Puerto Rico is an extremely friendly island – from people to places. While I was sitting and researching where should our next anniversary break take us – I had only one thing in mind – the trip should entail an extraordinary experience. And that is how the glowing bioluminescent bay that we once saw in the movie ‘Life of Pi’ came into my mind. We pinned down Vieques – the brightest bio bay in the world on a NEW MOON night in April, and hence the trip to Puerto Rico.
This is when living in east coast, America turned out really handy as our flight tickets literally fit into our tax refund this year. Extremely cheap and just four hours away. While we opted for a JetBlue flight from Boston, another great option on our list was Qatar Airways – a direct flight from New York to San Juan. (Who doesn’t want a reason to go from Boston to NYC?)
While planning the rest of our trip – for us, where to stay in a new place is directly proportional on how much we would want to drive during our trip. This is when we discovered that Old San Juan is NOT at all a drive-friendly city.
The infrastructure of Old San Juan is all about cute, tiny, and narrow brick roads which are meant to walk and not to park a vehicle. We instantly dropped our idea of renting a car and looked for a hotel that was in the heart of everything possible. Fast forward the remaining – welcome to HOTEL CASABLANCA.
8 reasons why you should stay in this boutique accommodation:
- THE DÉCOR IS TRULY BOUTIQUE – Art is an important part of Puerto Rico’s culture and is often used as a means of expression not only by trained artists but also by amateurs. While the streets of Old San Juan are animated with bold colors and graffiti’s – indoors are equally artistic. Almost like a picturesque art gallery itself, hotel Casablanca is adorned with local art, authentic furniture style and a display of traditional artifacts. If you are a culture lover and like to enjoy the local vibe of the place you are traveling to – this is your stay.
- YOU ARE IN THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING – If I had to rate this hotel on its location, I would give it a ten on ten. Just a few steps away from the ferry station and next to most restaurants and shops in the city, the hotel is at a convenient walking distance from everything you will be doing in Old San Juan. Please note the hotel does NOT have its own parking because the town itself is mostly pedestrian.
- EASY HOTEL PICKUPS AND DROP-OFFS – Owing to the popularity of the hotel, most tour companies are familiar with Casablanca, and therefore you wont have any issues with pickups and drops off. During our rainforest tour – our pick and drop was from the main square which is hardly one minute away from the hotel by foot.
- LATE NIGHTS ARE NOT AN ISSUE – Old San Juan is meant for late nights. The town is vibrant and alive even after midnight and you can café hop, bar hop or lounge hop all night long. In fact, Old San Juan is a great place to meet new people and make new friends. With a little bit of mindfulness, a female can also enjoy the town solo – not worrying about late nights and how to get back home after dark. Beware of the dogs, and you can easily walk back to the hotel without a worry.
- THE TERRACE IS UNIQUELY ADORABLE – Puerto Rico has beautiful beaches, and yes it is only human to expect a swimming pool in your hotel these days. BUT, sadly there is no pool – instead there is a terrace with stone bathtubs. Sun bathe on a terrace overlooking the town or star bathe in the night – I personally thought the idea of these mini individual pools was cute and somewhat made up for the absence of a pool. For Mr. hubby the decision was simple – he voted for convenience over luxury.
- THE STAFF IS GOLD – Yes. The staff of this hotel is gold. During our visit, the entire staff we met was of local Puerto-Ricons who knew the city inside out. From taking care of our comfort to actually help us plan our tours, even book them for us and helping us with local recommendations as per our tastes – we were all sorted! A friendly staff is a must for us and this one was sure chatty, had a lot of local insight and extremely fun to interact with.
- THE ROOMS ARE HOMELY – Clean, cozy, comfortable, colorful and tastefully designed – the rooms are quaint with an old Puerto-Ricon charm to them. We had a queen room which was tiny, but designed beautifully. The bathrooms were small but impressively clean. There was a sitting area outside our room which was particularly charming to sit and talk with friends or to cuddle up with a blanket and read a book. The colorful lanterns and paintings are a sight – which help you indulge more into the whole Puerto-Ricon culture.
- BREAKFAST IS FAMOUS – Hotel Casablanca is also home to the famous the known ‘Café Americain’ in town. Mornings are known for its breakfast and not just the hotel guests eat here, but people walk in to only eat at the café even if they are not staying the night. The lunch menu is authentic with local cuisine on the offer. For most part of the day, the café also plays the movie Casablanca through a projector adding onto the the whole boutique charm of the entire dining space.
THE DEALBREAKER: Even with all its advantages there is one major deal breaker about this hotel. It has NO elevator. If you are traveling with elders or little kids who would need the convenience of a lift – well this could be your only deal breaker. For us, we didn’t really care!