I’m still recovering from our fun-filled trip to Puerto Rico. We had such a great time that we have already booked two more tropical vacations for this year, and we are about to book a third. I love that we added in all aspects to this trip. We did a little history, a little adventure, a little relaxing and had a lot of great food. Honestly, there is so much to do in Puerto Rico that we would need a few weeks to do everything on our list. I did try to maximize and plan the very best things to do during our five days on the beautiful island. I’ve included 15 things not to miss in Puerto Rico down below.
1. Survival Beach
Jon and I rented a car just to travel to Survival Beach. Our road trip was about 1 hour and 40 minutes away and was a little complicated to find. I did a lot of research beforehand, and somehow it still was tricky. At one point the GPS had us turn down the wrong road, and we ran straight into the U.S. Army. Thankfully, they were super friendly and knew exactly where we were trying to go. I think this frequently happens to them. They gave us directions to find Surf’s Beach which is where you need to start on your hike to Survival Beach.
The guys from the U.S. Army instructed search for Surf Zone. Surf Zone is a little surf shop right at the entrance of Surf’s Beach. We quickly found the surf shop, but the access to the beach looked very sketchy. We didn’t think we were allowed to travel down the road since the gate had signs that looked suspicious of trespassers. After watching several cars pass through with surfboards, we decided to be rebellious and follow.
You have to continue down a long windy road and then continue traveling to the right until the road becomes sand. At this point we parked and began our search for the hidden trail. You can either take the beach to find the trail (which is what we did), or you can find the bridge that carries you to the path from the parking lot. We only had to walk a short distance on the beach before we noticed what looked like a walking trail into the woods.
The hike was super fun, but it was a lot more challenging than I expected. You must wear sneakers and comfortable clothes. There is a ton of climbing over trees and onto rocks. But the views at the end are so worth it. Unfortunately, it was high tide when we went, so I wasn’t able to get a few of the photos I wanted, but the views were still unreal. The massive rock formations with 18-foot waves crashing in the background is a sight to see. Jon has been to many surfing beaches in California, and he said he has never seen waves like he did at Survival Beach.
We passed a few people along the way, but it is far from touristy. And no worries about running into dangerous creatures. Poisonous snakes and spiders are very rare in Puerto Rico. Also, I think it’s common sense that swimming is not safe here after you see it, but we did read that the currents are very powerful and dangerous. The number one thing I recommend is to eat a hearty breakfast beforehand. You will definitely need the fuel.
2. Have a Food Truck Lunch
After working up a massive appetite at Survival Beach, make sure you stop on the side of the road to enjoy some yummy authentic food from a food truck. The food truck we originally planned to eat was not there due to it being Good Friday, but I want to make a trip back to eat there. I mean who wouldn’t want to have homemade empanadas in a Cave. It’s located right next to the Indian Face. A lot of people stop to get pictures here. It can be found at the intersection of roads 113 and road 2 near Quebradillas. Just park on the side of the road and enjoy! Also, let me know how it is.
Since this spot was closed for the holiday, we continued to the next food truck that we spotted coming in. I’m not sure of the location, but you cannot miss it. It’s located on the right side on the way to Survival Beach and has fantastic views of the coast. We purchased the chicken, pizza and beef empanadas and a pina colada totaling $7. Jon said it was the cheapest meal we had in Puerto Rico and tasty too.
3. Have a Mimosa Flight at Blonda
We stumbled upon the best brunch place right beside our Airbnb. It was so good that we ended up eating brunch here twice. The first day we ordered their sampler to share, and I’m glad we were sharing. They served us a passive pancake, eggs, and bacon, but the star of the show was the french toast. It tasted like a giant fried french toast stick. It was marvelous.
The food was excellent, but of course, the mimosa flight caught my eye. The restaurant has several different fruit flavored mimosas such as guava, mango, blueberry, and passionfruit to name a few. With the flight, you can choose four different flavors. Our favorite was the passionfruit. During the second visit to the restaurant, I order the fresh fruit bowl which came with a variety of fruit. They also make a mean latte. Coffee, fruit, and mimosas, such a dream brunch spot.
4. Have Dinner on a Rooftop
I wanted to have a rooftop dining experience in Puerto Rico, so we decided to go to the Mist Rooftop at the San Juan Water and Beach Club on our last night. The place was modern with blue uplighting, and couches were overlooking the skyline. The food and ambiance were top-notch, and It also looks like a fun place to hang out by the pool during the day.
5. Have Apps & Drinks at Oceano
We decided to have dinner at Oceano on our first night since it was reasonably close to our Airbnb. However, it happened to be extremely windy this night, and we were unable to eat outside looking out to the ocean. The waitress sat us in the back near a wall that blocked the wind, and although it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for, it was an excellent restaurant even where we were sitting. Jon and I were not impressed with our food, but we do recommend going for apps and drinks or either dessert and after dinner drinks. This place has such a lush vibe and is probably amazing at sunset.
6. Hang out at Asere Cuban in La Placita
On the weekends, locals and tourist gather to the area of La Placita to eat, drink and salsa dance in the streets. My favorite place in this area is Asere Cuban. The decor and ambiance had a retro Spanish feel, and the bartender was astounding to watch as she crafted decadent cocktails. Head upstairs to grab a drink and walk out onto the balcony that overlooks all the action. This is the one place in La Placita you cannot miss. Also, try to plan dinner here if you can, I’ve heard great things.
7. Beach Day with the Locals
Two of the five days in Puerto Rico, Jon and I opted for a lowkey beach day. The pool at our condo was under construction due to the hurricane (the host informed us of this before booking), so we enjoyed lots of time on the beach. Our Airbnb host left us two beach chairs, a cooler and towels. The condo we stayed at was walking distance to the resort area of Condado, but also far enough away that we had the best of both worlds. The beach was never crowded, but busy enough for some good people watching. There was also a lot of surfing at this beach which was entertaining. It was so enjoyable to relax on the beach sipping champagne, savoring local sherbert and downing fresh coconut water straight from the coconut.
8. Hang out at La Concha
My all-time favorite resort in the Condado resort area is La Concha. However, it’s pretty pricey to stay there. So, we opted for an Airbnb but spent a lot of time at the resort. The lobby lounge has a DJ playing every night, and the pools are fantastic here. It’s worth checking out, or if you want to splurge on your hotel, this is the one to consider. I’ve also heard great things about their restaurants.
9. Play the Slots at Marriott
The Marriott in Condado is another cool resort to check out. We actually stayed here for Jon’s 30th birthday a few years ago. They have a lively lobby as well with the best chocolate martinis. We also enjoyed their casino the most. Well lets say Jon had the most luck here.
10. Brunch at Caficultra
We decided to spend one morning in Old San Juan. There is just something about the charm here. While researching, I came across many recommendations to have brunch at Caficultra. This cafe has an elegant rustic vibe with food and drinks to match. I had a fantastic latte, and Jon opted for a coconut coffee martini. When I have the chance to have fresh fruit, I always choose it, especially for breakfast. My yogurt fruit parfait hit the spot, and Jon enjoyed his breakfast sandwich as well. If you are here during a cruise spot, definitely swing by this cafe for a treat.
11. Visit the Castillo San Felipe Del Morro
El Morro in Puerto Rico is a must see. The fort has beautiful water on one side and a huge lawn on the other side. Tourist and locals come to the large grassy yard to fly kites. It’s lovely to witness, and you can even buy kites from a local vendor to join in on the fun. After passing the kite spectacle, continue the long hike to the fort. It’s $7 per person to enter the fort and another fun activity to do if you’re in port for a short time.
12. Dinner at Pirilo
Pirilio is known as the best pizza place in Old San Juan. Jon and I each ordered separate personal pan pizzas. Jon always gets Hawaiian, and I ordered a pizza with meat, goat cheese and lots of greens. It has a fun atmosphere and a lot of locals, so you know it’s the good stuff. Jon also ordered and enjoyed their sangria. Other restaurants in Old San Juan that were recommended to me by a co-worker are down below:
- Dearverdura: Authentic Puerto Rican Food
- Al Fresco Rooftop bar: Wine bar on the 3rd floor
- Meatball Kitchen: A new restaurant that gives you meatballs and noodles in a Chinese to-go box.
- Greengos: A tequila bar with impressive murals and the best margaritas in town.
13. Discover a Speakeasy Wine Bar
You must check out one of the top 50 bars in the world. We had trouble finding the bar in general due to lack of signs, but a police officer gladly pointed us in the right direction. Once you walk into the central area, find the wooden door behind the bar. The wooden door will lead you to the secret wine bar. It has a very dark and mysterious vibe. The drinks were incredible, especially the cucumber fizz. From what I hear there are two more bars within this bar, one being a dance club that gets rowdy at night. We didn’t stay out long enough to find the other two, but I would love to know if anyone has ever witnessed this.
14. Drink a Piña Colada out of a Pineapple
Did you know that the Piña Colada was created in Puerto Rico? We discovered this cute little stand that serves piña coladas in pinapples called Pinaloka. The fresh pineapple honestly makes it taste 100% better. You must try this if you are in the Condado Resort area.
15. Visit Marilyn’s Place in Old San Juan
We found this hole in the wall bar on a side street in Old San Juan. There is a small bar area and outdoor seating. The walls are full of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. The owners are super friendly, and even gave Jon a slice of birthday cake. We shared an excellent passionfruit mojito, and the staff also gave me a mini mango daiquiri. This little gem was a good find.
Packing List for Puerto Rico
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- It Cosmetics Bye Bye Makeup Wipes: When I’m on vacation, I’m usually exhausted by the end of the night, so having an anti-aging and hydrating makeup remover is a must. I have these waiting on me by the nightstand.
- Smashbox Insta-matte lip: I love a matte lipstick, but sometimes it’s hard to find the right color in a matte formula. Well, smashbox has solved that problem. All you have to do is add this on top of any lipstick to make it instantly matte. I also love that it keeps your lips from flaking unlike most matte formulas.
- Kavu Sling Bag: This bag came in handy during our hike to survival beach. It’s also very easy to carry to the beach. I’ve had mine for many years, and it is still going strong.
- Mystic Tan Self-Tanner: I’ve been using this self-tanner for months now, and It is seriously the best out there. Make sure you get the island Mocha color. It has violet tones, so you avoid getting that orange color. This is the self-tanner I used before traveling to Puerto Rico.