Utuado, Puerto Rico: Canon Blanco

Located in Utuado, Puerto Rico is a breathtaking, extremely random landscape. At the bottom of the winding mountains, there’s a mass of white stone with a river running through it called Canon Blanco (White Canyon.) Although the drive is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from San Juan, this is a sight that is really cool to witness.

Getting There

The road to Canon Blanco winds around mountains and can be narrow at times. I do not recall terrible potholes like other areas of Puerto Rico are known for, just a few steep climbs. Although Google maps took us most of the way there, we missed the entrance at first and had to turn around. You take a sharp turn to the left down a steep hill that has a sign for Canon Blanco camp grounds.

If you keep going past the camping area and over a cement bridge, you are headed the right way. The path is only wide enough for one car at a time. To see the best of the canyon, park on the side of the road by the sign labeled “El Sofa” and walk the path in the grass that leads to the river. It doesn’t look like much at first, but keep walking to the right, and you will see the massive white stones with gushing waters that lead to a beautiful green mountain. We climbed the canyon, but the water rushes fiercely so be sure not to fall in.

Since you are already there, driving a little further and parking in an even larger dirt area will bring you to a picturesque scene that is worth experiencing. Here you will find a few houses, a duck pond, wildflowers, chickens, and even goats on the mountain if you look up. We tried to get to the canyon from this area at first, but it was too steep for us. Be sure not to go past the duck pond by car. It just gets steeper and leads to private houses. Our curious habits made us go back down the steep path backwards, so just don’t do it.

The View

Other places you could visit when headed to Arecibo are Cueva del Indio, Cueva Ventana, the Coffee Museum and the Jayuya Aerostatic Balloon.

Happy Travels,

Katie

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The 10 Best Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that You Will Love!

Everyone knows that good food is key to a good vacation. I’ve racked my brain for the 10 best restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that have stood out to me over the past few months. I hope these 10 restaurants will help you find a place nearby that allows you to enjoy both the meal and the price.

Acapulco’s Taqueria Mexicana

This place is one of my husband’s favorite spots to go, especially on $2 Taco Tuesday! However, the quesadillas are our favorite, and our meat of choice is the barbacoa. They offer my favorite drinks, Agua Fresca and Horchata, and they are excellent.

Sushi N’ Good

Ok this one is a little odd because it is literally a trailer in the Shell gas station parking lot, but trust me, it’s good! The sushi is fresh and comes with 8 pieces. Honestly, the tostones that come with the crab salad were the best I’ve had so far. Rolls vary from $6-$8 and the crab salad is $10.

Acai Express

These fruit bowls are easily big enough to be considered a whole meal. I am holding a small in this picture. Uber Eats delivers these acai bowls to your hotel, but if you have a car, the drive through couldn’t be easier. There is also a parking lot and picnic tables under a shaded gazebo if you prefer to enjoy the outdoor breeze. Prices vary from $6-$12.

Panucho’s

Located on Calle Loiza, this Mexican restaurant is delicious. They have daily specials as low as $5 for three tacos. The picture below is the $5 tacos; however, my favorite meal is the pork soft tacos, complete with guacamole, cilantro, and sour cream for $12. Their appetizer nachos are also flavorful and gigantic!

Pinky’s

This fun little spot in the middle of Calle Loiza is hard to miss with its pink awning. Pinky’s specialty is all day brunch, and it’s open from 7am-4pm daily and 7am-9pm on Fridays and Saturdays . Frothy lattes and fresh fruit smoothies also make Pinky’s a great place to catch up with friends. Because space is limited and waiting for seating can take a while, you can always choose to take your bagel or breakfast sandwich to-go and head to the beach! They also have a Condado location, though I have not checked it out yet.

La Marqueta

A fun atmosphere and great music make this food court in Condado worth checking out. It is open all day and tends to run out of options by dinner. My favorite is the $10 chicken and veggies quesadilla at the Mexican shack. The food is a little overpriced for the quantity in my opinion, but the atmosphere makes it worth trying at least once.

Bistro Cafe

Famous for some of the most incredible coffees on the island, this café in Isla Verde is one of a kind. Except, actually they just opened a second location in Miami, but for good reason. From glitter lattes to mocha frappes with waffles on top, these coffees are mind-blowing! Although the portions are huge, I don’t order food here often just because it is pricey for breakfast, but many people love the brunch here. The menu is so big that it is easier just to find a picture you like on their Instagram or Google page and show it to your server.

Pirilo Pizza Rustica

Sometimes on vacation, you just get a craving for pizza, and Pirilo’s will definitely hit the spot. Their dough is incredible, and they have fun specialty pizza options. I love Mexican food so I tried the Pizza Tampiquena and my husband tried the Salmon. They were both good, but we ultimately decided that we just like the old fashioned pepperoni or meat lovers pizzas. Pirilo’s has three locations: 1. Old San Juan on Calle Tanca, 2. Ocean Park on Calle McLeary, and 3. Dorado on Carr 693. I have only tried the Ocean Park location and have heard rumors that Old San Juan is better, but I will have to confirm that for myself before I believe it. Pizzas are about $20-25 and they can do split toppings if you want to try different options.

Photo retrieved from Pirilo Facebook Page

Dude’s Diner

A fun spot to visit for both nostalgic and scrumptious purposes is in Ocean Park, once again on Calle Loiza. This retro diner has a jumbo projector playing old cartoons behind the soda counter. Although I’ve only tried their chocolate milkshake with marshmallow fluff topping, which was to die for, the rest of their menu looks like a winner as well. They serve all day brunch and your typical good n’ greasy diner eats. The milkshake was $6, and your meal will range from $10-$15 for an entrée and side.

The Stuffed Avocado Shop

OK. This is my favorite place in Dan Juan as it has all the best things in one bowl. There are three shops on the island in Old San Juan, Hato Rey, and in Miramar. My bowl of choice is the Chipotle Chicken with an addition of Mampasteao Rice for a total of $11. When we were living in a hotel for a month, I ordered this dish through Uber Eats at least twice a week. It’s fairly healthy and can easily serve as two meals. They have made dishes with avocado that I never would have thought of, including their Avocado Brownies and Avocado Chocolate Mousse!

Parking is limited for most of these restaurants, so even though we live here, we tend to Uber frequently. Taxis are overpriced, so Uber is a must on this island. If you are new to Uber, you can use THIS LINK to sign up and get $2 off your first 3 rides with Uber!

I hope this helps you find some delicious food while visiting Puerto Rico. Comment your favorite San Juan restaurant and why below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Best Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This year, my husband and I moved from Georgia to Puerto Rico, and we spent the first couple months living in hotels. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stayed at as well as the difficulties we experienced at each. I personally believe that we found the best hotel for exploring the San Juan, Puerto Rico area, and I saved the best for last.

Disclaimer: Our budget was around $200/ night at Christmas time. This excludes most San Juan resorts and most hotels in Old San Juan. So, let’s get started!

hilton balcony

Tres Palmas Inn

Located in Ocean Park, Tres Palmas Inn is a comfortable, Spanish-style hotel located right on the water. Although the hotel is technically on the “beach,” in the winter, the water comes close to the road, and is not exactly much to look at compared to other beaches close by. If you prefer smaller, local hotels versus large convention-style accommodations, then you could consider Tres Palmas. The breakfast is simple, but plenty, including cereal, bagels and cream cheese, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, coffee and juices. The selling point for me was the rooftop hot tub. Cleaned daily, and smelling of chlorine (a very important feature to me), this hot tub was hardly used by anyone else. My husband and I would climb the stairs each night and watch the Christmas season fireworks light up the sky.

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ROOM: Our room was stocked with a mini-fridge, lock box, hangers, a dresser, and a flat screen TV. The room did however lack an ironing board and iron, which was a little inconvenient. Guests can check out beach chairs, towels, and even boogie boards. The first three nights, we stayed in a king room, but on the last night, we stayed in a room with 2 double beds. I preferred the 2 double beds to the king as the room was more spacious. This hotel has a small pool and plenty of seating areas to wind down at night, but most daily activities will be done elsewhere as this is not a resort property.

LOCATION: This hotel is beach front, but it is near probably the least desirable beach in the Condado/ Ocean Park area. Restaurants and pharmacies are not within walking distance, and UBER is necessary for every outing. The good news is that UBER is very cheap in Puerto Rico, making the price of this hotel and the amount of transportation you will use an affordable combination. They also have limited street parking if you decide to rent a car. I loved “living” at this hotel as I loved the style and facilities, but it is probably in the worst location of the three I’m mentioning in this post for a week of vacationing. The immediate area is nice, with impressive beach mansions, it will just require an Uber to get literally anywhere.

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PRICE: The pricing of this hotel is average for the area and fair considering it offers daily breakfast and water-front property.

SERVICE: Each staff member was kind and helpful at this hotel. The rooms were efficiently cleaned each day.

The Condado Plaza Hilton

Right in the heart of San Juan’s vacation hub is the Condado Plaza Hilton. This waterfront hotel has resort grounds that are breathtaking. Two large pools, a hot tub, and beach access with umbrellas and chairs make it easy never to leave the hotel except for maybe a nice dinner. I spent my mornings enjoying my favorite part of this hotel, which was the outdoor seating area where I watched the waves crash against the rocks. It had a Hawaiian lava rock feel, and truly should be made into a post card.

hilton balcony 2
ROOM: This room was renovated. It was called a “King with Deluxe Bathroom,” and the bathroom truly was exquisite with a large wardrobe and glass shower. The wardrobe had a coffee maker, iron, lock box, and mini fridge. We stayed in the main tower, which appeared to have been updated more recently than the adjacent tower. However, the impressive gym and second pool/ hot tub are at the second tower and are hardly crowded at all. This resort is a great fit if your main goal is to relax by the pool or the beach for the majority of your stay in Puerto Rico.

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LOCATION: This hotel is on the Condado Lagoon and practically on its own small, bay beach. A company on the lagoon offers paddle board and kayak rentals on the other side of the bridge. This hotel has its own parking garage and valet. There are limited food options nearby, including the pricey hotel restaurant called Café Caribe, a 24/7 Denny’s, Starbucks, and La Marqueta. Denny’s is literally at the hotel, and is good, but can be slow. You can order takeout by phone, and pick it up for a quicker option. La Marqueta is a trendy outdoor food court with an awesome vibe. The quesadillas are delicious for lunch, but each vendor tends to run out of food by 5pm, turning this into a better spot for drinks rather than dinner. A 15-minute walk further into Condado will bring you to more food options, but all will be crowded at peak tourist seasons, so be sure to either reserve a table or be willing to wait. 

PRICE: For now, the prices of this hotel are excellent compared to resorts nearby. They have waived the resort fee of $30/ day, and I’m assuming that is because repairs are still taking place. But really, the only thing I recognized that was not fully functional were the tennis courts and lagoon deck area at the second tower. The pools, beach, and seating areas appeared to be completely restored. The towers are missing some paint on the outside, but the inside looks back to normal. Parking is valet or self-park in a garage, and is $25 a day.

SERVICE: The front desk service was always kind; however, this hotel seemed understaffed. I would call the front desk, but no one would answer. When they finally did answer, guest services would ask me to call the next morning as they were very busy. Housekeeping was exceptional, and our rooms were always clean.

Tropica Beach Hotel

This hotel truly felt like home after we finished staying here. It is relatively new, a few years old, and I didn’t realize how conveniently located it was until we arrived. Tropica Beach Hotel is also in Ocean Park like Tres Palmas, but the beach it’s near is nicer. This hotel is also more conveniently located to great restaurant options. Ocean Park’s food and bar scene is on Calle Loiza, which is only one street over from this Tropica. From Mexican to Korean Barbecue to local Puerto Rican cuisine, this street has it all.

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BUT, if you decide to stay at Tropica, do try the restaurant right outside your hotel door. Dulcesalado shares the building with Tropica and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch and dinner on the weekend. They also have a coffee shop to the right of the restaurant as well as a beer garden outside. Our favorite dinner was the Chicken Piallard Salad with the Avocado Salad side. Their Mushroom Soup Burger also has great flavor, and so we rotated between the two dishes. For breakfast, I often would get an omelet with an almond milk cappuccino. They have more elaborate dinner options if you want to splurge such as fried lobster, skirt steak, and shrimp mofongo.

tropica food

ROOM: We stayed in the King Deluxe room. This room is literally as big as a studio apartment. It has a spacious closet, seating area, and large restroom. They also moved us to a double room one night while the power was out and the generators connected to the other tower. The double room was still functional, especially for a vacation. Obviously, it was much smaller, but the only notable difference was a clothing rack instead of a closet. The King Deluxe is also very open, as in there is no door to the bathroom or shower. That was no issue for us, but could be awkward to share with a friend. Each room has a Roku TV with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. as long as you have a subscription. This hotel also offers guests steamers, beach chairs, towels, and bikes for checkout, although I would be a bit nervous to bike anywhere.

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tropica room 2

tropica room

LOCATION: This hotel is close to restaurants, a Walgreens, and a Super Max grocery store. Because an UBER to Condado and even Old San Juan is so cheap, I really enjoyed this hotel location. I feel like you get to retreat from the busyness of the city. Parking is valet and $13 per day, but if you are vacationing, it is likely that you won’t need parking.

PRICE: The prices for this hotel are normal for this area. However, it does seem that they are having a “Keep it Tropica Special” right now.

SERVICE: The service here is great. The hotel is fairly small so you will always be able to find guest services to help. They also use Whatsapp to communicate, so you can just send them a text if you need anything.

tropica outdoor seating

tropica hallway

Happy travels!

-Katie