Saturday, May 30, 2015

Family Friendly Activities in Puerto Rico!

Trying to plan a vacation that has something of interest available to all family members can be rather tedious. After a few weeks of research and keeping a budget in mind, I discovered that Puerto Rico had a lot to offer for all age groups! 

Puerto Rico is one of the minor U.S. territories, but its uniqueness makes it feel like an international vacation. This is great because coming from any part of the United States, you don't need to worry about visas, yet it feels like you're in a different country. Apart from the obvious relaxing beaches, there are also plenty of other things to see such as the rainforest, caves, historical forts, a charming city dating back to the 1500s, the bio-luminescent bay and a lot of modern areas as well. 

 As soon as we knew we wanted to visit this place, I got to planning!

Things didn't go 100% according to plan, but whatever we did manage to explore was a wonderful and cherishable experience! 

The view overlooking the capital city of San Juan as we landed was incredible. We could see the blues of the ocean, the greens of the land and the array of colors in the architecture. 

We decided to stay at Hampton Inn & Suites in Isla Verde due to its proximity to the airport, beach and city. They had great rooms, service and complimentary breakfast. The reviews are amazing online and I agree with all of the positive feedback.

Also, renting a car is essential in Puerto Rico, especially with children. Taxi services aren't available everywhere.

The Isla Verde beach was a mere 5-10 minute walk from the hotel. It was almost completely empty during a weekday. Kind of felt like we had our own private island!

If you want to go shopping during your vacation, Plaza Las Americas is the place to go! It's a really contemporary mall with a flare of Puerto Rican style, and has a huge selection of shops. If you're not looking for a modern vibe, head on over to the quaint city of Old San Juan.

This city had the earliest settlement in Puerto Rico, dating back to 1521. Every single building is painted a different color, making it a fresh and unparalleled experience. This was definitely one of the most charming cities I've ever visited. We had some lunch at Cafe Berlin here, which specializes in Puerto Rican, international and vegetarian cuisines. The food and service here did not disappoint! 

Castillo San Felipe del Morro (or El Morro) is a must-see tourist spot. The history-lover in me really appreciated this location. It is a fort that dates back to the 1500s, and it has protected the Puerto Ricans for centuries as they guarded their land from this specific area. Outside the fort is a popular place for kite flying. The wind is absolutely perfect for it. I bought a kite from Amazon beforehand, and even though we had no experience with flying kites before, it flew beautifully over here. It was great to join the locals in on the fun, and my toddler loved chasing the kite as well! 

The views around the fort are absolutely breathtaking.

Cannons were shot from this gaps as ships came to conquer the land. The stories these walls could tell! Just thinking about what the troops who stayed in these forts to save their country went through gives me shivers! 

You can spot these chameleons throughout the city. Kids can get a zoo experience while walking around in historical sites as well!

This is the view from The Head ("El Morro") of the fort. It is from here that the ships came towards the country of Puerto Rico in an attempt to conquer it. There are hundreds of signs inside the fort describing each section of the fort. Definitely recommend visiting this place. It is very child friendly. Just remember to keep hydrated because it can get hot!

We wanted to visit a place solely for our toddler as well, and Museo del Nino (The Children's Museum) had really good reviews. This place was amazing! I would say it's a must-see for children 10 and under. There is so much to see here. We weren't able to see all of it in 3 hours. There are both indoor and outdoor areas.

The indoor area has 2 large floors with all kinds of activities. There is an entire section for toddlers as well, so it was wonderful for our son! 

The outdoor area has a large playground, a mini zoo, airplane tour, duck-feeding area, jungle train ride and more places we were not able to see! When the toddler is happy, the family is happy! :)

The main reason we went to Puerto Rico was to see the Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo, an hour away from San Juan. It is a strange phenomenon where organisms within the ocean light up and glow when touched. There are only a couple of countries in the entire world with this bay, and Puerto Rico is one of them, making it another must-see attraction. There are two ways to see the "Bio Bay". One is to use a kayak, and the other is a small electric boat ride. You will need to make bookings online far in advance. Since we had a toddler, we made a booking for the electric boat ride. Unfortunately, we missed the boat by 1 minute and were not able to see this fascinating place! Make sure to reach an hour before the time you are emailed! I couldn't take pictures myself because I didn't get to visit, but here's one from Google:

Picture Source
Another great site to visit is the El Yunque National Forest. It is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System, making it an experience to remember with the children. We had visited rain forests in Malaysia, so decided to skip this attraction. However, I'm sure it would have been an enjoyable experience if we went!

All El Yunque photography by Brett Ackroyd
As if all of this wasn't enough, there are also caves to visit in this area! Since we were only there for 3 days, we couldn't visit the the Rio Camuy Cave Park, which is a 1 hour 20 minute drive from San Juan. If you are able to go, make sure to where sneakers as the floors are slippery. As you wait in line, there is also a small playground for children to keep themselves busy.

I feel like we need to go back to Puerto Rico just to experience the things we've missed out on! There's truly so much to do there.

Our trip was based mainly in San Juan. I feel that this area is the most family friendly as there are lots of activities toddlers and older children can look forward to. If you are looking for more of romantic getaway, Vieques or Flamenco Beach are places to consider in Puerto Rico as they offer secluded beaches.

If you eat halal food, there are 3 places to choose from in San Juan:
-Ali Baba 1214 Avenida Ashford, San Juan

-Istanbul- 325 Calle Recinto Sur, San Juan  
-El Cairo- 352 Calle Ensenada, San Juan

There is also a masjid in this city.

Overall, our trip to Puerto Rico was incredible and I would recommend families with children to visit! Let me know if I missed out any must-see attractions in Puerto Rico or where you would recommend us to take our next family vacation!

Hope this post was helpful for you! Don't forget to Follow Me on FacebookPinterest and Instagram for future updates!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Graduation Cash Gift Ideas

Know anyone graduating this year? If you are about to give cash as a gift, put in a little effort to make it that much more special for the graduate! Here are a couple of ideas I found online and implemented:

Using $20, $1 and $5 bills, I arranged the notes to say "2015" for this year. Also, I rolled up a few bills and tied with red ribbons to look like graduation degrees. She definitely loved them! :)

Hope this post was helpful for you! Please comment below if you have anymore ideas! Would love to hear them!

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