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