You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Caribbean Queen

AHHH – I must admit that I wasn’t to excited about our trip to Puerto Rico. I had been so focused on the move (and the expenses associated with the move) that I was reluctant to spend any money on a trip.

But since were found absurdly low airfares ($234 round trip) and used credit card points to cover all 4 nights of lodging, there seemed to be no excuse not to go.

And, boy, am I glad that we did. Randy and I were both exhausted after two very full weekends (one moving/unpacking, the next one painting). But we arrived in San Juan to beautiful sunny skies and temperatures in the 80’s.

Our first hotel was in the Condado Beach area. The Radisson Ambassador Hotel & Casino wasn’t watefront, but it was a block away. Our “Ambassador Level” room (which meant a top floor room with free breakfast and afternoon hors d’ouvres) was spacious enough and had a partial view of the ocean from it’s private balcony.

We spent the bulk of the first two days sitting on the beach (either Condado Beach or Ocean Park). At night, our trip coincided with the Condado Culinary Festival so the street was blocked off to traffic and there were musicians, vendors, and food providers as far as the eye could see. On the second night we at an Argentinian place called, appropriately enough, Buenos Ayres. I had my first mofongo (a Puerto Rian dish…kind of a mashed up plantain that’s used sort of like a bread bowl for some tasty seasoned chicken). YUM.

On the third day, we spent the morning at the beach before heading to Viejo San Juan. Our first stop was El Morro, the 16th century Spanish fort. Then we walked around the town which felt straight out of Europe. Aside from some of the pastel colors, this could have been Lyon, France (hilly, old buildings, narrow streets). It was quite lovely, and although I’d read about this area, it was still more pleasantly surprising than I’d expected.

We had dinner at a hip little restaurant called La Madre. The place was tiny (just one waitress) and had really funky architecture on the inside. The food was modern Mexican with a twist (their words, not mine). I had a chipotle pork dish with rice and beans, Randy had some sort of short ribs with cocoa and lime. Aside from the slow service, he said it was the best meal of the trip.

The next day we spent the morning at Ocean Park Beach before switching to our second hotel, El San Juan Hotel & Casino, in the Isla Verde area.


Although our first hotel was nice, this place was breathtaking. You enter an enormous lobby with traditional wood details that contrasted with gorgeous contemporary glass light fixtures. Since this was a Hilton hotel (part of their Waldorf-Astoria collection, actually) Randy told them his Hilton Honors (reward program) number and our standard “city room” turned into an upper level junior suite with complimentary bottles of water, and free drinks at the lobby bar (which on weekends is apparently “the” place to be and be seen). And this was all on free credit card points!

In contrast to the dark wood lobby, our room was bright and airy with a wall of glass and retro furniture. The view, though somewhat obstructed by a building or two in the distance, was of the ocean to the left and distant mountains to the right.

Upon arrival, we headed directly to their beach. It wasn’t as nice as Ocean Park Beach, but there were comfy chairs and beds to lay on.

That night, we ate at a local restaurant for some traditional Puerto Rican food. Randy got the mofongo this time, and I had another chicken dish. Later that evening, around midnight, we went outside to the pool area and sat in the hot tub for about 45 minutes. It was very dark and romantic, with the sounds of exotic birds chirping. There was a passing shower just before we got in so the grounds glistened in the moonlight (and from the subtle landscape lighting).

Now THAT is what vacations are all about.

Finally, throughout our trip we did a bit of gambling (how could we not, each hotel had a casino). I lost $20 the first night, made $5 the second night, skipped gambling the third night, then won twice the fourth night on the same 25-cent machine. Overall, I think I came out $74 ahead. Meanwhile, Randy had lost between $20 and $40 each night. Needless to say, he was quite angry with me (but in a playful way).

On our final day, we came back from breakfast and I headed back up to the room to shower. Randy decided to give the slot machines one last try. Seeing how lucky I was with that machine the night before, Randy decided to try it himself. I believe he said on his first press of the button he won $466. BASTARD!

On that high note, we decided to go out for one last relaxing day. This time, instead of the beach we opted to lay by the pool. It was pure heaven.

It’s a shame we didn’t have more time on the island because I would have loved to drive to the rainforest, mountains, south coast – or taken a boat (or plane) over to Vieques.

Next time. Oh, and if you’re interested in viewing some pics, just follow the link on the bottom right of this page to “Karl’s International Travel Photos.” Yeah, I know Puerto Rico isn’t international…but since it’s a territory and not a state, I figured it would qualify. Anyway, if you’re too lazy to scroll down, here’s the link:


  1. Comment by Jeffrey on October 23, 2009 6:11 pm

    Caribbean Queen, Now we’re sharin’ the same dream, Wow I love that song.

  2. Comment by Will on October 23, 2009 7:34 pm

    Incredible–you left just in time to miss the massive explosion and the vast toxic cloud that rose over San Juan! You guys live charmed lives, obviously. Sounds like a wonderful time away.

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.