Our home base in Old San Juan was exactly what we wanted in terms of location (and everything else). It was so close to many restaurants and beautiful spaces that it encouraged us to walk and explore all over, burning off some of the rum drinks that we enjoyed while relaxing in Luquillo.
Casa Melaza was the cute rum bar just around the corner from our hotel. It was a lovely space with door open to the street and a healthy selection of rum. We enjoyed all of the rums we tasted, but we weren’t thrilled with the service. There was no menu or tasting list with prices, and when I asked the staff member got an attitude. I’m not sure what it was, maybe a little arrogance, that just got to us, and we agreed we would hesitate to go back.
Aside from that, everything was perfect, with delicious food and lovely people. One of the staples of my Puerto Rico diet (and half the reason I need a real diet now) was my love for Mallorca Paninis, thin pressed sandwiches stuffed with ham and cheese and sprinkled with delectably messy powdered sugar. The salty ham and cheese paired with the sweet? Heavenly.
Also heavenly? A salon/spa/cocktail lounge in one. We discovered Anam Cocktail Spa in the evening as it was about to close and had a quick cocktail on their terrace in a beautiful, dusky setting overlooking the city and the sea.
And we vowed to return the next day for cocktails and spa!
Massages were $1/minute, and anything above $20 included a glass of sangria.
Our massages were done side-by-side in an airy room with light music playing in the background, and I swear I would fly to San Juan just for this massage. It was blissful. I was in a sleeping/awake state the whole time, and then gazed out the door with a strong and delicious sangria after.
We spent a good chunk of our time in Old San Juan visiting El Convento, an iconic spot in the city, and for good reason. This was one of the only places we visited on our brief layover on the way home from Grenada, and we knew we wanted to go back. It was our first stop, for a morning mojito in their gorgeous courtyard.
And then we went back later to El Picoteo, a practical tapas institution that was recommended by many people, including Molly.
We had rum drinks and a couple of tapas, followed by a long walk for the sunset.
Followed by another walk and then a return to El Picoteo for more rum drinks and tapas. It actually felt really good to stretch out the meal and drinks with some movement and fresh air.
We loved the bartender at El Picoteo, who had moved from Michigan (or Wisconsin?) with his fiance, gotten married there, and stayed. It made me want to pick up my life and move there too!
We had some amazing sausages in wine and classic gambas al ajillo, in addition to Manchego with truffle honey. Yum.
And we loved El Convento so much we returned for breakfast the next day, and you guessed it, a Mallorca Panini (with mimosas).
Our final day in Puerto Rico was super hot (even for me), so in addition to lots of wandering, we also sought cool breezes in shady courtyards with cold drinks. You can’t go to San Juan without a trip to Barrachina for a Piña Colada where they were created!
We talked cocktails with the fun bartender while sipping slushy, coconutty deliciousness and loved it. The only downside of that experience was the arrival of throngs of cruise ship passengers in town for the day. They basically fit the stereotypical American tourist bill; loud, pushy, rude, unwilling to try new things. We had a chuckle and bushed it off, too happy with our cocktails and relaxation to let their takeover bother us.
All good things must come to an end, so before we left for the airport we had one last taste of the flavor of San Juan. Nono’s was another open-air spot with a huge menu, and we went for a tangy ceviche and lobster-stuffed empanadas. Delicioso!
San Juan has so much to see, do, and taste, and we only got started on making our way through this magical little city. We fell in love with Puerto Rico, and I hope someday that you get to as well.