San Juan Retreat

Puerto Rico Retreat

Now that hurricane season in Puerto Rico is winding down,  I find it important to reflect back on what an honor it was to share the beautiful culture of the island with my yoga students – whom I prefer to call friends – last June. My husband is from Puerto Rico and he still has many, many family members living there today. The devastation of Hurricane Maria is just unfanthomable. Everyone in his family seems to be slowly getting back to “normal” life but I know this will take years. 

This tragedy taught me many lessons but one, in regards to travel, is to remember that what is here today could be completely gone tomorrow. We must cherish every moment that we are blessed to experience the wonders of this planet. 

I believe that Puerto Rico will only come out of this stronger than before and it won’t be too long before they are ready to welcome visitors back to the “Island of Enchantment.”

 I would like to share what we did for my 4 nights / 5 days Summer Solstice Retreat in San Juan. If you are thinking about taking a trip to this fascinating island, this should provide you with some fun ideas for things to do on a short visit. Enjoy!

Day 1: Arrivals, Welcome Dinner, and Beach Meditation.

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Nelson & I arrived in San Juan the night before everyone else to finalize arrangements with the hotel staff and assemble our pretty welcome bags. It was pouring rain that night which cooled things off – creating a perfect, sunny arrival day for our group!

We picked up 16 travelers from the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. We hired a car service ahead of time ( 16 passenger Mercedez Benz van with bottled waters & luggage help ) but later learned that you can hire a van at the airport that is still pretty nice for much less. The driver told us that you just need to request a “nicer van ” at the rental desk. Some taxi / van services can be lacking AC.  I just always like being prepared. Only the best for my guests!

Once everyone had checked into their room ( and enjoyed a few coconut mojitos ) we had a tapas style welcome dinner, poolside, at the Solera Restaurant. We played a little ice breaker game so everyone could introduce themselves. 

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I love the La Concha Resort on Condado Beach! For an inside look at the rooms, you can watch the detailed room reviews on my YouTube channel. I did two reviews for this hotel.

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Later that night, we went down to the beach, beers in hand, to learn what the Summer Solstice and La Noche de San Juan are all about. We gathered in a circle on the sand with some lanterns. As it got dark, I read to the group about the origin and traditions of these two holidays and why they are celebrated here in Puerto Rico. We even decided to walk into the ocean backwards ( one of the traditions ) to symbolize a fresh start in our lives. 

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Day 2: Old San Juan Tasting Tour

Our first full day of the retreat started early! After some light yoga on the beach & a hearty breakfast, we gathered in the hotel lobby to await our driver from Spoon Food Tours. Old San Juan was a short 15 minute drive from our hotel.  We joined the “Walk & Taste Tour.” Our guide was Pablo and he was certainly a highlight of our entire trip. His enthusiasm was so genuine and his knowledge of the island’s history was very impressive! ( If you ever decide to join this tour, I highly recommend requesting Pablo as your guide. ) I pre-booked this tour and Paulina in customer service was amazing. She helped me choose the itinerary that would be best for our group. 

We saw the historical sites, visited El Morro, El Convento and many other important land marks in the area. We tasted ceviche, local fish, plantains, local coffee, chocolate martinis and a few other delicious bites. Our groups favorite were the stuffed avacados at Stuffed.
I hope they open a location in Florida some day!

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Before going back to the hotel, we stopped for Pina Coladas at the “home of the original Pina Colada.” It is a quaint restaurant called Barrachina ( though I hear that it is just a rumor and the real original place was closed that day. ) We said hello to the little parrots who I swear have been there for years, took some fun group photos and headed back to the beach. 

Later that night, some our brave travelers went on the night time Bio Bay Kayak tour to see the bioluminescent waters. They said it was actually quite scary in the dark! The other half of us explored Asford Avenue just outside the hotel. There are lots of great restaurants, bars and shops all in walking distance. We had so much fun bar hopping! I’ll spare you the incriminating photos.

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Day 3: Ashtanga Yoga, Mermaids & Mermen

The first half of this day was left open for everyone to relax. ( Good thing since it was a late night the night before! ) Some people just decided to sleep in and then laze at the beach. Some of the ladies went out shopping while some of the others went next door to the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel to treat themselves to luxury spa treatments. There is not a spa at the La Concha hotel but this hotel next door is their sister property. It is a very quick walk. There are also some nice restaurants to try.

That afternoon, we took a group trip to Ocean Park which is a trendy neighborhood about 10 minutes from the La Concha Hotel. We had the honor of visiting Ashtanga Yoga Puerto Rico where David Kyle guided us through a fun yet challenging yoga practice. If you have never experienced a class with the Mula Bandha King, I highly recommend you making it happen. He teaches in many cities.  As a yoga teacher who has studied with teachers all around the world, I can honestly say that David is still one of my favorites who I hold dear to my heart.

As soon as you step into the studio, you know you are somewhere special.

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That evening was  The Summer Solstice Party at the La Concha Resort!
It was so much fun. Everyone was dressed to party for the upscale cocktails inside the hotel lobby. DJ, mermaids and mermen drew us to the main pool and out by the beach, a full blown pool party was happening. It was the perfect place to witness hundreds of people walk backwards into the ocean at midnight in honor of La Noche de San Juan. 

Definitely a night to remember!

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Photo Courtesy of the La Concha Hotel.

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Photo Courtesy of the La Concha Hotel.

Day 4: Rain forests, Henna & Relaxation

On our  final day in Puerto Rico, I really needed to catch up on some rest. I got caught up on my emails while sipping  pina coladas and eating lunch by the pool.  Some of our travelers decided to take a day trip to the famous El Yunque Rainforest. 

Later that night we had a casual cocktail party. I invited a henna artist to come and paint designs for our ladies as a souvenier of our adventure. 

One of our travelers walked to the tattoo shop nearby and got a souvenier of her own!!

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Day 5: Yoga, Parades & Airports

After breakfast, we did a mandala yoga practice in the park! It was another day of perfect weather. While packing up for the airport, there was a lot of chaos at the hotel. The check out area was crazy busy. We were told that a hug Pride Parade would be coming through the area soon and that traffic would be at a stand still for a couple of hours.

As a group leader, a situation that started out feeling very stressful ended up being one of the highlights of my trip! We actually made it through traffic and to the airport in plenty of time.  As I was watching the parade go by our hotel entrance , it seemed like the parade was there just for us. A celebration of our time there, a beautiful send off with colorful floats, happy music, bubble machines and postive vibes!

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Will This Be My Last Visit To Puerto Rico?

I highly doubt it. I would love to do this trip all over again with another group when the time is right. To see where I am leading trips this year, be sure to check out my website & social media. 

Where would you love to visit on a group trip? Let’s make it happen! 

Travel Hacks 2019

Travel Hacks 2019

1. Combine One-Way Tickets

One-Way Tickets - Best Travel Hacks For Families

 

Round-trip may be the easiest to research, however, it may not be the least expensive or most convenient option. Purchasing two one-way tickets is a great travel hack that allows you to pick different airlines, as a result, you can save some considerable money.

2. Search Offbeat Or Little-Known Websites

Find the best deals on flights on websites like flightdeal, CheapOAir or skiplagged which can offer incredible savings. You can also check with budget-minded airlines directly like Frontier Airlines at FrontierAirlines.

3. Check In Ahead Of Time

Airport - Best Travel Hacks For Families

The best way to avoid a time crunch to get to your gate to board the plane is by checking in for your flight online or through the airline’s app. This little travel tip allows you to print out your boarding pass and go right to security.

4. Book Last Minute For Cruises

One of the best travel hacks is booking cruise tickets as late as possible. Unlike air travel, it is often found that the cheapest rates for cruise tickets are found last minute. This is a great option for long cruises like Trans-Atlantic’s. Most cruise packages also come with food included so you can end up saving a considerable amount when put against the cost of a hotel and eating out.

5. Download Before You Leave

Make sure to download movies, books or games you will want to be using before you leave. If you are traveling with children you definitely will want to do this. Free wifi may not be available in all the places you visit. If you happen to find yourself stuck somewhere, like on the tarmac for an extended amount of time, for example, you will be well prepared.

6. Free Walking Tours

Walking Tours - Best Travel Hacks For Families

If you are looking for popular attractions or just looking to explore a city on foot, then free city walking tours are available to help you. Explore about 90% of the major cities in Europe, as well as a few other large cities around the world for free. You can find these by visiting local tourist offices, your hotel or hostel or even just Googling “free walking tours nearby”.

7. Travel Off-Season

If you want to enjoy a little extra attention, extra privacy, and maybe some extra space, traveling in the off-season can considerably cut down on the crowds of people. This allows for things like more intimate tours and being able to visit popular attractions without the normal huge crowd. Off-season travel can also lead to a much more relaxed trip.

8. Get A City Pass

When traveling if you want to maximize your time and what you can see and do in a city, the city pass or city tourism cards is the way to go. Travel hacks like this often offer great discounts such as free shuttles and other services or free or discounted access to attractions.

9. Make Lunch Your Biggest Meal

Food - Best Travel Hacks For Families

When traveling it’s a great idea to cook meals yourself if you have the ability to do so yourself. However a lot of times, you will not have that option and will have to dine out. One of the top travel hacks when it comes to eating out is, eating your largest meals during the day when restaurants are likely to have daily specials. These at times are often 50% cheaper than their dinner equivalents.

10. Book An Airbnb

Travel hacks for accommodations are just as important as how you get there. Booking on Airbnb instead of a traditional hotel can save you anywhere from a modest 10% up to about 80% off the price of a room. Booking Airbnb can also offer you a more “local” feel to your trip.

11. Use Cash Back Rewards And Loyalty Programs

When you use your credit card you might as well use one that will give you something back. Choosing a credit card or a program like Ebates, that gives cash back rewards will help you stretch out that dollar. Similarly, try to pick a hotel chain to always stay at because most have a loyalty program that will offer you free nights and upgrades after you have stayed with them an “X” amount of nights.

12. Finally, Camp For Free

Camping - Best Travel Hacks For Families

If you love to camp than I would definitely recommend using the free campsites website or mobile app. It not only shows where all the paid camping sites are in an area, but it also shows all the free ones as well. If you are traveling and looking for a free place to stay some of the free sites even have some amenities like showers and wifi.