I SPY: Puerto Rico

Feb 28, 2018

San Juan, P.R: February, 2018

Who is the mistreated child in America?  After Hurricane Maria and Irma hit in September 2018, it was clearly obvious Puerto Rico is treated as the second class citizen.  It was appalling to watch the after math, and how poorly Washington handled the situation.  Even more so when you saw weeks on end for months with power not fully restored to the island.  Worst then a third world country!

Since the devastation of the hurricanes we have been pouring efforts into helping send aid to Puerto Rico.  In collaboration with my sons school we assisted www.afyafoundation.org, supported numerous art events in NYC, and our trip last week was to see for ourselves how the island has re-built itself five months after the worst hurricane in history to strike Puerto Rico.

For the most part the island is back up and running.  Further in land and in the mountainous areas I've been told that they are still without power and water.  But for us tourist, I vouch that the main spots in San Juan and within the vicinity are back in business.  A few hotels and tourist attractions are still closed off though, such as El Yunque rainforest.  Even so, there is still plenty to do in Puerto Rico, and I urge anyone who needs a quick escape to sun, sand and water to make a trip to the island.  Your tourist dollars will help support local businesses, and will make a difference in bringing the island back to recovery.  If you do go, consider bringing an extra bag of clothes to donate to the Salvation Army in San Juan.  Summer clothes only, if that isn't obvious!


A 16th century UNESCO World Heritage Site.  I'm going to be honest, the fort was nothing noteworthy that you need to pay $7 to go inside. Save your money and have a mojito after your walk instead!  However, you should still visit because the grounds were sprawling, and from there you can still catch the amazing ocean views, and snap great photos of the architecture, and the cemetery next door to it, without going inside the fort.

With close to 300 beaches on the island, I had no clue which to choose!  I kept asking all my Uber drivers which beach they as locals thought were the most beautiful.  General consensus was Luquillo.  An hour away from San Juan, with water that looked crystal blue and magical on Instagram.  But when I further researched…the beaches in that area were still closed for clean up from the hurricanes.  BUMMER.

But the next go to was this…Isla Verde.  A closer hop.  15 minutes from our hotel in Condado, to a very clean beach, with water sports available, chairs and umbrellas to rent for $4, and El Alambique a beach front bar and restaurant across the street where you can conveniently get drinks, food, and use their potty.  Ended up being a win!

This is the location where the hit song music video Despacito was shot.  It is the barrio.  Ghetto.  Known to be the home of the drug lords. A.K.A dangerous, and many advised me to steer clear of it.  But I couldn't! Walking along the old city wall of old San Juan that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean we saw a side of La Perla thats colors struck me.  From the roadside you can peek down into the community.  Looked very much like a favela in Rio.  Kids were dying for a drink, saw a small shop at the front of the entrance so ventured in to buy a drink.  We ended up staying to finish our drink, and had a nice chat with the shop keeper about the damage La Perla incurred from the hurricane.  Found out they were hit badly, being so close to the water.  Didn't venture in deep enough to see the destruction.  Didn't feel right to be too intrusive and didn't want anyone feeling like they were under surveillance.  Even though they had some good street art on their walls which I really wanted to explore and see, but stopped myself to respect their privacy!  Anyways, be cautious and enter at your own risk.

Grab a map from your hotel concierge or the tourist information booth in the main plaza, and walk the cobblestone streets of this neighborhood.  My favorite area!  All the colorful buildings and colonial architecture reminds me of Havana, Cuba and Cartagena, Colombia.

Also known as the Angels Cave.  I was so ready to do this hike for the views.  Until I found out there are bats in the cave!  That completely ruined it for me!  I unfortunately wimped out and couldn't bring myself to be brave enough to go.  After last summer when we had a bat in our house, I am completely terrified of bats, and this trip was not the time to test my fears with kids in tow!  HA. But please go on my behalf.  Doesn't it look amazing?

Photo Credit: www.puertoricogetaways.com
Miami has Wynwood, and San Juan has Santurce!  If you love street art you will want to explore this neighborhood.  A few minutes after this photo it started pouring!  Unlucky us did not get to explore the area by foot.  But I saw a lot of great eye candy from our Uber heading back to our hotel.  There isn't a main street filled with street art to direct you too.  The walls are scattered around, so best to explore by foot.

Besides hitting the casino to take a break from the sun, or on a rainy day, how about you volunteer?  We were scheduled to help out at the food bank on our last day, but had to cancel due to my sons allergy break out.  However, I want to pass along the information in case your interested, because they can always use extra hands. Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico food bank is open Monday to Friday from 8am - 4pm.  You can assist them in packing boxes of items that will be delivered to different neighborhoods in need.  Kids are welcome.  Long pants and closed toe shoes are required.  Contact Valerie Martinez, T: (787) 640.8633 to sign up.

Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico
PR - 865
Bayamon, PR 00959


As you know, I am the type who plans life around her meals!  However we had a hiccup this trip that ended us making a trip to the ER.  My lil' guy had an allergic reaction to something thats still a mystery, and I couldn't risk another episode.  So we ate clean for the most part, and that wasn't very fun or noteworthy, but at least safe.  But I do have these two recommendations you must try for Puerto Rican food.

Located in Santurce.  This is the first Puerto Rican chef to win a James Beard award.  Trust me it tasted that way!  We had the bisteak, beef stew, and branzino.  Everything was delicious.  Hands down our best meal there.  No reservations.  Walk ins only.  So go early for lunch or dinner because it does get crowded!

La Placita
Duffaut St. 176
San Juan, PR

Dining el fresco in the Hotel El Convento hotel was charming.  The food was equally as good.  And this paella type dish they call 'Surf & Turf' is reason why I'm going back, until I can figure out how to make it myself!  Shrimp, sausage, and plantains over rice.  A perfect recipe.

Hotel El Convento
100 Cristo Street
Old San Juan, PR 00901


We stayed here in the Condado area.  There were plenty of bars, restaurants, and hotels along the strip, and it was a very safe area and well lit to walk around at all times of the day.  But when you have a Walgreens, and Starbucks a few doors down from you it felt very commercial.  Even though that 24 hours Walgreens was a blessing in disguise when I had to fill a midnight run prescription for my son!  However, this hotel was appropriate for the kids, with a casual atmosphere, big pool, rooms with kitchenettes, direct access to a beach, and their infinity pool was pretty sweet.  The staff was helpful, the shrimp tacos at their restaurant Tacos & Tequila were super yummy, even though service was a tad slow, but I think that's island life in general!

Condado Vanderbilt
1055 Ashford Avenue
San Juan, PR 00907
T: (787) 721.5500

This boutique hotel was cute.  This is where I would have preferred to stay.  It is a preserved historic hotel.  Something quaint, full of character and set in Old San Juan.  But not with the kids!  HA.

Hotel El Convento
100 Cristo Street
Old San Juan, PR 00901
T: (787) 723.9020


* Uber is cheaper then taxi's.  However, Uber cars are not allowed to pick you up at the airport.  Also Uber's are not allowed to pick you up from hotels.  So, you just meet them on the street outside your hotel instead. Drop off is ok.

* Wear sunscreen, and re-apply religiously every hour, all over your body!  I do not burn easily.  But at the end of our two hour walking tour around Old San Juan my shoulders looked like lobsters!

You ready to show some love to Puerto Rico?  Take advantage of the discounted room rates, flights and beautiful sparse beaches due to low tourism.  Before you know it prices will shoot back up again.  And please erase the notion that Puerto Rico is dangerous.  Or rather, don't let that stop you from visiting.  NYC is dangerous too!  So if you wish to only hang out around Fifth Avenue when in NYC, then do what's comfortable for you.  But be known you can also play it safe in Puerto Rico too…or anywhere else for that matter.  Just go and see for yourself.  The best is you be your own judge and not listen to fake news.

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