Google “where to stay in Puerto Rico” and you’ll see plenty of results for big hotels owned by large corporations offering luxurious accommodations. Most people who have visited Puerto Rico will tell you you just have to stay in Old San Juan. But I’m here to tell you that Google and your cousin’s friend who just got back from PR are wrong. When visiting Puerto Rico, the best place to stay is in La Placita.
La Placita is a small neighborhood in San Juan. It’s full of friendly faces, culture, great food, and a wonderful market with local fruits, vegetables, and more. And at night? It’s the lively heart of San Juan, with dancing in the streets and live music on every corner. We got so lucky during our search to come across Casa Saffra. Casa Saffra is a luxury vacation rental company founded by two local Puerto Rican sisters. By staying with Casa Saffra, we were contributing directly to the locals instead of big businesses owned by non-locals. This is especially important in light of the devastating natural disasters plaguing the island. We actually got to meet one of the sisters, Monique. She was warm, welcoming, and very excited to show us the beautiful property we stayed at: Casa Canals.
Located on Calle Canals in the center of La Placita, Casa Canals couldn’t have a better location. It’s right in the middle of the action, yet far enough away from the bars and live music to have no issues with noise. There are eight apartments in the building, two of which (apartments 7 and 8) were included in our reservation. The lower level apartment, pictured here, has three bedrooms and two bathrooms – and impeccably beautiful decor. In fact, the art you see on the walls here were actually created using debris from hurricane Maria. The artist took pieces from the damage and turned them into beautiful works of art by showcasing photography highlighting the local culture as a tribute to the Puerto Rican people and all they stand for.
The upstairs apartment has two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Since we didn’t need so much space, we ended up staying in the downstairs apartment most of the time, but both spaces were nothing short of wonderful!
Besides in the bathrooms, all floors and tile are original. The structure of the building has remained intact for nearly 100 years, leaving me feeling very safe and secure despite the risk of natural disasters, which have become so common on the island. In addition to the interior decor, Casa Canals also recently added a new piece of art: a life-size mural on the back of the entire building. This tribute to Puerto Rico combines a depiction of the everyday life of locals with important historical figures and respected entertainers who proudly hail from the island.
I’m so glad we stayed in a somewhat less touristy area of San Juan (though La Placita is getting more and more popular by the day!) rather than a traditional hotel or right next to the cruise port in Old San Juan. We felt at home in La Placita and can’t wait to go back! Hopefully we’ll get to stay in another one ofo Casa Saffra’s properties next time!
Have you ever been to La Placita?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.