Mission Escape The Arctic Tundra: San Juan Edition

So unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard that this has pretty much been the worst winter ever in Boston. Historic snow and frigid temperatures and everything that we all love so very much, right?

No, not right. So wrong. I am sick of this. I can’t do it anymore. What has always been my one regret regarding my college choice? Not considering warm places. I considered states like Massachusetts and Michigan but never California or Florida. What was wrong with me? God only knows.

Ending up in Boston has been fab–it has brought friends, education (woo!), and endless fun. Unfortunately, it has also brought blizzards and black ice and winds so cold they make parts of your body hurt that you didn’t know existed. You know this is all painfully true. But, being in college, we’re still #blessed to have breaks from this awful winter built into our schedules. Rather than going the Cancún route and literally drowning my liver in…liquids…I chose to visit San Juan, Puerto Rico with a couple of friends! We hoped that it would be relaxing, bright and sunny, and just the vacation that we needed from all things academia and the arctic tundra that is Boston. Read on for a review of our wonderful inn, pics to remind you that warmth does indeed exist, and for recommendations on where to eat (you know you want it) in a place so wonderful I’m considering living there for the rest of my life.

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We stayed at the Andalucía, a small hotel that sat a few blocks away from the beach. Since we were a group of three chicas, we stayed in the deluxe suite, with two queen beds and a kitchen! Needless to say, we did nearly no cooking, except for my afternoon oatmeal after long days at the beach (LOL such beach food right?!). The hotel was exactly what we wanted; quaint, comfortable, convenient, and authentic. The owners were so kind and offered all sorts of recommendations on what to do during our time in San Juan. The hotel itself was adorably bright and homey, with touches like a sun deck where we spent many an early morning and a jacuzzi to relax in at night. The rates were amazing for all that you get if you’re not looking for a resort experience, which we weren’t. A stay at the Andalucía will have you feeling right at home in PR. GO GO GO!

1531942_10206532499495054_3656509545008878109_nIn terms of activities, there’s lots to do in San Juan and the surrounding areas. Most visitors hit up El Yunque, the rainforest, and the Bacardi distillery. We did neither because a) I don’t exactly excel in the wilderness and b) because we’d rather not spend an exorbitant amount of cash money to tour a factory and get a drink. We spend the majority of our time lazing on the beach and sipping mojitos. We spent one day in Old San Juan exploring the old city, which is a must if you’re in the area. The buildings are vibrantly painted and the historical sights are really something to see. As our hotel manager recommended, go once during the day and once at night to really see it in both settings.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 10.06.05 PMLet’s be honest; we both know why you’re here reading this post. If you know what’s good for you (and I know you do), you’re curious about what we ate in PR. To begin, we ate like queens. I want to eat plantains always and forever. Puerto Ricans are doing it right, I’m telling you. For breakfast, we feasted twice at two spots that never disappointed. Our first and second to last breakfasts were had at Cafe Del Loto, where we dined on the best bread I’ve ever had (seriously), eggs scrambled to perfection, and fruit cups topped with cinnamon, honey, and whipped cream. Why I’ve not been eating fruit like this for my whole life is a mystery to me. The toast though. Let’s talk about it. I don’t have a picture because I usually ate it so fast, but it was (maybe) some sort of ciabatta, toasted until the outside was crisp but the inside was warm and chewy. The cafe’s special toast is topped with butter, cinnamon, and honey; again, why haven’t I been eating food like this for my whole life? Needless to say, we were all in heaven. We dined twice at Ocean Park Cafe for healthier options like green smoothies, avocado (woo!) and scrambled eggs with all the veggies. Mama was craving a spinach, mango, pineapple smoothie and she got it at this spot. Highly recommend as a healthy option!

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Now the really good stuff: dinner. Our first dinner in San Juan was had at B de Burro, a Mexican restaurant across the street from our hotel. We shared chips and guac (praise jesus hallelujah for guac), and dined on lettuce tacos, quesadillas, and fish tacos, all of which exceeded expectations. We paired them with margaritas, the obvious choice. We ended the dinner on a (sugar) high note (HA do you get my joke? punny…) with churros and chocolate. The chocolate tasted like it was straight from a knock-off Hershey’s chocolate sauce bottle, but the churros were warm, crisp, sweet, and the perfect ending to day one.

Later in the week, we dined at Cueva Del Mar, a restaurant that’s known for its seafood. I ordered the mofongo twice and have no regrets. Mofongo is basically a dish of paintains that have been lightly friends, mashed, and formed into a cup shape, then filled with a protein and sauce. I tried chicken and shrimp and could have eaten both for days. Another night, we visited Mango’s with friends from school and while we were initially enticed by their specials (two for one apps?! two for one drinks?!), we were more than impressed with their food. If my memory serves me correctly, we shared the sweet plantains with ground beef and cheese, the hummus with chips, and the crispy coconut shrimp with pineapple. Lordt help me I want it all again right now. I chose the ceviche as my main dish and could literally inject it into my veins. Truth. Check out their Yelp page for food pics.

So at this point you’re probably wondering what our best meal in San Juan was, right? If you weren’t before, you are now. Our best meal, by a long shot, was our final meal at La Madre in Old San Juan. Our hotel manager described it as a hipster spot with great food and awesome, inexpensive margaritas so you know we were in. Little did we know what a treat we were in for. We all started with margaritas (strawberry for two of us, classic for the other) and sucked them down (okay, maybe only I sucked it down). As an appetizer, we ordered the cheese fondue with chips, not expecting much but hoping for the best. Let me tell you right now, this was potentially one of the best cheese dishes I’ve ever had. Ever. Yes. It was a fondue of monterey jack cheese and white wine topped with pico de gallo. As we dipped our chips into the cheese and shoved them into our mouths as fast as we humanly could, we thanked the gods for creating all things dairy. I seriously haven’t eaten anything that good in a very long time, as you can tell. After we ate our body weight in queso, we were so full that we almost (almost) regretted ordering main dishes. Alas, my fish tacos arrived at the table covered in cheese and all I could do was laugh. They were delicious, served with black beans and guac; needless to say, I was convinced that I might turn into a ball of cheese at the stroke of midnight. If and when you visit San Juan, go to La Madre or you might as well have not gone to San Juan at all.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 10.39.55 PMThere you have the highlights of San Juan, Puerto Rico. I also highly recommend going on runs along the beach or down McLeary Ave, because if you’re going to eat and drink like we did and then lay out on a beach, working off those noms in 80+ degree sunny weather isn’t exactly the worst place to do it. Visit (or stay on/near!) Ocean Park beach, which is one of the best (if not the best) beaches in Puerto Rico. As we roasted laid under the sun, we were surrounded by Puerto Ricans enjoying themselves on the weekends and fellow tourists during the week. It’s far enough away from the more touristy part of PR that it doesn’t feel like you’re surrounded by tacky/gross Americans. The water is crystal clear and so warm that we jumped right into it. Sounds just like snowy Boston, right? #TakeUsBack #SpringBreakRound2 #WeAreReady

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-G

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