As I mentioned in the hotel review, the Courtyard Marriott Isla Verde is close to the airport but not too far from Old San Juan, which was about a 15 minute cab ride. On Saturday evening, we decided to head down to Old San Juan for drinks and dinner. The hotel was able to call a cab for us and the 15-20 minute ride cost $21 dollars for the two us.
We didn’t go in with any set plans other than dinner at 7:30 – we planned to just walk around, maybe a find a bar at first and kill time people watching. Little did we know, there was a weekend festival that was going on and the cab driver mentioned to us he couldn’t take us to the heart of Old San Juan and would have to drop us off a few blocks away. No matter as it was actually a nice night to walk around and we quickly saw several streets closed with people everywhere. It turns out the festival was the SOFO Culinary Fest which was from August 14 – 17 and involved many street vendors selling all types of food, drinks and other goodies.
We quickly found someone making mixed drinks in freshly cut pineapples so I had to get Andrea one. I think it was a pina colada but I don’t quite remember. The best part about the festival was that open container laws were waived so we take our drink to walk around and check out the rest of the festival. There was live music on several street corners and with the weather being perfect, there was a great atmosphere in the streets.
After walking around for a while, it was time for our dinner reservation at Marmalade which is ranked as the #1 restaurant in San Juan on Trip Advisor. It didn’t disappoint. The interior has a very unique vibe that I can’t quite put my finger on – maybe a modern setup influenced with Middle Eastern themes. The photo doesn’t do the place justice but it was on the most unique dining atmosphere for me in a while.
They have a very eclectic drink menu and of course, we had to try something off it. I had the Global Warming, complete with chilies in my drink, while Andrea tried the Jimi Hendrick’s. The waiter recommended drinking my drink quickly as it “heats up” the longer you let it sit.
The food was excellent and they had several creative takes on food. For example, we ordered Popcorn Shrimp as an app but their take on it included laying grilled shrimp on a bed of spice-crusted popcorn (yes actual popcorn). Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture but it was delicious. That was followed by their signature white bean soup, which had truffle oil and pancetta dust in it. For our main courses, I had the pork belly with a black bean puree while Andrea had the spaghetti squash which looked nothing you’d like expect (again we were so hungry we forgot to take photos). Both dishes were quite unique and very different from what we normally have.
After dinner, we walked around and enjoyed the live music playing in the streets. When we eventually got tired of it, we took a cab back to the Courtyard Marriott which came to $20. For the rest of the trip, we didn’t do too much other than relax by the pool and beach. We wanted to relax and that was the perfect remedy for us. One night, we did walk from the hotel to the convenience store to pickup a few things and passed by a cockfighting arena. We obviously didn’t partake but found it interesting.
In all, this was a successful, short 3 night getaway to Puerto Rico that allowed us to explore Old San Juan for the first time. We had some amazing food and drinks and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for another long weekend.