Mat and I just got back from our romantic getaway to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was one of the best trips we’ve been on, and we’ve been quite a few places around the world. Everything—from weather, food, people, accommodation—was impeccable. Our stay at the San Juan Marriott was an awesome choice for us, because it was close to everything (restaurants, beach, airport, cafes, stores, etc) and the staff were extremely friendly and a breeze to deal with.
Our entire trip was 5 days long (3 full days in San Juan), so we utilized our time efficiently and tried to soak in as much as we could.
I’ve made a list of our top activities and favourite places to grab a bite/drink, plus a wish-list for our next visit. Hopefully you find it helpful for your next romantic getaway!
San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
We loved staying at the San Juan Marriott Resort because it truly catered to our perfect romantic getaway. During our first night in San Juan, we received a wine/cheese/fruit platter, which was an amazing start to our date night. We continued at the Red Coral Lounge and tried our luck at the Stellaris Casino. In the morning, we grabbed a coffee from Coffee Merchant and our tour guide picked us up right at the hotel door. The beach includes the perfect amount of isolation and the pool is a wonderful place to unwind and grab a frozen mojito at the swim up bar.
The Hotel is right on Ashford Avenue, which has restaurants, cafes, bars, pharmacy’s, and more. Loved how everything was walkable!
And one of the most important attributes was customer service. We are still in awe of how lovely and accommodating everyone was.
Morning or evening walk on Condado Beach
Mat and I aren’t really morning people. With past vacations, we usually find ourselves sleeping in way past breakfast, only to waste most of the morning.
Our trip to San Juan was totally different. Every morning we opened our curtains to witness a gorgeous view of the ocean. We pushed the doors open to hear the calming sounds of the waves crashing on Condado Beach. Every morning we took advantage of being the first one’s on the beach to start our day off right, and because of this, every morning was our favourite part of the day.
Forts: Kite Flying at San Felipe del Morro
There are three main forts in San Juan, and entry is $5, but that allows you to enter all forts at any time during opening hours for 7 days. If you only can go to one, I totally suggest going to El Morro.
Outside of the fort, there are stands where they sell refreshments and kites. We bought one for $3.50 and it was one of the best purchases we made on the trip! The fort grounds include a ginormous open field that borders the ocean, so wind conditions are perfect. When you’re finished, hand off the kite to a kid walking towards the fort! You’ll be their hero for the day 😉
El Yunque & La Mina Falls
Having only three days to explore the island, Mat and I chose to go on one tour. We decided to explore El Yunque, a tropical rainforest located in northern San Juan.
The tour picked us right up at the San Juan Marriott and took us to 5 different stops. We hiked through lush foliage, swam in the refreshing waters of La Mina Falls, and went up Yokahu Tower to admire a 360 view of the rainforest.
Our tour guide was fantastic. He went the extra mile to show us an amazing authentic restaurant, which happened to be an intimate place off the highway called “Tropicale Restaurant”. It was one of the best meals we’ve had in San Juan.
Old San Juan
This old town is one of the most charming places we’ve visited. It’s European charm meets Caribbean vitality. Every brightly coloured building, rustic door, and cobblestone street make this town exceptionally photogenic (it was hard for me to put my camera down). The whole area is walkable and highly accessible.
Designated taxi areas make it a breeze to get back to the hotel, the streets are super safe, and everyone is immensely obliging/friendly (and not in the “i’m-going-to-pretend-to-be-nice-but-scam-you-at-the-same-time” kind of way). Mat is super paranoid about everything (mainly about being robbed), and not once did he feel uncomfortable or at risk.
Stellaris Casino: Casino Game Lessons
Mat and I love to try our luck at the casino and have a little fun. Usually, I get a bit intimidated by all the different games at the casino, so I never try them. But, the San Juan Marriott has different game lessons every night, so you can learn a bunch of cool table games and try your new skills at the Stellaris Casino afterwards. Not gonna lie, Mat and I won every night…and that has never been the case before!
Authentic Piña Colada
Pina Colada’s were born in Puerto Rico! So say goodbye to the pre-mixed, artificially flavoured, out of a machine frozen beverage…because you won’t be able to go back after you’ve had a taste of the real thing. True coconut cream, pineapple juice, rum, a wedge of pineapple and a maraschino cherry—a small taste of heaven.
Puerto Rico is also known for their delicious, full-bodied coffee. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, don’t miss out on bringing a bag or two home. Our favourite was Yuacono, and it was $5.40 for a 14 oz bag. You can buy it literally everywhere (gas stations, Walgreens, shops, etc.). I was a bit skeptical at first (I’m skeptical about anything you can buy at a gas station), but the coffee is amazing! If you grab a bag or two, you won’t be disappointed.
Red Coral Lounge
The Red Coral Lounge was our go-to place every night. We fell in love with the cocktails and cool vibe. Mat always ordered the Jalapeño Mojito and I grabbed a White Chocolate Martini or two (it was my nightly boozy dessert). Some nights of the week they have live music, where they also set up salsa lessons—if you ever wanted to learn.
If you want to try out your newly learned skills or utilize your already formed salsa abilities, go to the Nuyorican Cafe. A super intimate bar where you can salsa (and if you can’t dance, don’t worry…it’s dark). Apparently it stands for “New York” and “Puerto Rican” (NEW-YORE-REE-CAN).
Raices is a gem! Right in the heart of Old San Juan, it has a great ambience, authentic Puerto Rican food, and the employees wear gorgeous traditional clothing. Mat and I both got mofongo meals, which is mashed plantain based dish. It was so good and you definitely need to try it when you go!
Pirilo is an awesome stop to grab dinner, a late night bite, or a few glasses of sangria. It’s a pizza place, but they have delicious tapas as well. The pizza sizes are hefty and we ordered a sampler plate of tapas = way too much food. But more is better than less!
Casa Cortes Chocobar
If you’re looking for a place to eat that is a bit different from the norm, check out Chocobar. They incorporate chocolate in a bunch of their dishes, savoury and sweet. We ordered a club sandwich that used chocolate infused bread, and plantains with bacon and chocolate. It was freaking delicious. My mouth is watering as I write this. They also have a fantastic brunch menu, cafe menu, and chocolates to take home.
Best Kept Secrets
Like I said earlier, the Tropicale Restaurant off the highway was one of our favourite meals, but there are a whole bunch of hidden gems in San Juan. I suggest asking the locals (who are so kind and helpful) for more best kept secrets. Your taste buds will thank you!
Cafe Cuatro Sombras
Was referred to this cafe by a lovely reader of mine, but never got the chance to go. Heard amazing things, so it’s on our wish-list for the next time!
They have sunset zip-linging, which would be beautiful!
Would love to catch the sunset from the ocean’s viewpoint. Especially with your significant other and a cocktail in hand.
Farmer’s Market at Park La Ventana al Mar
It’s held on the first Sunday of every month. Unfortunately, we weren’t in town then. Next time for sure!