Curio Local Guide

San Juan

Authored by Fernando Samalot & Barbara Cruz
Fernando Samalot & Barbara Cruz
Professional Photographer

We sent Yodelers Fernando Samalot and Bárbara Cruz to the amazing El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton to shoot some photos and create a Puerto Rico Travel Guide. El San Juan Hotel is located along two miles of pristine Isla Verde Beach and near Historic Old San Juan. Fernando created a beautiful local guide full of unique island-life tips and amazing local secrets, just for you. 

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The main island is a little over 100 miles across but it makes up for its small size by having an immeasurably rich culture, history, cuisine and some of the most beautiful natural wonders found anywhere in the world.

My Perfect Day

What to do in a place like this if you only have 24 hours?

Since we’re inclined towards nature, our perfect day will definitely include a beach or a river or both. Being in such an accessible location, the beach, and the rainforest are very close by so visiting both in a day is very possible.

Start your day with a beautiful breakfast at Caña, the hotel’s own restaurant, where Chef Juliana Gonzalez does an impeccable job of taking our local cuisine and fusing it with international flavors.

El Yunque Rainforest is less than an hour’s drive from San Juan and it has infinite wonders to discover. You can take one of the many hiking trails through the rainforest and immerse yourself in its own unique environment. Home to many waterfalls and swimming holes, you could spend a whole week exploring and still find new ones. It is, however, recommended that you go with either a tour guide or a local who knows the area.

From there I would definitely recommend checking out a beach in Piñones, Loiza, which is just 15 minutes away from San Juan. The first beach tends to be generally overcrowded but the farther you go down the road, the more desolate and beautiful the beaches become. Our favorite is Vacía Talega, which is the last one on the coast and hides one of our favorite spots. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more easily accessible beach, you can enjoy the beautiful Isla Verde beach right in front of El San Juan Hotel.

After spending some time taking in the rainforest and soaking up some sun at the beach of your choice, you can grab dinner at one of the many different restaurants in Calle Loiza, which, in recent years, has seen a boom in culinary offerings. One of our favorites is the vegetarian restaurant, Cocobana where everything is delicious.

Our favorite way to end the day in San Juan is catching the sunset in El Morro, the old fort in Old San Juan. On a clear day, you can see the sun dip into the ocean from the high walls of the fort and the sky paint up in the wildest colors you’ve ever seen.

Fernando and Bárbara's Favorites

Where to stay

El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton

From peaceful beaches to vibrant nightclubs, you’ll find the best of island life at El San Juan Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. Our hotel is popular with guests and locals alike, with a choice of restaurants, bars, live entertainment and family activities – all located along two miles of the pristine Isla Verde Beach. We’re also near Old San Juan’s historic attractions, and SJU Airport is just five minutes away. With no passport required for US citizens, our hotel is an easy tropical getaway.

SEE HOTEL DETAILS

Upon first entering the hotel, we were immediately blown away by how beautiful it is, from the hand-carved mahogany ceilings to the marble floors and walls, it was unlike anything we could have expected. From looking at it from outside, you’d never imagine that its interior has such an amazingly preserved design dating back to the 50s. The welcoming chandelier in the lobby, the third biggest of its kind in the world, is an eye-opener. First impressions are important and the hotel definitely knows how to welcome you with its unique style.

Upon our arrival, we got to enjoy a tour of the hotel and learn more about the unique history of El San Juan Hotel, which really added depth to our time spent there. (El San Juan Hotel was designed by legendary Miami Beach architect Roy F. France and first opened to the public in 1958.) We were amazed when we got to our room, it was simply gorgeous! Spacious and beautifully lit, we couldn’t have asked for a better place to relax after spending all our days exploring and enjoying the surrounding areas.

By far one of our favorite things was enjoying the hot tub in the room, wearing our bath robes and ordering room service. It might seem silly but it’s not something we’re used to and it was as relaxing as it felt luxurious.

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