Thinking of vacaying in Puerto Rico? Chocolate bars, centuries-old fortresses and cell service are just a few of the reasons why you should click, "book trip." But don't take it from us—let Houston fashion and travel influencer Nicole Mehta show you around the Caribbean island, ahead. 

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San Juan has so much history and culture! Back in the day, it was a Spanish colonial city from 1521 to 1898 and overtime, San Juan absorbed many traits of Spanish culture but also indigenous Caribbean culture. When Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory, American culture was added to the mix. You get a little bit of everything in the city and there is so much variety even when it comes to food! There were restaurants that had Puerto Rican foods as well as tapas, my fave.

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San Juan, while being a coastal city with a ton of beaches, has such a city vibe across town! We stayed in the Condado Beach area which has private beaches dedicated to each resort as well as a ton of chic restaurants and small hole in the wall shops/food joints. It definitely had the hustle bustle we were looking for while still being able to enjoy and have access to a beach readily. 

So many things inspired me to travel here—the food, the vibe, the history! I’ve always wanted to go to San Juan because I had been hearing such fun things and how it is similar to Miami and Havana!.

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Beauty Packing List

Sunscreen, Body Bronzer and Hair products were on my beauty list. I always travel with my T3 Micro Whirl Trio with the medium barrel – that helps me style those beachy curls you would want for a tropical trip! OUAI Hair & Body Shine Mist, OUAI Rose Hair & Body Oil and OUAI Wave Spray are some of the go-to’s when it comes to taking care of my hair and giving it volume in humid environments. I recently received this Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 which is so perfect to apply under makeup and re-apply as the day goes on. I normally using it on my cheekbones and nose (even though my CC cream has SPF)

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Fashion Packing List 

  • Headscarves 
  • Bamboo and woven Bags
  • Mini Dresses 
  • Gold layered necklaces
  • Statement jewelry 

Booking the Trip

San Juan has a lot of Instagram pages dedicated to the city and a lot of feedback/reviews you can find online so it wasn’t too difficult to do research. There were a number of restaurants I was told to check out by some friends and followers and we were able to make reservations via Open Table or their direct websites. I used Google flights and also booked through the hotel site. Usually I use Orbitz or Marriott.com for hotel bookings.

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Where to Stay

We stayed at La Concha Renaissance in Condado Beach. I’ve always been a hotel person depending on the trip. Especially because this trip was just a girls' trip, I preferred a hotel for our stay. The hotels are located in very central parts of the city and there was easy access to the beach which was important to me. Airbnb’s are probably a good option as well depending on what you are looking for.

Dressing the Part

  • Pack light for day-time outfits as the humidity is very much there throughout the day so anything you can throw on with shorts is key.
  • Puerto Rico is so colorful, I was all about matching sets and chic outfits, especially when heading into Old Town.
  • Plan for fun and fancy dinner outfits! A lot of people dress up there.  
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    Getting Around

    Uber is the best way to travel around. So many Ubers and they were safe even at night time.

    Tip for First-Timers 

    1. You don’t need your passport and can use US dollars.
    2. Since it’s still considered a part of the US, cell phones work there.
    3. Ubered everywhere 😊 
    4. No adaptors required for electronics
    5. Everyone is super friendly!
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      DAY 1

      10AM Enjoyed a quiet morning at the hotel and the morning views (and waves) so grabbed something at the full service breakfast buffet downstairs at the La Concha. 

      11AM I heard a lot about La Madre in Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) so we headed over there at about 11ish for brunch. It was so cute and the service was on point. We ordered Huevos Rancheros and Dulce De Leche Pancakes. Try out their sangria pitcher, it’ll get you started for the day.

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      12:30PM White sand, beach chairs and coconut water on demand! There was plenty of space to roll around in the sand and get a solid tan. The water in San Juan is super clean and warm so we were able to enjoy some floating and swimming time. 

      2PM There were a lot of hole-in-the-wall boutiques and some of the main American and European retail shops across the city. You can do some shopping in Old Town but they have shopping centers as well. 

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      4PM San Juan has two historic forts on the old side of town that are worth checking out. We spent most of the afternoon exploring town and these forts. You can see the whole city from up top at Castillo De San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe Del Morro and there is so much history to learn. I loved seeing the old quarters and how people lived back in the old days in these forts.

      7PM We ended up hopping around for dinner because we wanted to try out multiple spots. First, we started off at Chloe for some pre-dinner champagne and a few appetizers and then headed over to Santaella, another popular spot, for actual dinner. Here's what we got:

      Chloe
      Pizza – The Crop - Mushrooms, Spinach, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Green Beans, Red Onions & Smoked Gouda
      Ba-Wan Dumplings and Enoki  - Fried Sweet Plantains, Angel Hair Carrots, Sweet Chili, Hoisin & Cilantro Salsa
      Santaella:
      Organic Beef SlidersBacons and Carmelized Onions jam, Sweet Plantain, Loca Lettuce, Red Wine Cilantro Mayo
      Certified Angus Beef Filet MignonMushrooms in Red Wine Reduction, Asparagus

      9:30PM The hotels have a lot of fun bars and on the weekend, our hotel had a DJ for the lounge area but we decided to venture out to check out the nightlife in old town where a lot of folks go at night–especially going out for bachelorette parties or birthdays. La Factoria is a bar/club with multiple rooms and each room has a different vibe. You can dance or just chill all night long. 

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      DAY 2

      11AM It was a Starbucks kinda morning because we had plans to take a ferry to another island nearby. 

      12PM We ventured off to Culebra for the day! Culebra is a small, sparsely populated island and surrounding group of cays off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It’s a very nature friendly island known for fishing and some local beaches. The ferry ride was about 50 minutes end to end, and the tickets were about 10 dollars. Flamenco Beach was about 10 minutes from the ferry dock and we were told that was the beach to check out so we spent the afternoon there. 

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      1:30PM Flamenco Beach had a few local vendors so we enjoyed some beer and a few chicken and beef empanadas.

      3PM Chocobar Cortes is a chocolate bar in the city that is known for their chocolate-based cocktails! Historically, it’s a fourth generation, family-owned, Caribbean, bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing company. We had a sundae, a martini and a Manhattan – all so rich in chocolate! I loved the décor of this place too – they had walls dedicated to the old chocolate trays and packaging. Pretty cool.

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      6PM Oceano was a great way to end our trip! It’s a restaurant based out of an upscale beachfront mansion and the food was too good! What we ate:

      Colossal Shrimp Mofongo - Jumbo shrimp, yuca mofongo & passion fruit reduction
      Lo Mein Beef & Reef - Wok-cooked shrimp + angus filet w/ onions, peppers, snow peas, carrots, mushrooms, petit pois, cilantro & lightly spiced oyster-chilli sauce

      8PM Caribe Hilton is where the first Pina Colada was invented! #FACTS! The Hilton is in the Condado Beach area and easy to access from any part of town. We spent a rainy afternoon grabbing a few Pina Coladas at the bar there and it lived up to our expectations. 

      Marmalade is one place we couldn’t check off on our list, but I have heard from many that it’s a must try. It's known for the wines and the ambiance. They offer four, five and six course meals should you choose to have dinner there. 

      Scroll down to shop Nicole's Puerto Rico hair must-haves

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