Eat, Play, Stay: San Juan, Puerto Rico
As Spring Break approaches, I wanted to share my experience in San Juan, Puerto Rico for last year’s vacation. My girls and I had an amazing time full of hot sun, good drinks, great people, and amazing food. 

WHERE TO STAY: CONDADO PLAZA HILTON
The Condado Plaza Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico is one of the destination’s top-rated hotels. The lobby is beautiful, the service is helpful (the staff always had the hook-up for when we wanted to know where to hang out!), and there are so many places to catch some sun rays and go for a nice swim. There’s a salt water pool, plenty of hammocks, a small (rocky) beach, and a pool with an adult slide. For a nominal price, you can rent kayaks and other water sports equipment. You can also grab a cold drink at a swim up bar. As for the rooms, the bathroom is not for the faint of heart. The shower is made of glass and is in the middle of the room, along with the closets and kitchenette. Luckily, my girlfriends and I are not shy so there were no issues taking showers while we changed in the bathroom/closet/kitchen, haha.

The Condado Plaza has a ton of activities and spots to eat, including a cafe, fancy restaurant (which I will get to), a casino, asian food, and Starbucks. There’s even a Denny’s across the street that’s open 24 hours for those late nights (we practically lived in there, shame on us). The hotel was so beautiful, I was able to shoot an entire swimsuit lookbook there.

WHERE TO EAT

Di Parma Trattoria
What kind of New Yorkers go to Puerto Rico and have pizza? We did, and it was absolutely worth it! Our first night in San Juan, not much was open on a Monday (note: almost nothing is open in San Juan on Mondays except for restaurants) so we strolled down Ashford Avenue and happened upon this Di Parma Trattoria. The restaurant is right on the water, so we got the balmy ocean breeze while we sipped amazing re: strong drinks, and shared pizza pies. The waiters were so much fun, and brought us extra shots because they knew we were looking to party. As you can see in the picture, we each got our own pizza, but they are very filling and a table of 4 would be okay with two pies.

Pikayo at Condado Plaza Hilton
Pikayo is such a beautiful restaurant – I felt like we were back in New York. We made our way here for Stephanie’s birthday celebration and it was well worth it. Many traditional puerto rican cultural staples are deconstructed on this menu, and recreated in such elegant, proportional ways. Pictured above are plantains stuffed with shrimp and guacamole – it was divine. From appetizer to Stephanie’s birthday dessert, Pikayo was our treat to ourselves (and a bit of a dent to our wallets). If you feel like being fancy for an evening, I’d definitely recommend it.

Yantar
Yantar was such a posh, metropolitan retreat in San Juan. On our final night, we strolled down Ashford Avenue again and toasted to a fantastic vacation while we gazed over the ocean (I honestly could never get enough of the ocean views). It was tres Sex and the City. The hostess was the mostest – she was actually a fashion blogger and added to the chic element of the establishment (check out Miss Gala!).

WHERE TO PLAY

El San Juan Resort & Casino

It is absolutely ridiculous to go on a tropical vacation and not engage in any water sports. About thirty minutes away from Condado Plaza is El San Juan Hotel & Casino, where most jetskiing happens in the San Juan tourist area. Be forewarned, you cannot do anything else in this hotel but go straight to the beach for jetskiing, it is heavily secured. We couldn’t even go to the bathroom without being questioned. To leave the hotel, you will have to walk around the perimeter of the hotel to the street, instead of coming through the hotel like you came in. Luckily, we were with spanish-speaking Nataglia so we worked our way through. While jetskiing was fun, I definitely wouldn’t put myself in that situation again. When we weren’t in the water, I felt pretty on edge. I was very aware of my lack of bougie at El San Juan. 

La Factoria in Old San Juan
I felt the most comfortable at La Factoria in Old San Juan during our vacation. It reminded me of a small bar in Williamsburg (partially because there was Janelle Monae playing and partially because the owners were hipsters). The bartenders were true mixologists and did not hold back when it came to drinks. That lit room to the right is actually a secret passageway that leads to a wine bar and a back room for private parties. It was still being constructed when we visited, but we ventured back there anyway and met the owner and a couple of friends – which led to a pretty interesting night (doesn’t the randomness always lead to fun while on vacay?). Sip on some high-grade cocktails and sit in the low windows as you catch an ocean breeze to some good tunes at La Factoria. Definitely a place to visit while in Old San Juan.

La Respuesta
So, remember when I mentioned that nightlife was dead on Mondays in San Juan? It’s because everyone is at La Respuesta. It’s the polar opposite from La Factoria. The drinks remind me of college dive bars, the crowd is fairly young, and the music is loud and full of bass. I can’t even find the words to really describe this place – it felt shady and it was kind of dark, but I had SO much fun. I haven’t been to a party like this…ever. There were competitive dance circles, choreographed group dances, and people just having FUN. We even got in on the dance circle at some point! La Respuesta was a night I will never forget. It’s definitely worth the cab ride.

Historic Old San Juan

Historic Old San Juan is just stunning. It’s everything I imagine a caribbean destination to be – quaint, colorful, and infused with history and culture. There are so many beautiful side streets, historical buildings, and breathtaking forts. Climb if you will, but getting to the top of hills are so worth it – the views from the forts will blow you away. Did I mention there’s ice cream and a Marshalls? You know us shopaholics made a stop, haha. There’s also a trolley if you’d like to go for a ride, though Old San Juan is walkable on a comfortable warm day.
So that ladies and gentlemen was our trip! I definitely plan on going back to Puerto Rico to tackle the wildlife and adventure – I’m still dying to see BioBay and El Yunque. Do you have any recommendations to eat, stay and play? 
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