Every year we go on a huge family vacation with my husband’s entire family. At this point there are 16 of us, in 3 different states on opposite ends of the country all trying to coordinate and agree on a common meeting point. The only non-negotiable sticking point for my sun worshipping in-laws is that it must be warm and sunny. This year the destination of choice was San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Intercontinental Hotel.
None of us had been to Puerto Rico before and we didn’t know what to expect. I think it’s safe to say we loved it. For New Yorkers there couldn’t be an easier trip – direct and under 4 hours. For everyone the lack of customs and immigration was a huge bonus after a couple of years of going to Mexico. The lack of people soliciting you the minute you get off the plane is incredibly refreshing. And, most importantly for this family – the food in Old San Juan was fantastic.
Here are my San Juan Stand Outs:
Intercontinental Hotel – Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that we had a snafu when checking in – our room wasn’t ready for a very, very long time and my daughter had a massive meltdown because of it. How did they rectify this? They gave us an enormous room upgrade – I mean HUGE. So, that made us feel better. But, what really won us over was the incredibly kind, attentive and accommodating staff. Professional and friendly without being unctuous. They made our stay exceptionally lovely. And the pool and beach are great too.
Food, activities and food click on!
Old San Juan – Charming, European infused and easily walkable we loved going into Old San Juan. I don’t know what we expected but especially with all of the holiday lights and decorations Old San Juan felt authentic and yet almost unreal at the same time. In a strange way it reminded me more of Venice with its windy streets and low painted houses with adorned balconies than anywhere else. (But without the crowds)
El Yunque Rainforest: What do you do on a rainy day? Go to the rainforest! Though a couple of people told us to rent our own car and head to El Yunque ourselves to save money we decided that with 11 of us going, including 5 kids ages 2-8 we would go with a shuttled tour guide from the hotel. It was a great decision. We easily got from the visitor’s center to the waterfall to the tower to the perfect length hike for the kids with our guide. He taught everyone about the various flora and fauna and kept the kids interested. I always find that my kids do much better in these sorts of situations with a guide than with us alone. They’re more embarrassed to whine in front of strangers!
Baru Restaurant: My vote for best restaurant we ate at in San Juan. Puerto Rican food – fish, steak, plantains, beans – done in a modern way with amazing flavors and combinations. Hard to describe the complexity and pure deliciousness of our meal – but if you go to San Juan you MUST eat here.
Pikayo Restaurant: Gorgeous in every way – the food, the décor, the art – Pikayo is one of Top Chef Master Wilo Benet’s restaurants. How did I find out about it? On Twitter of course! I put a tweet out asking for really fancy restaurant recommendations for my mother in-law’s 70th bday dinner and @rj_c responded with Pikayo. We had a windowed private room overlooking the rocky shoreline where the waves crashed and the giant full moon rose. The food was refined, beautifully crafted and yummy! Highly recommend it for a fancier more sophisticated meal.
(For more ways to use social media on vacation you can check out my article in Mom Blog Magazine about social tools for travel!)
Our last night in San Juan ended with an earthquake – really. But what was more surprising was how much we really enjoyed Puerto Rico. I want to go back just to eat at Marmalade – the one restaurant we didn’t make it to that was on our “OMG look at that menu! list.”
One of the upsides of having so many of us on one vacation is that we tend to get a ton of amazing pictures. One of my sister in-laws dutifully makes a photobook every year that captures the best of the trip. The only downside – she hoards her pictures all to herself on her hard drive! For years we’ve all hounded her to upload them to a common photo-sharing site so we can all view and save them, and pool all of our pictures. I can’t recommend this highly enough. So…to give you a little nudge in that direction….
Snapfish $50 Giveaway! To win a $50 giftcard to Snapfish so you can create a photo book or other photo merchandise from their fabulous store leave a comment below telling me what your favorite family trip destination is or what your ultimate family dream vacation would be! Giveaway ends Monday January 31st, open to US Residents only.