Few months ago I wrote a post on helping my husband’s cousin plan an impromptu getaway to Puerto Rico. Well, she promised me a trip report, so without further ado:
My husband has recently completed his degree and I wanted to treat him to a getaway since it’s been a stressful time working full-time and going to school. I decided to do this last-minute. We live in Florida and really could only get away for about three days. I had some AA miles and was looking into somewhere he would like (think cold and mountainous), but we would end up losing a day each way in travel.
I was talking to Leana and mentioned what I wanted to do, and she very generously offered me some Spirit miles if I could make something work with my schedule. Our passports are currently expired so I looked for places we could get to nonstop that are located within the US. Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands came to mind. She found several options for PR and one worked for us.
Next, I needed to secure hotel points. Enter the Wyndham Rewards Signature Visa. You have to spend $1000 to get 45,000 points ( annual fee is $69), good toward three nights at any Wyndham property. I applied, received my card, and then I found out when the billing cycle ended. I charged $1000 worth of groceries, gas and also bought one $500 Visa gift card at CVS. My points posted immediately and I was able to book Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa. I was elated that I actually got a 1200+ square feet ocean-view family suite.
A few days before the flight, I saw an article on MSN about the worst airline for customer satisfaction in the industry. I clicked on it and, of course, it was Spirit. I got a little worried, but I fly Allegiant all the time so I am used to budget airlines. My experience with Spirit was great! Yeah, I said it. We were only going for three nights so we took duffle bags that met the free bag qualifications. Shorts, bathing suits and sandals don’t require much space.
We checked in online and printed our boarding passes, skipped the check-in counter and went right to the gate. The plane left on time. As we were boarding, the stewardess asked my husband if we would be willing to sit in an exit row. Umm, yes! So I really can’t comment on regular seats because we had tons of room.
On the flight home, as we were boarding, my husband asked the attendant if there were exit row seats available. Guess what? They said sure and thanked us for our service like we were doing them a favor. I have to say that their flight attendants and other staff seemed over-the-top friendly. One even commented that they really needed good PR. I think they are working hard to improve their reputation. I would definitely fly Spirit again.
We arrived in PR early afternoon so we decided to have lunch in Old San Juan before checking into the hotel. We were driving and looking for a parking spot when I saw a sign that had parking fees on it and directed my husband in that area. We couldn’t find any spots and saw a tunnel so we kept driving and came to a beautiful cemetery by the water. Still no spots, so we kept driving. Then we got into the worst neighborhood I’ve ever been in. We were laughing at ourselves as I was taking pictures.
I actually sent one to my sister saying if we went missing to come look for us here. There were chicken cages along the road and skeletons and voodoo paintings on the houses. Finally, we found a way out and had a good laugh. It wasn’t until later at the hotel when I was reading a book about Old San Juan that I saw a picture of the tunnel we went through.
Turns out we toured La Perla, a notoriously dangerous neighborhood known for crime and drugs. The book mentioned that gang members usually stand at the tunnel to keep tourists out or to look for a drug deal. Somehow we missed that. At least we have a story to tell now though.
Once we found a real place to park in a safer part of town, we walked the beautiful streets of San Juan. We strolled along Paseo de la Princesa and enjoyed the gardens and the beautiful fountain. We kept walking along the fort. It really is a beautiful town with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets. We felt very safe.
We got to the Wyndham and we were thrilled with our beautiful room.
Some people complain about the pressure to do a timeshare presentation, but we were only approached once and they didn’t bother us again. The prices at the resort are high when it comes to food and drinks, but we expected that. The hotel is located outside of San Juan, so I do recommend renting a car.
There is a very cute restaurant within five minutes of the hotel called Antojitos. We ate breakfast and dinner here. It really has a romantic atmosphere and the staff is very friendly. Breakfast ranged from $4-7 and was very good. Dinner was reasonable too, much cheaper than the resort.
We spent one day exploring El Yunque Rainforest. It’s a very short drive from the hotel (maybe 15 minutes). We drove up and did the La Mina Falls trail. We went above the falls and found our own little spot and pool and had lunch there and swam alone.
There are many little areas along the trail where you can go down to the river and have your own private hideaway. I heard people at the resort talking about whether or not to visit the rainforest and I thought it was a shame not to at least drive up and look around, since you are that close. We really enjoyed it.
The last day we just wanted to relax and stay at the resort. The beach is nice and they set up chairs and umbrellas. It’s not a long beach, but we were happy with it.
There weren’t many people at all when we went. The resort pools are also nice and we enjoyed the adults-only area.
It was quiet except for the occasional iguana wondering through. I did check out the kids’ pool and it looked fun. There was a waterslide and even a small pool for babies. Then there was a pool on the Margarittaville side that seemed to be a little more happening and fun. All-in-all, I can’t think of one negative thing to say about this resort. It was lovely and I hope to take the kids back soon!
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.