In San Juan, bright colors, unique cuisine, and Spanish history make up a unique experience of hospitality, that caters to the tastes of every traveler.
If a place has explosive color, sensational scenery, and its own national cuisine — it’s right up our alley. Puerto Rico is all of these things, plus a lot of upbeat music and fresh rum cocktails...I can’t believe it took us so long to visit!
While planning our trip to the Virgin Islands, we realized that Puerto Rico was just a 30-minute plane ride away. (When I say plane, I mean an eight person aircraft, in which I got to sit copilot!) Since it was so close, we added Puerto Rico to our itinerary immediately and started planning, what would be a very memorable experience. Once we arrived, the island life transported us to an exotic place, so unique and colorful, I couldn't believe we were still in the US. But after spending American dollars on expensive cab rides, we felt right at home.
We experienced Puerto Rico from The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, a glitzy and glamorous place to call home for a few days. The San Juan property is about ten minutes from the airport, which was convenient. But it’s 20 minutes away from Old San Juan, which meant a $20 cab ride. Regardless of being far from the center, the hotel is a lovely inlet to Puerto Rican leisure and luxury.
Images from The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
Old History in San Juan
The history of Old San Juan seems to linger in the streets of the city. Christopher Columbus founded San Juan way back in 1493. At the time, San Juan was called “Puerto Rico,” meaning rich port. But after the Spanish settled the city in 1521, its name was changed back to San Juan and the whole island was named Puerto Rico. The U.S. acquired Puerto Rico in 1898 after the Spanish-American war. Even though it’s technically American, the island still pays homage to its roots by continuing lively traditions. Now San Juan is the oldest city in the U.S and the central cruise port in the Caribbean. It’s busy and full of excited tourists. Like all of the Caribbean islands, San Juan has every water sport and activity a traveler could dream of, but with its own ethnic flair.
A Tropical Hotel With it All
When we pulled up to the hotel, the grand façade and welcoming entrance felt as charming as the other Ritz-Carlton locations we’ve visited. Kind bellman greeted us happily, and were quick to get us settled. The first thing we noticed about the property is that it’s huge. There is a sprawling pool area surrounded by immaculate gardens, leading to a stretch of clean, beachfront space. Inside, there’s a 12,000 square foot spa and bustling casino. There are six visit-worthy restaurants on the property, and all of it is just 20 minutes from everything that downtown San Juan has to offer.
Although the hotel is large and packed with entertainment, the chic style and design are not lacking. Like any Ritz-Carlton estate, we wandered through the resort and admired the tastes of elegance that make up brand’s established luxury. In the main halls, chandeliers kept the space bright while spotless marble floors reflected the design’s coolest features. And it wouldn’t be a Puerto Rican hotel without an ode to color, which was placed brilliantly throughout the design. My favorite detail was the abstract artwork by Quetzalcoatl, a famous Puerto Rican artist
Go for Club Level
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — always go for club privileges — especially at Ritz-Carlton properties. The service is personalized, so everyone knows your name and knows what you like. The best part is that you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, canapés, and drinks in the cozy lounge. It’s all included in the price! We find that club level is a special way to get away from the crowds and absorb the atmosphere of a place. Plus, the views from the property to the horizon are unbeatable.
A Suite with Simple Sophistication
Especially when it comes to suave design, less really is more. During our stay at The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, we stayed in a Pool View Junior Suite. When I walked through the door, the blatant simplicity was obvious, yet the plush bed and couches gave the space a soft and comfortable feeling.
The room was well appointed and spacious, which emphasized the sophisticated mood of the room. We had a large bathroom area complete with Asprey amenities, soft towels and plenty of space for us both to get ready in. Although we didn’t have a balcony, awesome views of the beach and pool area inspired us to go out and enjoy ourselves.
Dining at Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
The dining options at the hotel are aplenty. The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan has five diverse restaurants: Ocean Bar and Grill, BLT Steak, Mares, The Lobby Lounge, and Il Mulino New York. The restaurants offer everything you could possibly crave, from old school Italian at Il Mulino New York to Caribbean-influenced fare at Mares.
We ate most of our meals in the club lounge, but had to venture out to sample the array of options. BLT Steak was incredible! Every cocktail and dish was perfectly flavored and presented. Since we weren’t in the mood for steak, we had the chicken and the tuna entrees and I only have excellent praises for both. Their cocktails are also a must, especially the Boricua Mule and the Smoked Bold Fashioned
If you like sitting on the beach, drinking cold beer, and eating fish tacos — you and I would get along well! It’s one of my favorite things, and the Ocean Bar and Grill does it well. One evening, we kept it casual and had fresh sushi at the bar in the lobby. Wow, the sushi rolls were huge; at least twice the size of a normal roll, so order conservatively! It might have been the first sushi restaurant where we actually left full!
Spa Day for Two
I’m excited to say that I finally convinced Chris to get a pedicure, and he loved it! Although I doubt he’ll admit it. The spa at the The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan is stunning, and well worth the time it takes to indulge. We had an “anti-aging, guava, 130-minute manicure and pedicure” that were a literal taste of paradise. We were served snacks made with guava and the infusion of guava in the products smelled heavenly. Based on the benefits of tropical fruit, like Vitamin C and lycopene, the treatment brightened and smoothed our skin while saturating it with nutrients. A little cane sugar exfoliation and oil massage will convince any guy of the magic of spa treatments. I didn’t feel younger afterwards, but wow we both felt incredibly relaxed and left with impressive nails. The gym facility is also upscale and looks over the pool area. You have to work off all the mofongo somehow
The Beautiful El Yunque Rainforest
Puerto Rico has more to offer than Old San Juan and tasty rum. It’s also home to the only tropical rainforest in the States, El Yunque Rainforest. The rainforest consists of 28,000 acres of vibrant, green nature and plenty of streams and waterfalls to cool off in. The The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan teams up with Castillo Tours to offer fantastic experiences around the island. We got a little adventurous and went on the El Yunque Rainforest trek.
The tour was semi-private, and almost six hours long. The tour took us through some of the most beautiful parts of the rainforest, and to the La Coca Waterfall where we cooled off with a refreshing swim! We also got to check out the El Portal Visitor Center, Yokahú Tower, and La Mina Trail. The tour is moderately challenging, but only requires around 45 minutes of semi-athletic hiking each way. The trek is well worth it and is best rewarded with daiquiris afterwards :)
Enjoying The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
If jungle tours aren’t really your thing, you’ll find rejoice in the pool area and beach space. If you get your fill of sunbathing, The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan has tons of cool experiences to offer. Just ask the concierge to help you plan an adventure. Try taking a taxi into Old San Juan and spend the day hopping around the city on a food tour. Or, just get lost in the colorful streets. Don’t forget the obligatory rum cocktail, and do yourself a favor: try mofongo at least once!
America’s Tropical Destination
For the travelers seeking romantic, refuge or an exploratory escapade, The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan has it all. The experience at this resort can be as private or as outgoing as you want. There’s a bit of everything at the hotel, so it’s ideal for families and couples alike. Puerto Rico is one of the best destinations you could choose if you’re American and don’t have a passport. It has unusual experiences that you’d find in abroad destinations, and of course remarkable beaches. San Juan was one of those last minute plans that reiterate the joys of travel. It’s full of surprise, meaningful experiences, and cultural traditions to borrow for a while.
For more information about The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, visit their website: