Exploring the Streets of Old San Juan

Our first full day in Puerto Rico, we trekked into Old San Juan from our hotel in the neighborhood of Carolina. Carolina is home to many hotels, a beautiful beach and easy access to the airport. The Ritz Carlton, the Intercontinental and El San Juan Resort all have beach front properties in Carolina. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Resort and Casino, which was just a quick walk to the beach.

To get to Old San Juan, we took public transportation, which required us to travel via city bus. For only 75 cents, we were able to get from Carolina to Old San Juan on one bus. The buses are clean, air-conditioned and move quickly through the city. TRAVEL NOTE: The buses in Puerto Rico only take exact change so you cannot pay with dollars; coins only. The journey from Carolina to Old San Juan took about 45 minutes, and led us through diverse neighborhoods like Condado (home to many of the luxury stores like Gucci and Tiffany’s.) We were able to get quite a flavor of the extended city through the bus route.

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Upon arriving at Old San Juan, we immediately hopped on to the free shuttle, which took us into the heart of the town. This shuttle leaves from the bus terminal. With 20 stops throughout the colonial section of Old San Juan, visitors are able to easily get around the cobblestone streets and hills on this trolley. We jumped off after a few minutes to start exploring. Although the streets within the colonial section of Old San Juan can be quite steep, it’s certainly worth getting your feet to the ground to start walking. You can appreciate the culture, stores and restaurants of the area much better by walking.

After a quick stop at the Coach store to make a purchase (hey- the purse was 80% off!) , we took a tour of The Cathedral, which houses Ponce De Leon’s remains. Directly across the street from The Cathedral, sits the El Convento Hotel, which was once a convent. In July 1651, the convent was inaugurated as the Monastery of Our Lady Carmen of San José — and was situated across the street from San Juan Cathedral, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest cathedral. This historic property represents the best of colonial architecture. It’s beautiful mustard color walls, contrast beautifully with the blue cobble stone streets found in this neighborhood.

While wondering through the streets of Old San Juan, it’s easy to see the blend of historic influence from the Spanish, the lively colors of the Caribbean and the Latin influence of culture. A must-see in Old San Juan are the forts: Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 16th century fortress that was named after King Phillip II of Spain and Fort San Cristóbal, known as the “Gibraltar of the Caribbean,” is located on the eastern side of Old San Juan.

Old San Juan offers the best in shopping, restaurants and historic landmarks. It’s a must-see if you visit Puerto Rico! The only negative is that the streets can get crowded when the cruise ships arrive so be prepared to share the experience with the cruisers.

Have you been to Puerto Rico? What did you love?

Making Memories in Puerto Rico!

As I typed this blog post,  I was flying over the Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean Sea, having just returned from a glorious week in Puerto Rico. The memories from my time on the island outweigh the fact that the person in the seat in front of me had reclined, so my laptop was shaped like a taco. Good thing I have small limbs and could continue typing; otherwise he might have felt turbulence from my foot.

My parents and I were looking for a new destination to travel to during Spring Break. Although Mexico is at our doorstep, we have explored a lot of that beautiful country so decided to head east. Getting to San Juan, Puerto Rico from San Diego is a long day of travel, so it’s important that you plan 2 full days of travel time for your vacation window. Most flights from the west coast connect in Houston, Dallas, Atlanta or Miami before heading to San Juan. Due to our personal schedules, we had to unfortunately take a red eye from Houston; leaving at midnight and arriving in San Juan at 5:00 a.m. Tired from a long day of travel, the 3-hour time difference and pretending to sleep in an airplane seat, we arrived at San Juan Airport, weary but excited to see what the day would bring once the sun came up. Thankfully we were able to secure an early check-in at our hotel, which allowed us to take a well deserved morning nap!

For those uncertain as to how Puerto Rico is affiliated with the US, let me offer a little history and cultural perspective. The short story is that Puerto Rico was under the flag of Spain for over 400 years; until the Spanish-American war, in which time the US took control. Lucky for us! Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the USA, which allows citizens of the islands full rights as American citizens. They travel under US passports, use the US dollar as currency, and can move between US states without limitation. They are technically US citizens of Puerto Rican heritage; but for Puerto Ricans, they are proud to be Puerto Rican! The overall sense we had when talking to the locals is that they welcome the connection to the US and the access and freedoms it provides, but they are very loyal to their Puerto Rican heritage. It’s not uncommon to hear those visiting from the States to make an “us” versus “them” statement; assuming that being in Puerto Rico was really traveling to a foreign land.  This is just ignorance from not understanding the history of the island. We made a point of talking to many locals who were quick to tell us how much they appreciate having the rights of the US but how much they love PR. The hope is that they will one day become an official US state, but for now, they welcome the commonwealth title. US citizens do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. We can come and go to the island just as easy as Puerto Ricans can travel to the states.

I can’t wait to share with you some of the exciting adventures we had during our visit. In future blog posts, I’ll talk about Old San Juan, the rain forest and kayaking in Bio Bay. It’s been such a wonderful trip that I am excited to share with you a million reasons why you should pack your bags and head straight to Puerto Rico.

If you’ve been to PR, share with me your favorite experience by popping down to the comments section below!

 

The Henley Co. Travel Concierge Wants to Know…

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Are you an explorer or a tourist?

The Henley Co. is proud to offer comprehensive travel services for our clients.  We are responding to the emerging travel market for life long explorers by developing a division devoted to specialized group travel. Gone are the days of just being a tourist; instead we want to offer international group travel opportunities that allow for special access, foster learning, and provide unique activities. We are in the business of orchestrating memorable events and experiences for our clients. We believe travel should be transformational, and leave the participant hungry for culture, language and people far different from their own neighborhoods. Is your suitcase packed yet?

Tell us, what do you want to see, do, and experience across the globe? We would welcome your feedback so we can design the unique experiences you crave.

Participants of this survey will be entered to win 1-hour of travel planning services with a Henley Co. travel concierge. Feel free to forward this survey to anyone you know that has caught the travel bug.

 

 

Ready to travel? Our Henley Co. Travel Concierge is here to help. Email us at hello@thehenleycompany.com to get started!

Cheers,

Bliss. Paradise. Heaven. Fiji.

FijiBliss. Paradise. Heaven. There are a million ways to describe the feeling, and in Fiji, there are just as many ways to experience it. Float along the tranquil waters in search of vibrant marine life. Breathe in the fresh tropical aroma of coconut and pineapple during a spa treatment. Or soak up the views of the islands while practicing your golf swing.

Enjoy this special Virtuoso offer for Henley Co. clients, thanks to our affiliation with Admiral Travel.

5 Nights | Available for stays November 1 – December 8, 2015
Book by March 31, 2015

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa – Natadola Beach, Viti Levu, Fiji
Experience real Fijian ambiance on palm-fringed white sand beach or swim and snorkel in rolling surf. The Resort offers breathtaking 360-degree views of Natadola Bay and exotic gardens and features a sugar cane train that runs through the property. A variety of cultural and recreational venues are within easy reach.             

Experience Includes:

  • Roundtrip air from Los Angeles to Nadi on Fiji Airways
  • Roundtrip airport transfers
  • Meet & Greet with shell lei
  • FREE night
  • Daily Breakfast

VIRTUOSO EXCLUSIVES:

  • One-category room upgrade at time of booking, if available
  • Two 60-minute Beachside Cabana massages
  • Early check-in of 8 AM & late checkout of 2 PM (early check-in and late checkout are only valid for guests arriving on the Fiji Airways flight from Los Angeles)

VIRTUOSO RATES

FROM $1,818 per person, per package

Ready to book? Don’t delay! Email us at hello@thehenleycompany.com!

Airline Secrets: 10 Tips and Tricks Airlines Don’t Want You To Know

This article on Thrillist certainly garnered my attention today!  For any of us that have been frustrated by the airlines, thanks to missed flights, delays or baggage loss, this article will certainly give us some tools to put in our toolbox for our next airline run-in.

Airline Secrets: 10 Tips and Tricks Airlines Don’t Want You To Know.

 

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What’s the biggest frustration you have with the airlines today? Do you have a tip? Drop it in the comments box below!

It’s Not Snowing in Tahiti…

As most of the country is under heaps of snow, taking a peek at the tropics might provide some motivation that one day summer will come.

Being in the travel business, we are currently scanning the globe for exciting destinations to visit. Today, we are featuring French Polynesia and the current offerings of Paul Gauguin cruise line. As a Virtuoso agent, The Henley Company is able to offer our clients added benefits on every booking.

 

m/s Paul Gauguin

7 Nights • Departures available until December 31, 2015

Itinerary:
Papeete, Tahiti • Huahine, Society Islands • Taha’a (Motu Mahana), Society Islands • Bora Bora, Society Islands two overnightsMoorea, Society Islands two overnights • Papeete, Tahiti overnight

Experience Includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare economy class from Los Angeles to Tahiti
  • Third person sailing in same stateroom sails free (airfare is additional)

VIRTUOSO EXCLUSIVE:

  • Virtuoso Voyager Club® shore event in Moorea, welcome reception and onboard Virtuoso host (February 28; May 9; June 20; September 12; October 3; December 16, 2015)
  • $100 Shipboard credit per person (March 28; August 8; September 26; December 23 & 30, 2015)

VIRTUOSO RATES

Virtuoso Oceanview fares FROM $3,995 per person

VIRTUOSO EXCLUSIVE

Virtuoso Voyager Club® hosted sailing or $100 shipboard credit (details listed above)
This all inclusive package includes:
  • Roundtrip airfare economy class from Los Angeles to Tahiti
  • Onboard complimentary wines, spirits, soft drinks
  • 24 hour room service
  • Onboard gratuities
  • Watersports marina with complimentary snorkeling equipment, wind surfing and paddle boarding
  • A day on Motu Mahana and a private beach experience in Bora Bora
  • Third person sailing in same stateroom sails free (airfare is additional)

Ready to book? Email our travel concierge at hello@thehenleycompany.com

Are You A Traveler or a Tourist?

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Traveler not a touristI recently stumbled upon this quote on Pinterest and was immediately stopped in my tracks. This is my mantra and wish for my life. It’s too good not to share!

Let me know what you think by popping a comment in the box below! Or better yet, share this via Twitter with anyone you think might need the reminder! Join me on Twitter at @henleyco. Cheers to all the world travelers!