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Wordless Wednesday: Plazuela de La Rogativa

Plazuela de La Rogativa

Touring Old San Juan

Old San Juan city wallsThe night before we left Vieques, we checked what time our rental car on the mainland had to be returned and realized that with the ferry ride and the drive back to the airport, we were cutting it very close. We tried to push our return time back, but the car was due to be rented out again shortly after we returned it. The ferry from Vieques ended up being delayed and we were worried the whole drive back to the airport. We ended up returning the car an hour and a half late. Luckily, they were very understanding and didn’t even charge us any extra. If you are visiting Puerto Rico and are looking for a reasonably priced car rental, check out AquiCoqui car sharing. It worked well for us!

We dropped off the car, but our time in Puerto Rico wasn’t over. We still had two days left to explore Old San Juan and that is not a city where you need a car to get around. We dropped off the rental car at the airport and took an Uber into the city.

To kill time until our Airbnb was ready, we hung out at Chocobar Cortés, a unique restaurant where every dish contains chocolate. We enjoyed it so much, we went back the next morning to try their breakfast! Chocolate Cortés has been making bean-to-bar chocolate since 1929. They opened their first restaurant in 2014 in Old San Juan and have since opened up additional restaurants in the Bronx and Condado. If you are looking for a unique restaurant in Old San Juan, I recommend you check it out, but beware that the wait can be long at times.

Even though this was our third time in Old San Juan, we wanted to get to know the city a little better so we took a Free Walking Tour. We discovered free walking tours in Europe and they are a great way to get to know the city without having to spend a lot of money on a tour. Just to be clear, free walking tours are not totally free. Participants are expected to tip what they think the tour was worth. Our guide took us around the city to places we had been before but we also got to see some new parts and we learned a lot about the history.

Interior of San Juan CathedralOne place we got to explore on the tour was the Cathedral of Old San Juan, the oldest cathedral in the United States. The original cathedral was built in 1521. That building was destroyed by a hurricane and was rebuilt beginning in 1535 but was not completed until 1802. The beautiful cathedral contains the tomb of the explorer and founder of San Juan, Juan Ponce de León.

After our tour, we took some time walking Paseo del Morro, which goes around Castillo del Morro. One interesting thing about this area is that it is home to a cat rescue called Save a Gato. We spent our time walking the path and photographing the cats for the rescue so they could find homes for the cats. The National Park Service recently announced a plan to try to remove the cats from fort grounds so Save a Gato can use all the help it can get. To learn more about the organization, visit

One of the cats of El Morro

Thanks for stopping by! Check out our NEW Go See Do Explore Podcast, available wherever you listen to podcasts. To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Casa Bacardí

Casa Bacardi

Our flight to Puerto Rico was scheduled to get in late, so we booked a room at the San Juan Airport Hotel. It ended up being delayed so we didn’t get to our room until after 3 AM Puerto Rico time and I was very glad we didn’t have to navigate to an outside hotel. The Airport Hotel is located inside D Terminal and it was just a few minutes walk from the gate. The room was small, but we weren’t planning on spending a long time so it was perfect for our needs. It also included a hot breakfast which was much needed after getting in so late. After breakfast, we checked out and picked up our rental car from Aqui Coqui, which is Puerto Rico’s car-sharing platform, similar to Turo. It worked well, they met us outside the Airport Hotel and we were on our way to our first stop, Casa Bacardí.

Fort San Juan De La Cruz

Casa Bacardí is located across the bay from Old San Juan in Cataño. We were a little early for our reservation so we made a stop at Fort San Juan de la Cruz, a part of San Juan National Historic Site. There were only a few other people at the park and it was very quiet, but the views of Old San Juan were beautiful. It was a great first stop on the trip to soak in the sunshine. After enjoying the views, it was time for our tour at Casa Bacardí.

On our last trip, we did a tour of a smaller distillery, Ron del Barillito. This time, I was excited to check out the biggest rum producer in the world, Bacardí through their Legacy Tour. We arrived right before our tour and received a token for a free drink and we boarded our tram for a little tour of the grounds. When we arrived at the Visitor Center, we were led into a theater where they showed up a film about the company’s history.

Inside the Bacardí Visitor Center

Bacardí was founded in 1861 in Santiago de Cuba by Don Facundo Bacardí Massó. Shortly after opening his wife, Doña Amalia, found a colony of fruit bats in the rafters of the distillery. Bats are a symbol of good health and fortune to the Spanish and Taino people of Cuba so they decided to make the bat the symbol of the company. In 1920, when prohibition became law in the United States, Bacardí began advertising Cuba as a tropical destination to escape the “dry” U.S. In 1960, the Cuban assets of the company were confiscated by the Cuban government, and the family was forced to flee. Luckily, they had already moved the company’s trademarks and yeast strain out of Cuba.

After learning the history, we proceeded along on the tour to learn how the rum is distilled from sugarcane and made into two different distillations that are mixed together to become the final product. Our guide explained to us that the traditional white Puerto Rican rum is filtered to get a clear color because people at the time wouldn’t drink dark-colored liquors out of fear of cleanliness or because they didn’t like the way they looked, which makes me rethink drinking white rum. We got to sample the Casa Bacardí reserve, which is a mix of rums aged 8-12 years and is only available for purchase at the Casa Bacardí Visitor Center. The tour ended at the gift shop where you could pick up a bottle of Special Reserve or any of their other rums that you could get at your local liquor store.

Overall, I am glad we did the tour of Casa Bacardí, but the tour at Ron del Barillito was so much more authentically Puerto Rican and their rum is not as easy to find back home. When purchasing tickets to Casa Bacardí, you can add the ferry from Old San Juan to your ticket, allowing you to visit without a car. But, if you have a car and are interested in something you can’t find at home, I recommend visiting Ron del Barillito instead. For tickets to Casa Bacardí and information about their other tours, visit

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit the Puerto Rico Circle Tour page. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Puerto Rico Circle Tour

Paseo del Morro

We are back from another wonderful trip to Puerto Rico, our third visit in less than two years. It is safe to say that we love the island. We wanted to explore more of the island this time, spending time on the west side of the island as well as one of the outer islands. Here is a preview of what is to come on this trip report:

Waves Crashing near Castillo del Morro

It was another wonderful trip to an island paradise. It was very hard coming back to frigid, cloudy weather. I miss the beautiful Puerto Rican sunshine! I’m sure we will be back before too much longer.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I land in San Juan and head to Casa Bacardi! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Puerto Rico Rum Tour

Ron del Barrilito Freedom Barrel

If you know anything about Puerto Rico, you probably know the island is famous for its rum production. The most famous Puerto Rican rum is Bacardi. The oldest operating distillery and a favorite among Puerto Ricans is Ron del Barillito. The distillery has been open since 1880 when the Fernández Family began making rum for to share with family and friends. People that tried came back asking for more of the Ron del Barillito (rum from the small barrel) and the name stuck. One thing the distillery is known for is the Freedom Barrel (above). Filled in 1952, Edmundo Fernández gave instructions that the barrel cannot be opened until Puerto Rico gains independence, and then it should be placed in the town square for the people to be able to enjoy.

We chose to do the Heritage Tour where we got to tour the estate, learn the history of the distillery, and got a peek inside the barrel room with a complimentary cocktail. Ron del Barrilito also offers a mixology tour where you learn how to become a master bartender and a tasting tour where you get to taste some of the signature rums.

Ron del Barrilito sign

If you’ve never tried rum from Ron del Barrilito, it is much different from Bacardi and other Puerto Rican rums. The Cinco Estrellas (five stars) is aged up to 35 years and a bottle comes with a hefty price tag. Tres Estrellas (three stars) is aged for 6-10 years, Dos Estrellas (two stars) is aged 3-5 years, and when we visited they also had an overproof rum to be used in tiki drinks. In our travels, we have found that “duty-free” liquor usually isn’t that good of a deal (maybe the prices in Michigan are more reasonable than other places in the U.S., I don’t know), but Ron del Barrilito was much cheaper in Puerto Rico than at home. If you don’t make it out to the distillery, prices weren’t that much more expensive at the duty-free in the airport.

While there are many rum distilleries in Puerto Rico, I am glad we decided to check out Ron del Barrilito as our last stop before heading to the airport. For more information about the tours and their rums, visit Ron del Barrilito. To read more about this trip, check out the Returning to Puerto Rico Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Cristobal Bell

Bell in Castillo San Crisoball

Wordless Wednesday: Old San Juan

Old San Juan

Returning to Puerto Rico

Old San Juan from the fort

Last spring we visited Puerto Rico as the embarkation port for our Southern Caribbean cruise and fell in love with the beautiful island. Ever since we got home we have been watching flight prices just waiting to return. When we started brainstorming ideas for a Christmas trip with my mother-in-law, we were looking at a few warm-weather destinations and we were shocked to find flights to San Juan for less than Florida or New Orleans. I’m not going to lie, the flights were awful. They had overnight layovers in both directions at some of the largest and busiest airports that were made even busier thanks to Southwest’s meltdown before Christmas. But, we made the best of it because we got to return to sunny Puerto Rico!

The first leg of our journey had an overnight layover in Orlando and we left security and slept in the Hyatt Regency at the airport knowing we would have to go through TSA again. There were so many people trying to get to their flights in the morning that the sign advertised a 65-minute wait to get through TSA. I am very glad I checked the airport’s website when I got up because we got ready quickly and got in line. At one point, the line stopped moving completely and we thought we were going to miss our flight, but we got to the gate right as they started boarding. We were told it was a full flight but there were only half of the seats filled. I’m guessing we left some people behind in that TSA line. If you have an early flight (I think this one left at 5:55 am), don’t assume the airport will be empty. Most airport websites will tell you how long the TSA wait currently is and if you’re checking a bag, remember to add on time for that line too. Since this was a layover, we didn’t have to worry about that line.

Sunset from our balcony in Fajardo

Sunset from our balcony in Fajardo

This was our first time flying Frontier and overall, it was a pretty good experience. We have flown Spirit many times so we are used to budget airlines, but they are not exactly the same. Frontier has more legroom. It is not as cramped as Spirit is notorious for. Everyone we encountered was friendly and each plane has an animal mascot. We liked flying on Max the Lynx. Frontier does not have wifi on their planes. If you need to work while in the air, look for a different airline. Every single flight we had left 10-15 minutes late and they were not good about communicating the delays. When we got to our departure airport, we got a text saying our flight was delayed but when we got to the gate the board said the plane was on time and that didn’t change until after our departure time passed so there were a lot of confused people standing around. For one of the flights, we got a text saying the flight was delayed after we had already taken off. We got to the airport in San Juan early and there was no one at the Frontier desk for probably an hour. The line got very long but we got to the plane with plenty of time. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but the next cheapest flight to San Juan for the same dates was several hundred dollars per person more expensive. Personally, I will take a little bit of hassle to get where I want to go and save money.

Here is an outline of what is to come on this trip report:

Day 1: Old San Juan (San Juan National Historic Site, Christmas lights at Paseo de la Princesa)

Day 2: Drive to Adjuntas (travel fail story), Ponce, to Fajardo

Day 3: La Ruta de Lechon (the Pork Highway) & Biobay Kayaking

Day 4: El Yunque National Forest

Day 5: Ron del Barillito Distillery Tour

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Del Morro Lighthouse

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

Wordless Wednesday: Old San Juan

San Juan National Historic Site

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