything on the menu, the four of us went family style, which also made it feel like we got a lot more ‘bang for our buck.’ They have a seasonal, farm-to-table menu, but in the event you see any repeats, here we the table favs!

– Croquettes filled with porcini mushrooms, truffle oil & tomato chutney
– Octopous causa over a bed of purple potatoes, black olive “crema,” & hibiscus pickled quail egg
– Fresh local catch ceviche seasoned with chiles, cucumber & tropical fruits
– Goat cheese and ortica leaf ravioli over charred tomatoes Passata, parmesean cheese & roasted pine nuts
– And accompaniments Gratin of creamy yucca and cauliflower + Ember roasted veggies


… is your mouth watering yet?!

3. Tacos & Tequila by Patron – inside the Condado Vanderbuilt Hotel
Yet ANOTHER breathtaking spot. This gem, located inside the Condado Vanderbuilt Hotel is another space we stumbled on during our last day that I wish we had more time to enjoy. The views were incredible and they had multiple areas to lounge in the ocean-side, shallow infinity pools & hot tubs.
But, one thing we WERE able to enjoy were the giant margaritas and delicious tacos! I had (2) crispy fish tacos and (1) pork belly taco – some had (3) of all different kinds! It was fun that you can order all three the same, or mix and match what’s on the menu.

4. Alambique Beach Lounge – NEXT DOOR: “For Lifeguards Only”
The day we visited Isla Verde Beach, we were in search of… you guessed it… even MORE tacos! While the Alambique Beach Lounge was hopping, we decided to try the smaller, more intimate spot to the side of it called “For Lifeguards ONLY,” and SO happy we did! In recapping our trip, this place, hands-down, had the BEST fish tacos we had the entire time we were there. The staff made you feel like family as they graciously served you tacos OVERFLOWING with goods and crisped to perfection. Deliciouso!!

5. Piu Bello Gelato & Restaurant
Being a firm believer that you can’t let any vacation go without the local ice cream and/or gelato, Piu Bello was great! We ended up having a great chat with the owner, who coincidentally used to live in Baltimore! What a small world!! Oh, and the gelato was delightful. I mean, who doesn’t like a sprinkle cone?!

6. La Placita de Santurce
Definitely a must see! This is the “party-scene” of San Juan – a full “block-like” plaza square of everything you could imagine having in one spot:
music, dancing, clubs, some food, nightlife, fine dining and casual bars and restaurants alike. While we were there on a Wednesday, it wasn’t quite as “hopping” (which was honestly sort of nice), but it was cool to pop around a number of spots without having to jump back into an uber or cab.

7. Barrachina 
Eeeee! One of my favorites!! Barrachina is most well-known for a traditional Spanish bartender Don Ramon Portas Mingot, who in 1963, created what became one of the world’s most famous drinks: the Piña Colada.  With the reputation of 50 years in the business, they certainly did not disappoint. Look at that beaut!

8. Isla Verde Beach 
While we had a beautiful view and beach where we stayed, at Condado Del Mar, I think everyone agrees that you shouldn’t spend an entire vacation in one spot. SO, this is my top beach pick for the places we were able to make it to during our time in San Juan. There are a number of beach bars, convenient to the beach so you can grab a quick bite to eat, without losing too much beach time. Plus, it’s always fun to immerse yourself in more of the local culture – everyone we encountered here was friendly and welcoming. Then again.. who wouldn’t be on a nice day at the beach? 🙂

9. Fortaleza Street – Old San Juan
A bustling street in Old San Juan full of shops and boutiques! I really can’t place enough emphasis on the true, authentic sense of San Juan’s culture you receive by visiting here. From handmade treasures to uniquely manufactured Puerto Rican finds, there’s an array sights for everyone to see – including my favorite – Fortaleza street, which is lined with parasoles! And, depending on when you visit, they’re always different colors, so no visit is ever the same.

10. Di Zucchero
And, finally… DiZucchero! This was our first night’s dinner adventure and WHAT an adventure it was – CHECK. OUT. THAT. FISH. Located across from the San Juan Condado Mariott, this final “must see” could very well be listed first. The food was incredible, the drinks amazing (they’re know for their fresh squeezed/crushed daiquiris) and our server was the best! It was a great kick off to our trip, and an awesome way to close out this post 🙂

And that’s a WRAP! I hope you enjoyed scrolling through my reco’s and feel compelled to share some of yours!

Until next time…

xoxo
Brittany

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