Heather Pitts's Blog

Puerto Rico – June 2011
July 4, 2011, 9:45 pm
Filed under: travel

I went to San Juan, Puerto Rico with my Mom for my 32nd birthday earlier this June.  She was there on business and invited me down to join her for a long weekend.  Thanks to Michael and his parents for getting me my plane ticket for my birthday present.  It was an awesome trip.

I arrived Thursday afternoon after a slight delay.  When the plane arrived near San Juan, we couldn’t land due to a thunderstorm below.  We circled for about 45 minutes with a few updates from the pilot warning us that we might have to go to St. Thomas to refuel.  Luckily, we were able to land before having to do that.  I was relieved since I had an appointment at the spa for a massage as soon as I got to the hotel – the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.

After my wonderful massage (what a great way to start the vacation), my Mom was done with work and we walked down to the beach for a while.  She suggested we go out for Mexican food at a little spot she found a few blocks from our hotel, Tijuana’s.  It was delicious and a ton of fun with a mariachi band playing tunes and margaritas flowing.  I was exhausted after my long travel day, massage and a few margaritas….but of course we had to stop by the casino at our hotel for a few slot machine plays.  I was super excited about the casino since I hadn’t been in one since my Vegas wedding last September.

Friday (my birthday), we woke up early, had a little breakfast before heading out to find our way to El Yunque Rainforest (the only rainforest in US territory).  What a cool thing to do on your birthday, huh?   Thank goodness we had received good directions from the hotel, since GPS was a little confused.  It only took us about 45 minutes to get there and it was pretty neat driving through the country side outside of San Juan.  FYI – People in Puerto Rico drive like maniacs.

We stopped by the welcome center at the rainforest entrance to get a map and pick up a few souvenirs.  Driving through the rainforest was crazy.  The plants are so dense and it looks as though they are trying to take over the road at every turn.  We enjoyed driving with our windows opening listening to what sounded to be birds, which we later found out were actually frogs.  Our first stop was at  a waterfall right by the side of the road.  We climbed up the rocks to get close.  It was beautiful!

We then climbed the Yokahu Observation Tower to get a great view of the rainforest below and the coast off in the distance.  As you continue to drive up the mountain in the rainforest the temperature drops quite a bit and you will find different plants at different elevations.  That was pretty neat to observe.  We stopped at a little snack shack to get some fried plantains.  I like the green ones which are not as sweet.

We took a short hike up into the rainforest to see if we could spot any animals.  I was hoping for a monkey or some of those little chirping frogs, but all we saw were some snails, which is sort of hilarious.  I never would have guessed I would find snails the rainforest.  You have to be careful when walking through the forest as leaves from palms are constantly falling.  They are huge and if you got knocked on the head with one, it surely wouldn’t feel good.  I love the way that the leaves look when they die.  It looks as though they have been burned.

A few people had told my Mom that we should check out the El Conquistador Resort once we left the rainforest.  Boy were they right. It was amazing.  I would LOVE to stay there next time I go back to Puerto Rico.  We had lunch at a little outdoor cafe there overlooking the beautiful pool which had breathtaking views of the ocean and islands off in the distance.

For my birthday dinner I had picked out a restaurant at the Conrad Hotel which was just about a mile or two from our hotel.  This is another awesome hotel that I would chose to stay at if I ever return to Puerto Rico.  Very hip and modern.  I had read rave reviews about the restaurant, Pikayo and their menu looked intriguing. This ended up being one of my favorite meals of my life.  The “Truffle Cheese Empandillas with Truffle Mojito” was one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.  After dinner we stopped by the casino.  I put $5 into a machine and within 30 seconds I had $70! Happy Birthday Me!

Sunday we got in a little beach time before heading into Old San Juan.  What a neat little town.  Beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, quaint little shops and restuarants, outdoor markets…I could have spent days roaming there.  We had lunch at a very local spot, Cafe Manolin.  The “La Mallorca” was delicious – a ham and cheese sandwich covered in powdered sugar which is a Puerto Rican favorite.  I tried the “Monfongo” but it wasn’t my favorite.

Touring around Old San Juan was a real treat.  We stumbled upon a pigeon park that was really neat.  There were hundreds of pigeons.  I loved their little “houses” on the stone wall.  There was an old church by the pigeon park that was beautiful.

After doing a little shopping around town, we decided to head back to our hotel for dinner.  We watched the beautiful sunset as we left Old San Juan.  Such a beautiful city.  We found a great little Italian restaurant right across the street from our hotel and got a nice spot on the patio.  It was a great end to a wonderful trip!


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