San Juan, Puerto Rico

cobblestones and colors of Old San Juan

The best part of traveling is finding all the little hidden surprises that quietly sneak up on us around every corner. Each opportunity we embark on a journey into a new environment, we enter it with an open heart and excited eyes, always hoping to discover something satisfying and unexpected. We’re continually looking to experience the rich culture and local heritage that makes the community unique. A recent trip sponsored through the generosity of BlogHer and Sheraton Hotels to San Juan made Puerto Rico a special trip. With some of their guidance, recommendations and sponsorship, the two and half days that we whirled through Puerto Rico was filled with amazing food and cultural awareness.

The new Sheraton look is full of modern energy

As soon as we stepped foot into the beautiful new Sheraton Hotel Convention Center in San Juan, we felt like we walked into a contemporary wonderland. This was far from the expected stale businessman’s hotel that we were anticipating. The design, styling and mood was chic, hip, exciting and fun. Modern music set the energy level on high at the stylish bars and there was even a casino in the hotel! On a more intimate and private level, their Sheraton Club Level Lounge offered the perfect space for us to set up office. The Sheraton Club (club level access and lounge) space provided a lovely buffet breakfast and plenty of beautiful views for us to work from. Best of all, the Link@Sheraton (their internet café’) always had wireless available for us to stay connected online. After indulging in the amazing local foods, we actually went to their Sheraton Fitness gym and worked out at midnight! The complete gym facility had everything we needed to burn off all the calories we consumed during the trip.

Cocktails at Choices, The Sheraton Convention Center’s signature restaurant

 The most impressive story behind the hotel was how proud they were of their celebrated Female Executive Chef Rocio Varela, commandeering their beautiful and stylishly designed Choices restaurant. Chef Varela is a Puerto Rican native who left and earned her years of experience working coast to coast in the mainland’s restaurant industry, garnering her accolades for her fresh, local and creative culinary masterpieces. The Sheraton enticed her back home and she is rocking the Choices kitchen.

colorful cocktails and their new convention meeting rooms

The Puerto Rican people are so friendly, warm and inviting. It’s hard not to strike up a conversation with a passionate local when we had questions about where to find the best local food. Marcello was the first person we met and he was actually one of the concierge staff at the Sheraton, all of whom were a pleasure to talk to. We just asked him a simple question about where to find the best local food and coffee and Marcello immediately shared his list of favorites with fierce passion. We immediately trusted him from the moment he shared his friendly smile.

During the first morning in amazing Old San Juan, Marcello guided us to the morning jewel of the city, Caficultura, their local coffee house that boasts some of the best and most well crafted coffee in the city. If home is where the heart is, after finding Caficultura, we were home.

morning coffee art at Caficultura in Old San Juan

It is always high priority for us to find a great coffee spot when we travel. Morning coffee is one of those rituals which helps our souls gently open from their night’s sleep. And Caficultura has to be one of the best we have come across on any of our travels abroad or adventures at home.

High open ceilings with gorgeous light flowing through the windows. A staff that greets you like an old friend or a new love. Jugo de China (Puerto Rican for orange juice) freshly squeezed from super sweet oranges. French toast with a pineapple sauce that you’d sell your siblings for. And the coffee.  Oh the coffee.

pineapple french toast at Caficultura, Old San Juan

Perfectly roasted, bringing out the flavor and strength of the beans without burning and overly bittering them. Their baristas steam the milk to perfection. Velvety smooth foam and milk rolled into the espresso making a perfect morning’s cappuccino. Sometimes with the added luxury of artistic foam styling stemming from their skills in competing in international barista competitions. We were there every morning. And afternoon. And always will be in our hearts.

Throughout Old San Juan, the rich tapestry of the history, culture and colorful buildings stood out majestically against the blue island skies of Puerto Rico. The narrow cobble stone lined streets, warm welcome of the locals and the pride in their amazing powdered sugar coated mallorcas were just a few of the reasons that make Puerto Rico an island paradise.

local lizard at El Yunque Rainforest during our tour there

If you haven’t had a Puerto Rican Mallorca, you’re in for a heart pounding surprise. Mallorca’s are soft, sweet, coiled yeast rolls (similar to brioche)  dusted with powdered sugar. They’re eaten either as a pastry topped with butter or filled in the center with ham, egg, cheese and/or bacon. Choose your poison, all are magnificent.

A visit to Puerto Rico would not be complete without a visit to the lush El Yunque rainforest. Just a 45 minute drive away from the Sheraton convention center. The Sheraton made the trip planning so easy and offered many local tours of the area. We really enjoyed the visit to this cool mountainous area. Nestled on the  Eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains, this lush sub-tropical rain forest is home to magical clouds, a thriving plant community and a host of wonderful rare and unique animal species.

Hope you all add Puerto Rico on your list to visit. It’s a gem of an island. Thank you again to BlogHer and Sheraton Hotel.

-Diane and Todd

The lounge area in the Executive suite rooms & views of Old San Juan

Want a getaway of your own? Visit BlogHer’s Sheraton Round-up page, read the blogger re-caps and tell them which of their six destinations you would like to visit in the comments section. You could win a 7 night getaway of your own. The prize is worth $2,550.

•        BlogHer.com Prizes & Promotions Page (aka Round-up Page):  http://goo.gl/WRvwG
•        Rules:  http://goo.gl/5sifi

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Broderick

    In love with the colors on the first photograph!

  2. Dennis

    Wow… stunning, vibrant photos! I love the coffee! How fun

  3. Brooke @ Food Woolf

    Nice get away! Looks like you had some great cocktails and fun adventures while you were away. Beautiful!

  4. Vicki Bensinger

    For years my family would go to Puerto Rico and vacation during the winter holiday, that’s when i was in high school. I’m much, much older now. We loved it. My fondest memory though was when i was 21. I laid $12 down at the black jack table and walked away with $2100. I haven’t gambled since. It was a great experience though.

  5. Yadsia @ShopCookMake

    I was looking for another way to contact you, but couldn’t find an email address. I love your site and I come here a lot, but for the past few days every time I’m here, one of the banners is displaying ads for some sort of porn site. There is even a picture with a woman in underwear. It might be a video, but I didn’t want to click on it. I have a screen shot if you need it.

  6. susan

    wow-your talent overwhelms me. I want to hang out in that orange/red/yellow space!

  7. KimB

    How in the world did you catch that shot, particularly in San Juan, with no cars???

  8. Gina @ Skinnytaste

    Sponsored review to PR, now that’s my kind of review 🙂 I love PR!!

  9. Yadsia @ShopCookMake

    My hometown! I’m so glad you got to spend a few days in Puerto Rico and that you loved it. My people are the best!

  10. Ken G.

    I’ve wanted to go to Puerto Rico my entire adult life… Is now the time?

  11. Kelly Massman

    Your vacation looked amazing, but I would probably choose Maui of those listed for review!

    thanks!
    kmassmanATgmailDOTcom

  12. Tara @ The Butter Dish

    Mr. Sweet Butter and I, along with our whole family, took a cruise last September and landed in Old San Juan.
    It was the highlight of the whole trip. We simply fell in LOVE with the city, the colors, the streets, the people, the history. We would love to plan a trip to go back for a whole week just to visit. It’s simply an amazing city full of vibrant and talented people.
    Of the few pieces of jewelry I have I receive the most compliments from a necklace I purchased at a street vendor right in the square. It’s gorgeous.

    Beautiful photos!!

  13. JulieD

    Breathtakingly beautiful! I love the coffee art too.

  14. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    Beautiful photos. I’ve never been to Puerto Rico, but want to go now! That cappuccino art is simply amazing!

  15. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    My bags are packed; I’m ready to go…and that coffee is absolutely beautiful!

  16. Fran

    It’s funny, just yesterday a friend asked me if I would consider going to Puerto Rico when I was saying I need to get away for a few days. Your photos are spectacular and your words make it seem like a great place to get away to. Thanks!

  17. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    Wow, what an amazing trip!

    The pineapple french toast and that espresso with the face in it…wow. If I tried making 1000 espressos like that, I don’t think I’d ever be able to make anything other than a messy blob 🙂

    Thanks for the awesome and tantalizing trip review. I love the Caribbean!!

  18. Sue/the view from great island

    That coffee and the pineapple french toast…that’s all I’d need. Gorgeous.

  19. Snippets of Thyme

    I’m sold. I’ll start packing. I’ll have one of those devilishly good looking cappucinos with mallorca bread for each meal. The photo tour was beautiful and captivating!

  20. Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking

    Your photos are the next best thing to being there! I’ll have to make that one of our vacation destinations for sure.

  21. Susan in the Boonies

    AMAZING coffee art!!!

    Gorgeous pictures, too!

  22. Steve in ORD

    Oh, man, Puerto Rico is AWESOME. We spent about a week and a half down there a couple years touring the island. I can’t even begin to describe what it was like to take the top off the Jeep and cruise around that place. Yes, it’s hot, muggy, and you are sweaty 2 seconds after walking outside but for anyone that’s never been – GO!

    Take the trip out to Vieques, see the bioluminescent waters, and definitely experience the food. Take a trek to visit the Luquillo Kiosks out on Route 3. Mallorca’s from this little place in Old Town. It’s worth a trip to the the rainforest, going surfing near Rincon, and a trip to Ponce for a day.

    Things are a lot different there than in the States. Be careful – it’s Puerto Rico. There are some areas of the island that are less than desirable but please, don’t let that discourage you from planning a trip.

    Take an empty stomach, lots of memory cards for the camera, and plenty of time to relax.

  23. Bev Weidner

    Amazing photos you guys! I wish I could zap myself right there.

    But then it might freak you out, all, “whoo are youuuu???”

    See you in Nashville this October!

  24. nicole

    I went to PR when I was really young. It’s one of those trips that I will never forget. Beautiful photos are bringing me back.

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