Where to stay in Puerto Rico?
November 2, 2015 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I am a single lady looking to vacation in Puerto Rico during the week of Thanksgiving. Where should I stay? Requirements inside!

I am 30, single, and in need of a vacation. Sadly, my passport is expired and I'd rather not do the expedited renewal song-and-dance, so I'm thinking Puerto Rico. I've never been and I don't know where to stay.

I would like:

- A place with access to a beautiful beach
- Somewhere where there's decent/good food within walking distance
- Somewhere where there's nightlife within walking distance
- Not to break the bank

Also, I'd like to swim in that bioluminescent bay if possible! What will I need to do to get there?

The most important of the above is access to a beautiful beach, followed by nightlife. I need to get my relax/pina colada on, MeFites! Anyone have suggestions?
posted by sevensnowflakes to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Rico (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The bioluminescent bay (that I know of) is on the island of Vieques, and I have stayed there. It's pretty remote—assuming you're flying to Puerto Rico, you can connect to a puddle-jumper from San Juan, which is probably the smart thing to do. The alternative is to take a cab to the town of Fajardo, and taking to a ferry from there—this is what I did, and basically wound up burning a day in Fajardo, because I got in too late for the last ferry.

Vieques is pretty and extremely sleepy and has two population centers—Isabel II and Esperanza (I stayed just outside Esperanza). There are some great restaurants. I did not check out the nightlife. You need to rent a car to get around—you could maybe get away with a scooter. The trip wound up being more expensive than I expected, but very relaxing.

Getting to the bioluminescent bay is difficult; as far as I could tell, you can only get there by guided tours (which I did), and the path that leads to it is treacherous. Perhaps the locals know of a better way.
posted by adamrice at 4:31 PM on November 2, 2015

I loved Vieques, but note that when we were there (Christmas 2013) it was not possible to swim in the bio bay - you could go out in clear-bottomed boats, but no swimming, for environmental reasons.

If you don't care as much about the bio bay, we had a great time in San Juan, too. The beaches in Isla Verde seemed the nicest. Lots of good food, lots of nightlife.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:42 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, I don't care as much about the bio bay. I want beach time!
posted by sevensnowflakes at 4:45 PM on November 2, 2015

So I went 2 years ago at this point and my girlfriend and I stayed at this resort. We really loved it. It's close to some of the best pizza I've ever eaten. I'm not certain how nightlifey it is though as that's not really something we paid much attention to, but in terms of price/value I enjoyed Tres Palmas Inn a lot.
posted by Carillon at 4:54 PM on November 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can you clarify what you mean by a "beautiful" beach? Because Isla Verde (a neighborhood, not an island) is much less expensive than the downtown, and has, to my eye, gorgeous sugar-sand beaches. There are a bunch of condos that are right on the beach. I mean, walk ten steps out the back door of the building and you're on the sand. It's incredible. However, you'll have to bring your own chair, umbrella, and towels, and they're not very deep. Obviously, there's no one to bring drinks or clear seaweed, etc. and it's definitely not fancy. There are hotels on this stretch if that's what you want. There are a bunch of restaurants within walking distance, but I didn't see any dance clubs. A number of bars.

There's a lovely bio-bay on the mainland, in Fajardo, which you can kayak to. That will let you splash in the water. It's not near any really nice beaches or nightlife. We had dinner out there at a shack, and it was good, but not worth hanging around. Cheap, though.
posted by wnissen at 5:18 PM on November 2, 2015

posted by aramaic at 7:00 PM on November 2, 2015

I stayed in the same neighborhood as Carillon and really liked it - the neighborhood was very quiet for being in the middle of the city, but you're just a short cab/bus ride away from everything in San Juan. I was surprised by how quiet/relaxed the beach was.
posted by lunasol at 7:33 PM on November 2, 2015

Vieques was amazing. There are some fun bars on the south side, your choice of like 10 different beaches (though if you drive, consider renting a jeep or a scooter for at least part of your stay). Wild horses all over, and airbnb options.
posted by sixswitch at 8:48 PM on November 2, 2015

There is a biobay on Puerto Rico Island (the main island). It's near Fajardo, on the east side, which is about an hour drive from San Juan

On the main island, San Juan is a great city. You can stay in the Condado neighborhood, which has lovely beaches and massive touristy hotels, but plenty of places to walk to for drinks and dinner. Old San Juan is about 5 miles away — you can take a bus or taxi for nightlife, just wandering the warren of streets and shopping. Santurce is also an up-and-coming neighborhood. I love San Juan. It has a ton of character.

On the west coast, you can go to Rincon, which used to be an old surf town, but from what I hear is now being overrun by tourists. I haven't been there — not sure about the beaches or entertainment options but I feel it would be a bit more laid-back/less touristy than Condado.

The ultimate laid back beach options, though, are the two eastern islands, Vieques and Culebra. Culebra has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is very small and there is really only one village, but you'll have dining options and might be able to find a place with a kitchen and cook for yourself. Way, WAY less trouristy than PR. Vieques is a little bigger — there are a couple of fancy hotels there and probably more dining/nightlife options, but still plenty of beaches where you can escape the crowds. There is also a biobay on Vieques. You'll be able to either fly or take a ferry to those two islands form the main island.

Have fun! I love love love PR.
posted by Brittanie at 9:37 AM on November 3, 2015

Hello, I live 4 or 5 doors down from Tres Palmas, mentioned by Carillon above. While I have not stayed there, I can tell you the owner (who lives in my building) is a top-notch guy. We have taken windsurfing lessons from his establishment and whenever we walk by people seem to be enjoying themselves there. But before I get into too much about that let me start with the big picture.

Greater San Juan area:

Old San Juan is the downtown area, 20+ minutes west of the airport. It is where the cruise ships stop and is the most condensed night-life area -- with miles of grid-like, walkable streets and tons of restaurants, bars, casinos, shops, museums, historical forts and graveyards. But it is decidedly not the laid-back beach you seem to be asking for. I am unfamiliar with hotels in that area, but the taxi service is pretty decent on the island, with set rates from one area to another in the greater downtown area, i.e. SJU airport > Old San Juan will be $X. I would recommend it as a fine afternoon of strolling around.

Condado is the next neighborhood to the east (towards the airport). There is a strong presence of beach-front hotels but I am not familiar with any of them. It has great restaurants, bars, casinos and shops. But, unlike Old San Juan, it is more of a strip of a single road running along the beach, so the walking will be linear/back-and-forth. It will be bustling, lively and full of people. Condado is a balanced mix of beach and nightlife.

Ocean Park is farther east (towards the airport) from downtown. It is more residential with a less-dense smattering of restaurants and bars, but some of them are really great. There is a large public beach in front of Barbosa Park that fills up on the weekend because of the myriad palm trees and ample parking. Tres Palmas is just down the block. The only thing between it and the beach is crossing the road, but you will have to walk a few hundred meters east or west to get to palm trees (trees or umbrella are highly recommended because the sun here is, well, hot). Another place to stay in this area is Numero Uno Guest House. I can highly recommend this because we had overflow guests stay there and we spent an afternoon there. It is a walk-out-the-gate-onto-the-beach-with-their-provided-umbrella-and-chairs and can-order-drinks-and-food-to-the-beach kinda place. While these are the two (boutique) hotels I can and do recommend, the area of Ocean Park is the kind of neighborhood you will want to take a taxi/drive around at night. So compared to the above it is highest on relaxed beach area but lowest on nearby-walkable nightlife.

Isla Verde Ave runs east to the airport. It is another strip of great and other restaurants and high-end, high-rise hotels/casinos (Intercontinental, El San Juan) which have luxurious accommodations, pool-front bars and walk-out-the-back-door beach access.

Other areas that have been mentioned:

Fajardo is a good drive (45-1hr) and it is the nearest bio-bay. My understanding is that most tour groups do not allow you to get out of your kayak into the luminsecent water (for safety reasons). Also, check the phase of the moon. The glow is more impressive under less moonlight.

Vieques & Culebra are outlying islands that require a ferry trip from Fajardo or another flight from SJU. We have only spent a couple days on Vieques, so all I can tell you is that the southern strip of restaurants/hotels is the most condensed nightlife, but its sparser than anything I've mentioned above. That said, there are some amazing beaches (that you have to drive/taxi to) on Vieques and I hear Culebra has one of the finest beaches in the world.

Rincon is multiple hours from SJU airport and is really only worth the trip if you must get some surfing in.

MeMail me with any questions, restaurant recommendations, taxi phone number, whatever.
posted by zyxwvut at 2:20 PM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Reply from contact form used ex-BF's name. How?!   |   Name my cat Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.