By Peter Frank
January 09, 2015
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Credit: Courtesy of Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

A surge in investment has given San Juan newfound sophistication.

Stay

The revamped 319-room Condado Vanderbilt Hotel—a 1919 Spanish Revival landmark where Charles Lindbergh, FDR, and Bob Hope stayed—adds some glamour to the beach strip with 108 roomy suites, butler service, a farm-to-table restaurant, and the island’s only hammam.

Around the corner, O:live Boutique Hotel has 15 small but stylish rooms with sleigh beds and Moroccan throws, as well as a rooftop terrace with a bar, plunge pool, and views over the Condado Lagoon.

Eat

Eight years after opening his namesake restaurant in the Santurce neighborhood, José Enrique still draws lively crowds with his ever-changing, contemporary tropical menu, which includes dishes like sous vide veal cheeks with greenbanana escabeche.

Nearby Santaella serves novel twists on local favorites—yuca fritters topped with blue-crab salad—in an Edison-bulblit dining room.

At La Jaquita Baya (787/993-5359), in Miramar, chef Xavier I. Pacheco adds Mediterranean and Asian touches to carefully sourced ingredients: his seared tuna comes with ponzu sauce, avocado, pineapple, and housemade longaniza sausage.

Do

San Juan’s art scene is small but dynamic, with such established artists as Arnaldo Roche and Allora & Calzadilla paving the way for Angel Otero, Gamaliel Rodriguez, and other up-and-coming talents. Walter Otero Contemporary Art is the nucleus, anchoring the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of galleries and design shops near Old San Juan.

For a grittier but no less engrossing experience, stroll Calle Cerra and the surrounding blocks, where the street-art collective Santurce Es Ley has commissioned a series of murals as part of an effort to revitalize the community.

Peter J. Frank is T+L’s director of editorial product development.

Looking for more on things to do in Puerto Rico? Read T+Ls Guide To Puerto Rico.