COVID Trippin’ to San Juan, Puerto Rico
Updated: Jul 19
Judge me if you want to; the bottom line is that a piece of me was missing and I couldn't take it anymore. I was HYPE when my friend Winteer mentioned that she found cheap flights to San Juan at the end of June. I couldn't resist; I booked my flight a few days later.
Traveling during the pandemic was certainly different but it was far from a negative experience. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn't be partaking in many activities; my objective with this quick getaway was to relax. All i needed was the pool, the beach and good food and that's exactly what I got.
Just to note: COVID-19 rates in Puerto Rico are low, and would probably be even lower if there wasn’t any travel going on. I kept checking the rates before, during and after the trip for my peace of mind.
On July 16, Travel & Leisure posted this article with updated protocol for traveling to Puerto Rico. Yikesss https://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/puerto-rico-airport-coronavirus-testing-tourists?amp=true#click=https://t.co/xr4KoJr8k3
I flew with Spirit Airlines; staff was VERY adamant about making sure everyone kept their mask on the entire duration of the flight. My flight to SJU was full so we weren't able to social distance much; I still felt okay though. I covered myself with a small blanket, didn't buy anything to eat or drink and didn't use the bathroom until I reached my final destination. I was hungry and thirsty ASF during the flight but I wanted to minimize my touching things. Honestly my flights were the only time I felt somewhat 'at risk' during my trip, but after a quick prayer and seeing how diligent Spirit staff were with enforcing COVID protocol I felt fine.
Upon arrival to SJU (San Juan's airport) every single person had to 'check out' with personnel; I was asked for my flight and contact information. They asked for this so that I could be reached in the event someone on my flight reported a coronavirus diagnosis. Standing in line was a slight inconvenience but the system was efficient and very well staffed. As a result the lines moved quickly. SJU airport offered free coronavirus testing but I didn't bother.
People mention wearing masks and social distancing but have slacked up on the discussions about HYGIENE. I made sure I didn't touch on things like I normally do when traveling. I also showered, washed my hands and face, used hand sanitizer and wiped my phone down frequently. These are things I do regularly when I travel (and to be honest in every day life).
Winteer and I stayed in the Sheraton near San Juan's convention center. The hotel was relatively close to the airport; about a twenty minute drive. Just as it is back home I had to wear my mask in the Uber and while walking in public areas. When I got to the hotel a touchless temperature check was administered. After getting settled in the hotel we sat by the pool and chilled out with drinks and chicken wings.
We tried to go to the dispensary Mirajuana which was walking distance from the hotel but they claimed to have a week long application process (which clearly wasn't going to work for us). Fortunately we were able to find some 'treats' on Saturday (because that’s what resourceful people do).
We had plans to go to a restaurant and beach in Carolina but met an AWESOME Uber driver who told us about Luquillo Beach so we went there instead.
this was the energy Uber drivers came with: plastic barriers, mandatory face masks, and hand sanitizer everywhere.
Luquillo Beach is about 40 minutes away from San Juan and it was well worth the drive. There is a strip of about sixty restaurants, bars and shops called 'kiosks'. All establishments required patrons to wear a mask and some of them had touchless temperature checks.
Before the beach we grabbed something quick to eat. I tried alcapurria (I had beef and crab) with plantain and rice and beans.
the beach was beautiful and relaxing. Sun in the Caribbean is unmatched.
After a few hours on the beach we showered and changed our clothes
then headed to the kiosks to indulge in some good drinks before heading to the hotel. The Mojito Lab had a FIRE mojito and it was huge; I drank off of it for two days.
Saturday night we went to old San Juan. Many bars/clubs along the strip were LIT but we didn’t feel comfortable being in those establishments (didn't see anyone wearing a mask). We were hungry so we bypassed the crowds and found a quiet pub to order some food.
There is a 10pm curfew in Puerto Rico so we tried to call Uber at 9:30 and NONE OF THEM WERE AVAILABLE. We had no choice but to walk back to our hotel from old San Juan (which ended up being about an hour walk). To be honest it was a hilarious experience and I was just thankful we were able to walk safely. We slept GOOD that night and I damn sure felt the effects of that walk in my brand new flat ass sandals the next morning.
FIRST thing I did Sunday morning was hop in the jacuzzi; I needed to soak off some of the soreness.
After our morning dip Winteer and I went to Açaí Express and it was so good. We tried to do brunch but the staff at the first place we stopped at Playa Papaya never acknowledged us after we stood there for about 15 minutes. We tried a second spot Bistro Cafe and they had an hour and a half wait. At that point we were STARVING so we just continued to walk down the street until we stumbled across Açaí Express.
We had the pink dragon bowl; it was perfect thing to hold us over until we got back to the hotel . AE has locations in the states; the closest one to Philly is located in Dover, NJ.
When we got back to the hotel we ordered more wings (yes they were that good, if you know me you know how I am about wings).
After our food we enjoyed our last hurrah in the pool and jacuzzi.
After the pool and a nap we ate dinner in the hotel.
I had mofongo de pollo.
Our flights home were early AM flights (I have a love/hate relationship with early flights). Traveling back to PHL from SJU was a breeze. The boarding pass and security lines were long but once I got my boarding pass the security check was quick. I lucked up on the return flight; there were empty seats so the third person assigned to our row was able to move to an empty seat which allowed some social distancing.
I was not mandated to quarantine upon arrival back to Philadelphia. This may look different for you depending where home airport is *this is subject to change with ongoing developments with the coronavirus*.
Our options for activities were of course limited due to coronavirus, but I was perfectly fine with that. All the more reason to travel back to PR in the future. This was my second time on the island and certainly won't be my last. 'Til next time San Juan.
Composed with humility and truth,