The Traveling Steve's

Way-cation in San Juan part 3. . . heading home

On Sunday we requested a 1pm checkout from the Caribe Hilton which was graciously honored.  As our flight leaving San Juan wasn’t until 2:45pm and we had no luggage to check, we wanted to maximize the short time remaining at the hotel.


As a Hilton Diamond member, I got vouchers for two complimentary continental  breakfasts, but we upgraded to the full buffet for an additional $14 a person, basically making breakfast half-price.  We had a nice window seat overlooking the beach area, and had a leisurely breakfast before walking around the property.

IMG_6700IMG_6704There is a nice large pond area to the side of the hotel, which is beautifully landscaped and features Koi fish, swans,IMG_6694 iguanas and other lizards of different sizes and shapes, a peacock, and even a huge turkey!  Glad for him it wasn’t Thanksgiving! IMG_6690The iguanas seemed tame as we walked by them, but I’m sure their sharp teeth would give a bad bite.  Still, they seemed happy to be there, and gathered around the shrubs and lawn for a bit of sunbathing.IMG_6684



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We walked over towards the beach area and past the abandoned Hotel Normandie, and the outdoor athletic center. IMG_6730 IMG_6736 (1) IMG_6741

The Normandie Hotel is a landmark in San Juan, modeled after the historic ship of the same name.  Although we’ve never stayed there, we have been inside for a drink years ago, and admired the French decor.  Sadly, the hotel has seen better days, but fortunately as it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, it won’t be easily torn down.  Hopefully the new investors will renovate it to its former glory, although with the safety regulations of today, not to mention technology updates (i.e. wifi, wiring, plumbing etc) and the architectural demands of keeping the exterior to the original specifications, it will be quite a costly endeavor.  Wikipedia has this link if you are interested in reading up on the Hotel Normandie.  We spoke with one of the staff at the Caribe Hilton, and he had worked there years ago as his first job, and had fond memories of her.  He said it had been closed now for five years or so.  As it was fenced in, we couldn’t get up close to the hotel, but could see the glass windows were gone, and it looked like a shell of its former livelihood.

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As we walked along the pathway, many locals were enjoying the Sunday weather with picnics along side the water.

IMG_6738 (1) Here’s a couple photos looking back at the Caribe Hilton and Normandie Hotel to the right of it, and some scenic spots along the way.

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It was such a pleasant day weather-wise, and even though we were only in San Juan for a quick 24 hour way-cation, it was very relaxing and felt much longer than it actually was.  IMG_6716

Steve and I vowed we would do this again this year, and maybe stay a couple weekend nights next time, as my vacation for the rest of the year has already been allocated by Steve DOS. (Upcoming trips this year to San Diego, Easter Island, Santiago, Kaui, and the big trip of this year was in February to Vietnam/Cambodia).

We took a cab from the hotel to the airport for $30 including tip.  While I expected airport security to be a nightmare due to the cruise ships coming and leaving, it was amazingly quick and polite with the TSA pre-check line – much more efficient and friendlier than the Orlando pre-check line lately.  (I could write a whole post about the stresses of Orlando security and TSA as I go thru there weekly, but I digress.)

As we had a couple hours before our flight, we had lunch at Margaritaville in the San Juan Airport. IMG_6764 (1)

We would have gone to the Admiral’s Club, but unfortunately American had closed this club for whatever reason; I thought San Juan was a big hub for American, but I guess they’ve scaled back.

In any event, Margaritaville was a disappointment as far as service, price, and so-so food.  The only thing going for it was a place to sit down, and the overhead airplane hanging from the ceiling. IMG_6756 3 We’ve been to other Margaritavilles including Cozumel and the huge one in Orlando, but this was not one I’d go back to.  Not that I wanted a beer, but the prices were $10.50 for a small and $12 for a slightly larger draft served in a silo cup.  The so-so burger was $18, and soda was $4.24, with a charge of $1.64 for a refill!  The plastic utensils made it easy for DOS to cut his small flank steak.  Not!  The service was not only slow, but not at all friendly, and twice waitresses came by our table bringing the wrong food order to us, even though the tables were numbered.

IMG_6759 (1) IMG_6762 (1)  Yes, it’s an airport location, but even for an airport it’s a rip off, and judging by the reviews on Trip Advisor (including yours truly) I wasn’t alone in my opinion.

After the dismal experience at Margaritaville, we went to our gate and took an American Airlines flight to Charlotte on an Airbus 321.  We had excellent First Class service from the flight attendants on this 3 1/2 hour flight, and although we didn’t have TV screens like the newer 321’s, between the lunch meal service, and our iPads, the flight to Charlotte went by quickly.

DOS’s tray table even fit normally and even, unlike saggy one on the trip down!


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We even got warm nuts before lunch and chocolate ‘Hostess-cupcake’ like cake for dessert!

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We had slightly less than an hour layover in Charlotte, and went to the C concourse Admiral’s club for a bit, followed by our AA flight home to Orlando on another 321 aircraft.  Landing in Orlando at sunset we had a nice view along the descent.


Safely back home by 10 pm, it was a quick but enjoyable Way-Cation.

Welcome Home!





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