Trip Coach: February 20, 2007
Suzanne Van Atten, author of Moon Puerto Rico, answered your questions about Puerto Rico.
Sarver, PA: My sister and I are going to Vieques, March 3-10, with the last day spent in PR and staying overnight at the Sheraton. Should we hire a guide, to help us see the highlights of old San Juan? What restaurant would you recommend for dinner?
Suzanne Van Atten: Hi! Thanks for your question.
You definitely do not need a guide to see Old San Juan. It's compact and easy to get around on foot. Plus it's laid out in a grid, so just pick up a map at the Puerto Rico Tourism Company located in a little yellow Colonial building (La Casita on Plaza de Darsenes) near the bay and the cruise ship docks.
For dinner, I highly recommend Aquaviva on Calle Fortaleza for amazing seafood in a magical setting that makes you feel like you're underwater. My other suggestion is Baru, a lovely Mediterranean-influenced restaurant on Calle San Sebastian.
Hoboken, NJ: Looking for the combination of a spa and horseback riding in Puerto Rico. Any suggestions? Thanks
Suzanne Van Atten: Despite Puerto Rico's long equine history, there are few opportunities for horseback riding for visitors. To combine both spa services and horseback riding, you're going to have to pay dearly and head for the northwest coast to the lovely, non-touristy town of Isabela. Villa Montana Beach Resort is a sublime, high-end resort with full spa services, and horseback riding is provided by the nearby Tropical Trail Rides.
Oak Park, IL: Where is there good snorkeling on the main island of Puerto Rico?
Suzanne Van Atten: Your best bet is to head to Rincon, the surf and snorkel capital of the west coast or La Parguera on the southwest coast. Be sure to book space on a snorkel/dive cruise. They know the best places to go and can provide all the equipment you need. If you're feeling adventurous, most outfitters offer Discover Dives for first time divers.
Valparaiso, IN: We'll be traveling to Puerto Rico next month and we are looking for a place to stay between Ponce and Yabucoa right on the coast that is inexpensively priced for four people staying together. However, we would like to know it is clean and well maintained. What do you suggest?
Suzanne Van Atten: The pickings are pretty slim between Ponce and Yabucoa, and what's there is quite modest in the way of modern amenities. You might try Caribe Playa Beach Resort or Villa del Carmen in Patillas. Or if you don't mind a little detour through some windy but lovely mountain roads, you might head north of Salinas to Hotel Banos de Coamo. This basic, family-friendly hotel is located by the natural hot springs, Banos de Coamo, a favorite getaway for locals.
Ridgecrest, CA: This is an embarassingly simple question. Four of us will be flying into San Juan shortly after noon on March 25th. We need transportation to the port to board a cruise ship for an 11:00 p.m. departure and would prefer not to commit ourselves to the cruise line's transportation service. What other options are open to us, what might we expect to pay, and how might we make best use of the afternoon hours before we board? Thanks!
Suzanne Van Atten: You can expect to pay about $16 for a taxi ride from the airport to the cruise ship piers in Old San Juan, plus $.50-$1 per piece of luggage over two pieces. Plus tip.
There are couple of options for your afternoon hours in San Juan. You could rent a car at the airport and head southeast to the nearby rainforest in El Yunque Caribbean National Forest, where you can hike and picnic. Afterwards, you can return the rental car to the airport then take a taxi to the cruise ship piers.
You could also spend your time exploring Old San Juan, which is where the cruise ship docks are located. The town is compact, easily traversed on foot and jam-packed with things to do and see.
Check out one of the Spanish fortresses -- the 16th century Castillo de Felipe del Morro or 17th century Castillo de San Cristobal. See the extensive collection of Latin American folk art at the Museo de Las Americas. Do some shopping at import shops and local craft stores along Calle Fortaleza. Dine on hearty, traditional Puerto Rico cuisine in a casual setting at El Jibarito on Calle Sol or try the upscale, creative Caribbean cuisine at the Parrot Club on Calle Fortaleza.
The action doesn't get started until pretty late in the clubs, but you might check out Divinio Bocadito on Calle de la Cruz. The tiny Spanish bar offers salsa dancing and authentic tapas starting at 6 p.m.
Princeton, NJ: My husband (43) and son (16) will be spending four days in Puerto Rico, just the two of them, from March 12-16. My other son and I will be joining them on the 16th, for a week in Culebra. While the two of them are in Puerto Rico alone, what should they be sure to experience? They are flying from Philadelphia to San Juan, and renting a car. They both like adventure and exploring over sitting on a beach.
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