Puerto Rico is just a short flight from my New York home, and taking a trip to San Juan in the dreary months of January and February is refreshing and vital. From bike rides along the coast of Isla Verde and Playa de Piñones to local dishes like mofongo and alcapurria de carne, San Juan can play host to a deeper travel experience if you know where to look. Here’s how it’s spoiled me.
1. I now consider beachy morning bike rides a normal addition to my routine. Riding a bike in New York can be quite the endeavor, but not in Puerto Rico. Renting a bike at a local shop is one of the best San Juan decisions you can make. Every morning is a riders’ paradise. I cycled along an easy trail from Ocean Park to Isla Verde, extending into a boardwalk at Playa de Piñones. The views are beautiful and calming—definitely a much needed break from city life.
2. I expect every Sunday afternoon to be spent beachside, enjoying the sun and feasting at a cookout. Once you’ve reached Playa de Piñones on bike, there is an endless array of outdoor food vendors for an authentic Puerto Rican meal. It’s definitely beneficial to know Spanish or be with a native speaker, but a smile and point to the menu will serve you well. Ceviche de camarón (shrimp ceviche) and alcapurria de carne (fried plantain fritter stuffed with meat) were two of my favorite snacks. I’m currently on the search for the best spots to find these in New York.
3. I want my office desk converted to a hammock. There’s nothing like having an office equipped with standing desks (like AFAR’s office is), but how about hammocks—is that too unreasonable? The best perk of staying at Dreamcatcher Guest House were the lovely outdoor hammocks mindfully placed throughout the property. Lounging in the pictured red-and-white striped hammock was my favorite afternoon activity and the perfect opportunity to read my book and journal my thoughts.
4. Vita Coco from my bodega no longer does the trick—I want the real thing. There are many bottled coconut waters out there, yet none of them translate to drinking fresh from the source. It’s also endlessly cool to watch a local hack open a coconut with a machete for you, then drink straight from the coconut with a straw. Not to mention the best part: getting to eat the inside of the coconut afterwards.
5. I want my evening shower to be outdoors, with a clear view of the stars in the sky. Showering in my Brooklyn apartment usually entails a bit of panic, as I seem to press snooze one too many times, every time. In Puerto Rico, however, I always took an evening shower outdoors, where I was completely mesmerized by the stars shining overhead. The cracks in the wooden-planked floors gave open to vines that felt amazing on my feet. The stained glass also played color shows, whether from the light of the moon or the sun.
6. My interior design expectations are drastically higher. It’s hard to top the New York design aesthetic, but a weekend in San Juan can have the most committed of fashion-forward New Yorkers giving way to their inner-bohemian urges. Playful bowls adorned the walls of Dreamcatcher, and bright pops of turquoise made the hanging lanterns illuminate with color.
Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to Puerto Rico!
Photo by Flickr user vxla