If you just go to the San Juan area, you will not notice many changes. My first choice of hotel, the Caribe Hilton, one of the oldest establishments there, was not opened yet, they will not be ready until 2019/20 winter. The Ritz Carlton is mostly finished with their renovations, but has not opened because I hear they do not have enough people to staff it. A lot of people in the tourism business, left for Miami when the hotels closed after Maria. I was told that the El San Juan near the airport, was completely refurbished and renovated and ready to accept tourists.

El San Juan Hotel Curio Collection by Hilton

www.elsanjuanhotel.com

It certainly has changed a lot since I was last there during my high school years. My senior year had their prom there.  It has expanded with several two storied villas near the pool and oceanfront, plus a huge wellness center with gym and an additional pool for kids. The Casino has not opened yet and when we were there in February, they were expanding the discotheque. The island is a great place for a long four day weekend. It is a short 3hrs flight, there is no problem with needing a passport or currency exchange, they use dollars or language, most people are bi-lingual, after all puertoricans are Americans too.

Restaurants:

Meat Market – in the Hotel El San Juan

https://www.elsanjuanhotel.com/restaurants/meatmarket

Santaella

219 Calle Canals

www.josesantaella.com

I had eaten at Santaella in a previous trip, 8 years ago, and had received his cookbook as a present. Jose Santaella serves an authentic “cocina criolla”.

Vianda

Avenida Juan Ponce de Leon 1413

www.viandapr.com

Best meal of the trip. The chef, Francis Guzman, PR born, previously cooked at Blue Hill in New York besides the Modern.  His wife, Amelia Dill handles the front of the house as she previously did at Blue Hill. The menu consists of “farm to table” local fresh ingredients.

The waitstaff consists of young women, most of them students who are very attentive and friendly.

La Bombonera

Calle San Francisco 259 in Old San Juan

This “coffee shop” has been around since 1902, owned by the Puig & Abraham family.  As a kid whenever we went to Old San Juan shopping, we stopped there for a hot chocolate and Mallorca, or a coffee and a pastelillo de Guava or a “media  noche”, a pannini of cheese and ham.  But they also served full meal type of items for lunch like an ‘asopao”.  They still have a huge menu, but no “media noche”. What a disappointment, I guess things do change, even the name, it is now Rigo y Abraham. 

When visiting Old San Juan make sure you wear comfortable shoes, and no heels, since the streets are all cobble stones and the route is uphill. Get out of your taxi or Uber at the Plaza de Colon (you will see a large statue of Cristopher there) walk on Calle San Francisco uphill. When you reach the top there you will see the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the oldest cathedral in the United States and second oldest in the Americas (the one in the Dominican Republic was the first). When you exit, to your right is a street that leads you to the Morro Castle the fortification fro the 1500’s that protected the island. If you continue straight ahead, you get to the “puerta de San Juan” from 1749 and the walls of the city. There are a lot of nice two and three storied houses along the route.

One big change in the daily life is that UBER has landed there. After having used them in NY, I was so surprised at the low cost of using them there.  Most trips were $5-8 with the costliest the trip to the airport at our departure. They were great, it took the problem of bargaining with a taxi driver when they did not have a meter which was very common. They all use a GPS so there is no doubt of where you are going and the fastest most direct way to get there. I had a conversation with one of the drivers who lived in Trujillo Alto, a town in the middle of the island up in the mountain range. He said the families there had a lot of damage during Maria. They had no water or electricity for months, and months. They endured huge lines to get gas for the lucky few that had generators.  You still see lots of blue tarpaulins used as roofs on houses. That is where you will see the damage Maria caused.