Seven Seas: An Outstanding Beach on PUERTO RICO’S Northwest Coast


Parque Nacional Balneario Seven Seas
Fajardo, Puerto Rico
$$$$$



Seven Seas is a very nice public beach and national park about 30 miles West of San Juan and is clean with a protected swimming area, public toilets, life guards, and access to a nearby snack bar (pastilillos).


Parking is $5.35, but worth the price thanks to the attendant who watches over the lot. There is street parking, but we were told that the police ticket cars, so pay the price or park in Casa de Los Patilillos parking lot. The beach is adjacent to both parking lots.

You can avoid paying the $5.35 parking fee by visiting on Monday or Tuesday when the national park is closed and park your car at Casa de Los Patilillos. Tito, the owner, is very friendly and speaks excellent English. He has a full bar, soft drinks, pastalillos (homemade deep-fried dough pastries with a variety of savory and sweet fillings), and entrees. We tried the ham and cheese (jamon con queso), ham and pineapple (jamon con piña) and beef and cheese (carne con queso), and all three were hot, fresh, and delicious!

The very fine sand on the beach is easy on the feet, but adheres easily to the skin. Much better than the rocky beaches of Greece, the sand is easily brushed or washed away with a towel or the sea.

The water drops off to about three feet then quickly drops off. There are numerous species of fish inside the reef, so bring your snorkeling gear. The bottom is sand and small, smooth rocks, and is easy on the feet. Water temperature was probably in the high 70’s, perfectly cool enough to refresh while not so cold it shocks the system.


Mostly families and couples, Seven Seas is highly recommended while in the Northwest part of the island.

CombatCritic Gives Seven Seas 9 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBAS ARE Bueno!

Key Words: beach, CombatCritic, Seven Seas, snorkeling, fish, ocean, public, restroom, sand, sea, toilet, snack, bar, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, San Juan, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Advertisements

Keith’s AirBnB Miramar (Avenida Miramar – San Juan), Puerto Rico Apartment … Central, Afforadable, Friendly!



Living Room and Balcony

We found Keith’s apartment in Marimar (San Juan) by chance and were we glad we did! For a reasonable price considering the location, we had a bedroom and access to the living area (bath, kitchen, living room, terrrace) of a modern apartment centrally located between downtown San Juan and Old San Juan (less than 2 miles). 


Kitchen

Keith was visiting relatives stateside when we arrived, so Tiffany (a student at University of Puerto Rico and tenant) was there to let us in, orient us to the area, and give us the keys, all on Christmas Eve. She was friendly and helpful before leaving for Ponce to spend the holiday with her family.


On Christmas day there was not a lot open, so we went to El Escambrón, a nice public beach between the apartment and Old San Juan with clean sand, public restrooms, snackbar, and parking ($5).

The next day we took the bus (M1) to Santurce Corazon station where we caught the train (Rio Piedras Station) to Mercado del Rio Piedras, a vibrant indoor market frequented by locals.



Bedroom
The apartment is on the 3rd floor of a modern high-rise with street parking that was at times difficult to find close by. We had to walk a few blocks much of the time there as the parking spots out front were occupied by static vehicles after day two.


Access to a fridge, stove/oven, washer/dryer was very convenient although we had to go out on Christmas Eve and find a Walgreens that happened to be open to buy enough toilet paper to get us through the holiday. The apartment was relatively clean with a lived-in feel and nice, although dated furnishings and decor. There was one beach chair and one beach towel, a thermal lunch bag, and small umbrella available for beach use and we took advantage of all on our trip to El Escambrón.


There is a tub/shower combo in the bathroom with plenty of hot water despite what the previous reviewer had written. Keith provided soap, shampoo, and conditioner as well as laundry detergent and fabric softener (which we replenished prior to departure), but I would advise bringing your own or purchasing at the local market just a few blocks away on Avenue Ponce de Leon, the hub of the area with upscale restaurants, markets, cinema, and fast food (Subway, Papa John’s are close by). Having access to a washer and dryer was an unexpected luxury, and a definite advantage to staying here.


CombatCritic Gives Keith’s Miramar Apartment 8 Out Of 10 Bombs … BOMBAS ARE BUENAS!

Key Words: Keith Poimboeuf, Keith, Poimboeuf, apartment, airbnb, Miramar, San Juan, Puerto Rico, puerto, rico, washer, dryer, kitchen, bath, bedroom, terrace, balcony, CombatCritic, TravelValue

A Friendly, Vibrant Vibe Awaits You at Mercado del Rio Piedras!


A Friendly, Vibrant Vibe Awaits You at Mercado del Rio Piedras!

Leaving the Rio Piedras train station, go straight one block to De Diego street, turn left, and go about 10 blocks. Mercado del Rio Piedras will be in your left. 


Occupying a full block, the market has fruit, vegetables, food stalls, clothing and sundry shops. Mostly locals, it’s a good place to escape tourists and get a cheap lunch!

Strictly locals, this market has a little of everything either inside the large mercado or in the surrounding shopping zone. Inexpensive food stalls, fruit and vegetables, clothing, toys, souvenirs, and a friendly, vibrant vibe await you in Mercado del Rio Piedras! If you want to escape tourists and find some great bargains, THIS IS A MUST SEE in San Juan!


CombatCritic Gives Mercado del Rio Piedras 9 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBAS ARE BUENAS!

Key Words: Mercado del Rio Piedras, mercado, market, rio, piedras, river, stones, shopping, food, eat, clothing, shops, shoes, fruit, vegetables, San Juan, Puerto Rico, CombatCritic, TravelValue

San Juan, Puerto Rico Bus and Train Information


San Juan, Puerto Rico Bus and Train Information

If traveling by public conveyance in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is not a decent website or app I could find with a good map of the bus and train system. Not wanting my fellow travelers to hunt as much as I did to find a map, the folks at Puerto Rico DayTrips have published a decent product on their website:


http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/wp-post-images/san-juan-bus-routes.png

Courtesy of the Nice Folks, Ray and Gwenn, at Puerto Rico Day Trips (Link Above)
You can always go to a bus stop and ask someone for help as many locals speak English. There are information counters at the train stations where you can also buy free cards for the trains and busses that you can load as much money on as you like, eliminating the need to take rolls of quarters with you (required on trains – buses only take coins). 

Good luck!

CombatCritic … On the Front Lines …yadah…yadah…yadah

CombatCritic, Puerto Rico Bus and Train Information, San Juan, TravelValue, 

El Escambron (San Juan, Puerto Rico): Awesome Public Beach Near Old San Juan


Balneario El Escambrón (Public Beach)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
$$$$$


San Juan, Puerto Rico: El Escambron is a very nice public beach just West of Old San Juan. it is clean with a protected swimming area, public toilets (closed on Christmas Day unfortunately), a life guard, and snack bar.


Parking is $5, but worth the price thanks to the attendant who watches over the lot, accompanied by a police cruiser and several police officers the day we were there. The beach is adjacent to the parking lot.

The very fine sand is easy on the feet, but adheres easily to the skin. Much better than the rocky beaches of Greece, the sand is easily brushed or washed away with a towel or the sea.

The water drops off quickly to about three feet and remains fairly shallow all the way out to the rocks. There are numerous species of fish inside the reef, so bring your snorkeling gear. The bottom is sand and small, smooth rocks, and is easy on the feet. Water temperature on Christmas day was probably in the high 70’s, perfectly cool enough to refresh while not so cold it shocks the system.

Mostly families and couples, El Escambron is highly recommended while in the San Juan area.

CombatCritic Gives El Escambron 8 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

El Patio de Sam … More Like El Yucko de Sam!


Santa? What Are You Doing In This Dump?
El Patio de Sam
Calle San Sebastian 102
Old San JuanPuerto Rico 00936
(787) 723-1149


$$$$$

San Juan, Puerto Rico: We came for the piña coladas… advertised prominently out front as “2 for 1” until 7pm weekdays … and decided to try a burger ($10.95) with cheese and fries because the server told us “our burgers are the best, not only in Puerto Rico, but in ALL OF THE US!” We trusted her, first mistake!

Pina Colada – $9

Our burger FINALLY arrived after 30 minutes and was slightly bigger than a White Castle (Whitey One-Bite). There was no sauce, the patty (advertised to be 8 ounces) was small, maybe 5 ounces at best, and accompanied by a pickle spear, very small slice of tomato, and a little lettuce. The fries were shoestrings and not many of them at that. We finished the sandwich literally in less than 3 minutes and I am not a fast eater by any stretch.


Thankfully, the piña coladas ($9) were large and tasty, not strong, good, but thank God it was happy hour because they were way overpriced … $33 for two drinks and an itty-bitty burger … Never again!

CombatCritic Gives Patio de Sam 3 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMS ARE GOOD!










Key Words: Patio de Sam, patio, Sam, Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico, old, San, Juan, bar, saloon, restaurant, pina colada, rum

Nonna Cucina Rustica Serves Food My Grandmother (Nonna) Would Be Proud Of!


Nonna Cucina Italiana
Calle San Jorge
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 998-6555


$$$$$


San Juan: Nonna Cucina Rustica Italiana is very nice, somewhat small, slightly upscale classic Italian restaurant near downtown and not far from Miramar where we were staying. We found her on Yelp* and the reviews were very positive. We had difficulty finding a restaurant open on Christmas Eve when we arrived in San Juan, so I figured that Christmas day would be even worse. To our surprise, Nonna was open (as were several restaurants we saw – everything else was closed as they should be) and had a table available … “we’ll be right there!”

Waze, our eMap, was a bit off, so we called the restaurant and the manager guided us in (a couple blocks ahead of where Waze took us), sticking her head out the door until she spotted us pulling up. They have Valet Service, but we decided to go through the next signal and found plenty of street parking in the next block.

It is nearly impossible to find a traditional Italian kitchen in the US and we were expecting as much in Puerto Rico … WE WERE VERY PLEASANTLY SURPRISED!

Homemade Mozzarella Caprese ($9) and Vido di Alicante
Carmen, our server, was extremely pleasant even though, still being on “non-island time” and expecting things to move rapidly like they do on the continent, we were hungry and a little impatient to start. I ordered a Spanish Alicante red, a simple yet robust dark red wine ($27), to accompany our meal.

For antipasti, we had the veal polpette (meatballs) and homemade mozzarella, and both were excellent. The polpette (3 for $9 – polpettone, by the way, is Italian meatloaf) came atop a bed of mashed potatoes (polenta would have been a more traditional and excellent choice) and covered with a light tomato sauce. We had to ask for bread and it took a while to arrive, a very small basket of what looked like foccacia sliced into small pieces, and the only disappointment of the night. Local bread on the table is standard in all Italian restaurants, even in Italy, so when I did not see bread on a single table and had to ask for it, I was a bit surprised. It was decent, but too little to accompany the wonderful appetizers, both of which cried out for bread, good bread!

Polpette with Mashed Potatoes and Tomato Sauce – $9
The homemade mozzarella was also delicious. Atop the four rather small, thin slices ($9) of mozzarella were three large cherry tomatoes, a few pieces of arugula, and a hefty dose of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chopped, toasted hazelnuts. A kind of insalata Caprese, you would never see balsamic vinegar on mozzarella in Italy, but it was very tasty if not filling.

The Casoncelli alla Bergamasca ($17), a light yet complex dish of pasta shells (the size of perogi) was stuffed with sausage and quickly sautéed in a mild butter and sage sauce. They were sublime, the only fault being that the obviously homemade pasta shells were a bit too “al dente” and could have been boiled another minute or two. Otherwise, we were quite pleased.

Casoncelli alla Bergamasca – $17
I ordered the lasagna ($18), which came in its own 7″ x 7″ baking dish with a crispy layer of cheese and béchamel sauce and it was exquisite! More than I needed to eat, it was layered with a hefty portion of minced lamb, lasagna noodles, spinach, and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. The lamb tasted very much like lamb, so if you are not into lamb, DO NOT order this dish. I like lamb on occasion, not daily, and was very happy with my choice.

Lamb Lasagna – $18
For dessert, offered by the very sweet, young pastry chef with a huge smile, we had the tiramisu. Untraditional in every way, I had seen it on other tables throughout the night and thought it was an ice cream sunday, but it was not! All of the usual ingredients were there, cookies, mascarpone cheese, and cocoa (accompanied by a shot of espresso to pour over the top), but a scoop of ice cream was also included along with chocolate syrup. It did not taste like any tiramisu I have ever eaten (and at $12 it was the most expensive tiramisu I have eaten), but it was extravagant.

Not cheap by any stretch, Nonna was a delight and extremely good value … BUONISSIMO!

CombatCritic Gives Nonna Cucina Italiana 9 Out of 10 Bombs … BOMBS ARE GOOD!






Key Words: Nonna, cucina, rustica, Italiana, Italian, restaurant, food, San Juan, Puerto Rico, eat, dinner, delicious, pasta, wine, mozzarella, cheese, tiramisu, CombatCritic