About this time last year, with Spring Break looming on the horizon and wanderlust creeping into my veins, I sat Mike down in the kitchen. The kids were in bed, the Scotch was poured and it was time to talk Plans (Mike’s least favorite topic). “Babe,” I said. “I really want to go somewhere different for Spring Break. We spend most of our vacation days visiting family…wouldn’t it be nice to take a trip, just the four of us?”
He was in! Sorta. Mike started droning on about “taking a friday off work” and “road trip weekend” and “driving somewhere in the three hour range” and after much smiling and nodding on my part I interjected with, “I WANT A WARM BEACH.” Confused, Mike started looking up the average daily temp of the Outer Banks in March.
Silly, silly Mike.
Anyway, we settled on Puerto Rico by default. It turns out our passports were expired, and Puerto Rico was simply a more affordable vacation than the Florida Keys (who knew?). But what we didn’t realize at the time is how good it was for our boys to experience a different culture, how amazingly family-friendly Puerto Rico is, and how our boys would beg – all year long – to go back. And with days filled with snorkling, jungle hiking, fort exploring, kite flying, and tons of ice cream….can you blame them?
It was also the first time the boys realized that not everyone speaks english. We have friends who speak a ton of different languages (and Raines’ school is pretty diverse), but typically, most people at least try to speak English. Puerto Rico was the first time they boys were confronted with people who didn’t speak English…period. Their little minds were blown! They somehow had associated the English language with being human – like you’re born with it. Expanding their horizons has been one of my greatest joys as a mom, and Puerto Rico was a perfectly easy place to start.
Like any amazing trip, we learned a ton. Keep reading for our favorite places to stay, eat, and play while visiting Puerto Rico with kiddos in tow.
Where To Stay
We adore the Caribe Hilton in San Juan. It’s not within walking distance to Old San Jan (I suggest renting a car, but there is a shuttle that can take you to Old San Juan), but this resort is perfect for families with kids. Multiple pools (with differing depths), hammocks, and it’s own private beach (which is rare in PR) make this our favorite place to stay. Raines spent hours snorkling in the little cove. They also have a fun playground, a major water-based playground for older kids, and at night? You can sit outside enjoying cocktails right next to a large open space where the kiddos can run around.
Here’s what a day at the Caribe Hilton might look like…..
Good morning, Puerto Rico
Seriously good mohitos at the many pool-side bars….
At the end of the day, cocktails. While Pax worked on his jedi moves.
Where To EAT
We had a few hit-and-misses, but here are the places we’d happily go back to:
We were thrilled to find Super Foods, the Puerto Rician version of Whole Foods. Whether you are looking for gluten-free goodies, or vegan products, or just want some fresh tasting food (much of the restaurant food is fried)… this is the spot.
The Ice Cream in Carts
If you see these guys pushing the ice cream carts around Old San Juan (and you will)….YES. YESYESYESYES.
Coffee snobs, this is for you. Amazing coffee, roasted on the premises (it’s good hot or iced), as well as yummy sandwiches and toast/bagels/etc. Our favorite morning stop.
El Jibarito is an Old San Juan tradition. Sit outside, order fun drinks, and don’t miss the Monfongo – the house (and Puerto Rican) specialty. This entire block is fun to wander around at night.
Old San Juan: Bistro St. Germain
The best cocktails (or mocktails) on the island (not too sweet!!!), fresh salads, and simple sandwiches, Bistro St. Germain is the best place to go when you are sick of restaurant food. (They do have a more extensive menu, but we stuck to their simple food. SO. GOOD.)
More on this beach later, but just know that the entire beach is lined with these small food shacks. You can find bars, pizza joints, taco places, and fancy restaurants all in this one strip. Get food to go, or use the shade as respite from the sun. (Also, the coconuts come with or without rum.) Totally worth a trip just for the food alone.
Random Taco Shack on The Way To El Yunque
If you find yourself headed up to El Yunque for a little jungle hiking / waterfall swimming but you end up in an argument because #HANGRY….this place. It’s right on the way as you drive up the mountain. There are two, actually, but we loved the one on the left. Fresh coconut water, and seriously good mystery meat. Haha – just kidding. I’m pretty sure it was chicken. ANYWAY….tacos, skewers, empanadas – all simple, but really good. And if you go inside, it’s worth waiting for a seat by the window…
Next up? Our favorite things to do in Old San Juan, and two perfect day trips.