4 offbeat destination wedding & honeymoon venues in Puerto Rico

July 11 | offbeatbride
Dude, you guys: let's totally elope to Puerto Rico. Photo by me (as are all the shots in this post)

Last month I went on a 5-day press tour of Puerto Rico, bussing around the island with a pack of other journalists to check out wedding and honeymoon destinations. It was fucking awesome, and I saw some venues that OMG, you guys… if you're planning a destination wedding (or looking for a honeymoon spot), you would LOVE these places.

Now, for those of you considering a destination wedding or honeymoon, we've already talked about the ways that your values can impact your choice of travel destination — and Puerto Rico certainly isn't exempt from these concerns. It's a US territory, which makes it super easy for Americans to travel to: you don't need a passport, you can use your same US dollars, and you can get by speaking English. Then again, there are also those who have concerns about the island's colonization history, and the weirdness that Puerto Ricans are ruled by American laws, but can't actually vote for president. I'm not here to change your politics or priorities, but if you're considering a Caribbean destination: Puerto Rico is rad.

I toured almost a dozen different venues, and while some of them were WAAAAY not Offbeat Bride material ($15,000 ballrooms, $3000/night hotels, etc.), I saw some amazing little offbeat corners of the island that I think y'all would adore. Shall we take a sip of rum, snap on our snorkel gear, and dive in together? No, seriously: goth vegan former convents? Zebra-print villas? Rainforest terraces? You're going to freak out…

Deep Rainforest Realness: El Yunque Rainforest

Deep in the rainforest -- but with some nice terraces to keep your dress from dragging in the mud.

El Yunque National Forest is Puerto Rico's 28,000-acre park filled with 150 fern species and 240 tree species. It's freaking GORGEOUS and green and wet and magical, and you can get married at El Portal, the forests visitor's center. Pricing starts at about $500, with room for about 40 guests.

El Yunque wedding logistics: While all the info and permits are accessible via fs.usda.gov/main/elyunque, I'd suggest contacting WedAffair, a Puerto Rican wedding coordination crew who totally specialize in El Yunque weddings. They can make the whole process pretty straightforward.


Eco-conscious, mellow-pants surf beach: Villas del Mar Hau

For me personally, the hardest part about tropical travel is nagging concerns about the resource-hogging ways of the hospitality industry. On a certain level it's hard for me to enjoy luxury without at least SOME sense of responsibility. I'm not saying anyone else should feel this way, but I like a little eco mixed into my beach vacation…

If you're like me, then you definitely need to consider Villas del Mar Hau, an eco-friendly relaxed and colorful little beach-side on Puerto Rico's northern shore. They offer eco-villas completely powered by solar panels and wind.

The inn is funky and unpretentious, with grills out in front of each cabana (PERFECT for honeymoon evening times!), and near a lot of surf beaches, if that's your thing.

This terrace overlooking the beach is where these folks said they do many of their wedding receptions

Villas del Mar Hau logistics: Rooms start around $150, and you can get more info via hauhotelvillas.com or by calling (787) 872-2045.


Historical Gothic: El Convento Hotel


I fully admit I was completely ignorant of the history of San Juan, Puerto Rico's capitol — founded in 1521. For those of us from the West Coast (where an 1880s farm house is considered "historical"), the city's centuries of Spanish architecture pack a significant punch. I spent a morning wandering around historical Old San Juan and was completely boggled by the stone buildings, bright colors, and the old fortress wall surrounding much of the city. Yes, this is a United States territory, but it's immediately clear that this city is much older than most I've encountered in the US.

At the heart of this Old San Juan is Hotel El Convento, converted from a convent built in 1646. If you're into ghosts, this place has to be completely saturated with centuries of nun energy… it's lovely, but you can just feel the depth of the history in the structure around you. Despite the sun, the building is crafted with a lot of deep, dark oiled wood — it's elegant and noire.

Oh, but lest you think it's all dark ages up in this joint, you should know that I spent an evening gossiping with Monica, the restaurant's catering manager, and she was telling me all about the very modern special needs catering she's coordinated for weddings. Sure, Kosher and vegetarian — but homegirl can totally rock full vegan weddings and gluten-free. Here's an example of an El Convento vegetarian wedding menu, which could easily go vegan:

Just me goofing off with some edible flowers at El Convento
  • Eggplant & Manchego Cheese Lasagna with Spicy Tomato Sauce
  • Wild Mushroom Raviolis with Brown Butter and Toasted Walnuts
  • Spinach and Goat Cheese Ripe Plantain Pionono served with Creole Sauce
  • Grilled Portobello Mushroom marinated in Mojo Isleño Vinaigrette
  • Grilled Polenta Napoleon with Boursin Cheese and Oven Roasted Tomatoes served with Red and Green Peppers Coulis
  • Roasted Bell Pepper stuffed with Curried Ratatouille

Seriously, the food I ate at El Convento was out of this world — sugar-preserved rose petals? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?

Gossiping with Monica was also awesome because she had some great perspectives on Puerto Rico's slow march toward marriage equality. I was visiting on the day of San Juan's Pride Parade, and while gay marriage in Puerto Rico still has a long way to go, Monica was feeling optimistic.

Hotel El Convento logistics: Wedding packages start at $135 per person (with food starting at about $43 each) — which means that if you wanted to elope or do a micro-wedding, you could do it for under $1000. Get in touch with them on Facebook or hotelelconvento.com


Intimate Urban Zebra-Print: Villa Herencia


Around the corner from El Convento is this sweet-ass little teeny tiny villa that you could rent if you wanted to do a small wedding with just a few friends and family members. The decor is a sweet mix of funky and sophisticated, with the dining room featuring a massive chandelier paired with zebra print chairs. LOVE! If you came here for a weekend to have a little intimate urban destination wedding, bring an amazing photographer. You'll have the most gorgeous photos ever — this place feels like a movie set.

Right around the corner from the villa is the most amazing stairway… I totally love picturing a quick guerilla wedding happening on those stairs.

The rooftop terrace was AMAZING, complete with rooftop tubs I loved so much that I built a whole Offbeat Home post around them. And I didn't even talk about the rooftop BED.

Villa Herencia logistics: They don't really have a website, but you can call them at (787)-722-0989 or check availability here. You can see some great reviews on TripAdvisor.

Wait what about other spots?!

I saw so many amazing venues that I couldn't include them all, but here are a few quickies for ya in the form of quick photos:

Hostería del Mar is a great San Juan spot for hip, affordable, urban beach weddings. It definitely has a ultra-lounge feel to it, and the staff felt super LGBT-friendly
This is totally me marrying myself at Rincon Beach Resort. They do tons of those very easy beach weddings, where you pick a straight-forward package, show up, and don't have to worry about SHIT. They take care of everything, which is sometimes exactly what you need.
Brand-spanking-new Hotel O:Live in San Juan had decor that was a combo of steampunk and reclaimed wood. Would be sweet for an urban honeymoon!

Ok, now that I have totally and completely overwhelmed you, I'll just say that I have 300 more pictures where those came from. If anyone's got any questions about wedding or honeymoon destinations in Puerto Rico, I'm not sure I've got all the answers — but I've definitely got a shit load of photos!

WHEE! I'M SWINGING IN PUERTO RICO!

Are any of you of planning Puerto Rico weddings or honeymoons? Share your links and vendors and secret tips!

  1. I'm so homesick now… Lovely to see the new hotels popping up though. May plan to honeymoon in P.R. now. ^_^

    2 agree
  2. Thanks so much for posting this! We are thinking of honeymooning in Puerto Rico. Did you see any cool, cheapish places that you would recommend for a girl who is sometimes in a wheelchair but definitely can't do stairs? I know PR is a US territory so certain things technically have to be ADA accessible, but thats not always a reality. I *love* the Villas del Mur Hau, would you say they are doable with a chair?

    3 agree
    • From my memory, it seemed pretty wheelchair-friendly, with flat paved walkways between the one-story beach-front villas. They had a few two-story villas, but most of them were one story buildings that would make for relatively easy-wheeling.

      It was also definitely one of more affordable venues I toured, with rooms starting at $150/night. It's out of the way (about 90 minutes from San Juan) and super mellow. There WERE families there, so it's definitely not a secluded "let's go have sex on the beach" super romantic get-away, but the vibe was sweet and laid-back.

      I'd say definitely give them a call at (787) 872-2045 to check-in about areas that may not be wheelchair accessible, but from what I saw, it was all very flat terrain with super rollable walkways.

      3 agree
  3. Darn you! I was all decided, but now I want a Gorhic Convent Lesbian wedding! Good thing I can't afford it.

    2 agree
  4. So usually it's personal wedding stories that bring a tear to my eyes, but this post made me sob. At the age of 14, my parents and I moved for a year from Kansas to Aibonito, Puerto Rico. My small, rural Mennonite school had no English-speaking teachers, and my 8 classmates had limited classroom English, so it was trial by fire with my Spanish. 10 years later I was still using my Spanish when I met the Mexican-man-of-my-dreams, and now, almost another decade later, I hope to actually get to wed him. Puerto Rico truly is "La Isla del Encanto", or the Island of Enchantment. I carry a bit of boricua always in my heart, and I thank you for reminding me of it.
    If I may only make one more suggestion… please look into the amazing places all around the island! You can get anywhere on the island within a short days drive from San Juan or less. And be sure to include colorful piraguas (basically hand-shaved snow cones) for your guests!

    9 agree
    • I'm a photographer from Michigan and just moved to the island in October. It is so gorgeous here. I'm hoping to branch out from weddings and do Elopements on the island! Exploring this place is so incredible!

  5. Ooh, just got wind of this awesome promotion:

    PUERTO RICO TRAVEL PROMOTION OFFERS FREE ADVENTURE TOURS WITH FOUR NIGHTS' STAY

    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, August 2, 2012 – Luis Rivera-Marín, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), today invited summer and fall travelers to see how "Puerto Rico Does It Better" with a free adventure promotion. The offer, a first for the Island, seeks to entice visitors to experience Puerto Rico outside of their hotels with some of the best and most unique adventures and attractions the destination has to offer – from colonial fortresses to adrenaline-pumping thrills. Here's how tourists can do Puerto Rico for free:

    The Offer

    Book a minimum four nights' stay with participating hotels and choose a free experience from a wide variety such as the following:

    Kayak in one of only six bioluminescent bays in the world (and Puerto Rico is home to three)
    Hiking tour of El Yunque rain forest (the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest System)
    Culinary tour of San Juan (think: pork, plantains and piña coladas)
    Catamaran tour
    Old San Juan (or Caguas) city tour
    ToroVerde Adventure Park (including the world's highest zipline: The Beast)
    Guided biking in Old San Juan
    Golf at one of the Island's world-class fairways (Robert Trent Jones, Greg Norman, Fazio Brothers, and others)
    How to Book It

    Speak with your travel professional or visit seepuertorico.com's consumer promotion landing page that will provide consumers with full details including direct links to participating hotels.

    The website provides info about specific tour availability per hotel. Upon check-in, the customer will receive a free tour voucher that then can be redeemed with the hotel tour desk or front desk.

    The Fine Print

    The offer needs to be booked by September 16, 2012 for travel before November 16, 2012 and will be combined with select promotional offers at participating hotels. Different tours will be available at different properties and are subject to change, so travelers will need to contact their hotel in advance to confirm availability. Minimum stay is four nights; limit of one tour voucher per person and two per group.

    4 agree
  6. Ariel, would love to see the other 300 photos – considering PR for a honeymoon spot!

    2 agree
  7. Any thoughts on San Juan, Puerto Rico on a budget? We have about $6k to do the ceremony and reception (including decor, music, etc) and are expecting around 50 people. I am happy to DIY things and go light on the flowers/decorations, but really want to be able to give my guests an open bar and some good food since all of them will be traveling (mainly from Ohio and New York). Would LOVE some suggestions, thanks!

    4 agree
    • Hi! I'm from Puerto Rico and I can assure you with $6k you can do a kick ass wedding for 50 people! Most wedding we have here are for 200 or 300 guests and go around $10 or $12k, (including bride dress, food, decor, gifts, etc) just be sure you go further from San Juan and more into the west coast, center or south. Most hotels do the open bar and we have awesome food everywhere! It all depends on what you like… =)

      5 agree
      • Tatiana, could you pleace tell me any place

        I wanna do my wedding there
        but I keep looking with not luck 🙁

      • Tatiana! The Goddess of Puerto Rico Destination Weddings! Please…share your wisdom! 🙂
        Where are the specific places on the west coast, center or south that can do weddings for 50 people for under $10K including ceremony, food, alcohol and open bar at the hotel?

        6 agree
      • Thank you for the tip with cost some of the websites are very vague. I know I am looking at El Convento, hopefully in the next year or two.

  8. Hi Ariel,

    Thanks for your post. During your tour did you come across any places that were a mix of rustic beach chic and jungle unique? I'm not looking for a cookie-cutter package that could be anyone's wedding. Also, I'm planning on a small wedding, maybe 30-40 people and most places I've found are meant for large parties. I certainly don't want to feel like we are lost in the shuffle of a super resort. Any suggestions you have are appreciated.

    Thanks! Dana

    1 agrees
  9. I was born in Puerto Rico and my future husband wants us to elope there. Might just be the two of us–or at most 3 additional couples. A chapel for the ceremony would be nice but not a must, then a celebration dinner. Sure would love a few specific suggestions as we have never been to this area.

    3 agree
    • This is along the lines of what me and my fiance would like to do too..did you find anything?

      1 agrees
      • I hope you end up eloping here! This island is incredible. I'm a photographer and have lived here since October, and will be offering Adventure Elopements on the island. I haven't found any chapels yet but I've been out to some pretty incredible locations so far!

  10. Please list venues that can budget 6k, I would like to check them out… thanks for your help

    3 agree
  11. Your blog is so helpful! I am wanting to plan a wedding in Puerto Rico and have just started looking. I was wanting to have a single place that the wedding party + their guests could stay at and then everyone else could stay at either the same location or a nearby hotel/resort. Do you know of any large homes or villas that could be rented and have an on-site wedding? The Villas del Mar Hau seems to be the best option at this point. Thanks so much!!

    1 agrees
  12. This is great! We're wanting to plan a destination wedding and have been looking for something that will be travel-friendly for our large families in Minnesota, but will also give them a taste of something different. I'm thinking Puerto Rico could be the right place. I also love that you mentioned being concerned about the impact of tourism and big resorts on the local community, I totally agree and want to be conscious of that in planning our wedding. I'm really hoping to find some kind of organic/local farm that also does weddings and serves food from what they grow. Even better if its also near a beach, but not necessary. Does anyone know if something like that exists Puerto Rico?

    1 agrees

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