Puerto Rico has come a long way in its recovery from the hurricanes in 2017 and is waiting for you! Seriously, you can help in the recovery by spending your vacation dollars here. And why not, between beautiful beaches, a rainforest, history, and culture, there is so much to show the kids — and you don’t even need a passport. This week we chat with Jessica van Dop DeJesus from The Dining Traveler, who has literally written the book on dining in Puerto Rico and she shares her favorite places to visit.
ON THE PODCAST
00:32 – Talking with Kim and Tamara about Puerto Rico
08:59 – Talking with Jessica
12:22 – What is it like to visit Puerto Rico
14:54 – Where to stay
18:14 – Bioluminescent bays
22:17 – Hotels to stay in
24:20 – Experience local culture
28:23 – How to get around
29:23 – Must try local foods
33:40 – Tips for visiting
35:18 – Where to take a family photo
35:53 – Jessica’s favorite travel gear
58:54 – Where Jessica is going next
40:31 – Next week’s episode
ABOUT JESSICA VAN DOP DEJESUS
Jessica van Dop DeJesus is a food and travel content creator and founder of The Dining Traveler. She began traveling over twenty years ago as a young Marine and has lived in a variety of places from Okinawa, Japan to Baghdad, Iraq. From serving as a translator in the Senegalese countryside to interviewing chefs in Peru, she loves learning about new cultures and people.
She has traveled to over fifty countries and lived in six, fueling her appetite for travel. When she’s not traveling, she’s a home with her Dutchrican family in Washington, DC. You can also see her writing in publications such as Travel Channel, Modern Luxury, Edible, Southern Living, and Telemundo.
TIPS FOR VISITING PUERTO RICO
- As you know Puerto Rico was hit with a category 5 hurricane in late 2017. Don’t let that knowledge stop you from visiting though, the island has made great progress in rebuilding. Plus your tourism dollars will add to the money it takes for the island to continue to rebuild.
- There are many areas of the island to stay, though if this is something you are worried about, the southwest coast has the least amount of damage from the hurricane. The beaches there are very calm, and it is highly recommended that if you are traveling with younger kids and you want to hit some beaches you should head over to the southwest side of the island.
- The Combate Beach Resort is a great locally owned hotel to stay in if you are thinking of staying on the southwest side of the island. Close to the beach with easy access. There are a few other hotels you can stay but most of this area of the island is Airbnb or rentals.
- The outer islands are very beautiful and since you have to take a ferry or a small plane to get to them, they are far less crowded. The islands are inhabited, but not with many people, making visiting the pristine beaches an experience you won’t get many other places.
- If you are looking to experience bioluminescent bays, Puerto Rico has three of them. There is Vieques (or Mosquito Bay as called by tourists), which is the brightest, then Laguna Grande in Fajardo and also La Parguera.
- San Juan is a great place to stay as your vacation base. You can get to a lot of different places in about an hour.
- The El Conquistador Resort is a great resort to stay for families. They have a large water park as well as a spa and other activities (note: El Conquistador has reopened, but some of its facilities including the waterpark are still under renovation at the time of recording.) La Concha Resort is also a great resort for families to stay along with the Ritz-Carlton Reserve which is a more luxury hotel that has just reopened and houses an amazing spa.
- About an hour drive from San Juan is an area called Guavate which is well known for their restaurants serving pork, playing live music and dancing. If you want to experience some true local authentic food and entertainment you should definitely check it out. The food is also not expensive, a family of four could eat to a meal for less than $40.
- Visiting El Yunque Rainforest is a fun place for both tourists and local to visit. It is only about 45 minutes from San Juan. They still have some trails closed but if you have a family that loves outdoors and likes hiking, this is a must see adventure.
- Old San Juan is a beautiful place to visit and if you do some research there may be some gallery shows or events going on that you can explore.
- There are some small islands off of Fajardo that you may want to look into visiting. They have catamaran tours and snorkeling available, and you may see some sealife like sea turtles.
- Ponce is a beautiful town to visit with its great boardwalk and art museums. There is a great mix of history and culture in the town.
- If you are comfortable driving you should definitely think about renting a car. It will definitely give you more freedom to go places when you want to or even just leaving to go to your next destination that you want to explore instead of waiting for a ride.
- A lot of the beaches have shacks where you can get great food. Make sure you try the empanadas, which can be stuffed with octopus, meat, sea food, or even just cheese and sauce making a kind of fried pizza. Alcapurrias is another must try dish, which everyone makes a little differently, but the dough is typically made out of green plantains which is stuffed with meat or crab and then fried. Roasted pork is also a must try food!
- Kasalta is a great bakery in Ocean Park that has some great sandwiches!
- Lot 23 is an area that has been turned into a food truck park and has a variety of food and picnic benches to eat. Everyone can get something different and enjoy as a family.
- If your family is adventurous you should definitely look into rental properties or even Airbnbs. As well as renting a car to be able to get around as you please.
BEST PLACE TO TAKE FAMILY PHOTO
Jessica recommends a sunset shot with your family if you make it to the southwest side of the island. Though if you don’t make it to the southwest you can get some great shots at El Morro in Old San Juan.
FAVORITE TRAVEL GEAR
Jessica loves to wear maxi dresses at night and loves to wear a blazer with her outfit and her Tods loafers.
MENTIONED ON THE PODCAST
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