Prequel- My oldest nephew John Kapon, President of Acker Merrall & Condit (oldest retail wine & liquor store in the US- founded in 1820) as well as special events and wine auctions (largest in Hong Kong), decided to move his family (wife Dasha, daughter Katerina (6) and son Marshall (almost 3) to San Juan, Puerto Rico for business reasons. They bought a three-bedroom condo at Caribe Plaza, around the corner from the Caribe Hilton. They invited me to visit for 10 days in mid-January.
I was greeted and led to my room on the top floor of the original building. NOTE- This was Conrad Hilton's dream- the first hotel built outside the continental US by Hilton in 1949. There were several new additions added over the years, with a total now of 916 rooms & suites, including 652 in the original building tower. They also lay claim to inventing the Pina Colada there in 1954. Of course, I was offered one as I checked in. Across the street is Paseo Caribe Center with 264 villas. On Friday night I went there for free outdoors jazz. There are shops and restaurants in the center. I especially liked El Mercado with a dozen food vendors.
I had breakfast at Palmeras; lunch at the Atlantico Bar & Grill (while relaxing in the hot tub) & dinner at Lemongrass, located by the lagoon rooms with GM Pablo Torres as well as my favorite PR person Betty Gonzalez. The restaurant features Pan Asian Latino cuisine. For a quick snack there was Starbucks and a new discovery for me- Quiznos subs. I took one to go and ate at the pool. There are 17 acres and again, I believe the hotel has the only private beach in San Juan (built before the beaches were declared public). There is a fitness center, pool, hot tub, tennis courts, spa, game room and 8 restaurants. Why leave the property? I did visit Old San Juan, which is only a few minutes away by taxi.
Stops included: Cafe Don Ruiz, Tortuga Bakery, Hecho en Casa, Cosecha Mia and Deaverdura. Along the way I (we) learned all about the area. She stopped at many historic sites and even walked me over to El Convento Hotel where I had an appointment after the tour. Ask if she will be your guide when you book. It is worth the effort. www.spoonfoodtours.com
Viator had arranged a 4PM tour aboard La Paseadora II at the last pier (#6) along the promenade. After I finished my Spoon food and history tour of Old San Juan I had an hour before my boat tour left. I decided to walk along the piers while noting that four cruise ships were docked. I thought about taking a taxi but a very helpful police officer told me I was better off walking past all the other piers. Traffic was bumper to bumper with buses and taxis picking up cruise ship passengers. The Puerto Rico Information Center is along the walkway just before Pier 1. El Morro and San Cristobal Forts are about ½ hour walk from each other. They plus the Palacio de Santa Catalina are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
San Juan Water Tours at Pier 6 includes six companies that have combined to use the last pier. There are fishing tours, inflatable boats, paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis etc. When I arrived I was told I was the only passenger on the 4PM tour and could I take the 5:30 boat tour. I had another appointment back in Condado and told the lady manning the desk that fact. The GM Luis Barreto told her I was welcome aboard for a complimentary one-hour tour on La Paseadora II and he would be right there. Now that is service. I had a fabulous time and was back on shore in time for my next appointment.
Pickup was at my family’s condo in Condado and the driver made several other stops for other participants. There was a rendezvous with another pickup van at a stop near the entrance where we could have something to eat and drink.
This may have been my proudest day as I did the entire trail and never once fell. I skipped the swim in the waterfall. Yes, I needed a bit of assistance where there was no handrail and Alex was both knowledgeable and very helpful to me. After the hike we climbed the 96 steps to the top of Yokahu Tower for a great view of the forest. We stopped at the same restaurant where the pickup groups met for some classic Puerto Rican food (not included in the tour). Then everyone got dropped off at his or her pickup point. www.elyunque.com
The catamaran took our group of about 25 people to the deserted island of Cayo Icacos for sun, swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and just plain relaxing. Snorkeling was cancelled due to the high winds and rough seas of the Caribbean. The captain and three-person crew were great. Lots of drinks, both alcoholic (rum) and non-were available. Snacks were always refilled. Around an hour into the fun it was lunch with unlimited portions of cold cuts, salad and fruit. I needed some help getting ashore and back. All I had to do was ask and it was done. www.dragonflyadventurespr.com www.eastislandpr.com