San Juan, Puerto Rico is one of the most trafficked areas in the Caribbean and for good reason – white, sandy beaches are mixed with excellent year-round weather and the intrigue of the inner parts of the island, where massive caves and rain forests await.
And I haven’t even mentioned Old San Juan, a beautiful old town on the water reminiscent of some distant world. Below is how you can travel to Puerto Rico on miles and stay at the Ritz-Carlton for the weekend.
The miles credit card needed for this Caribbean jaunt are three-fold, the Citibank American Airlines Platinum for the flight and the Chase Marriott and either the Chase Sapphire or Chase Ink (links lead to my card reviews, not straight to the application) for the hotel. Feeling a little stingy with regards to your miles, many hotels in the region offer rates at or below $100 in San Juan or at spots like Culebra, so keep that in mind if you’d like to use your hard earned points elsewhere.
These cards net you 55,000 American Airlines miles, well in excess of the 35,000 needed for an economy saver route and nearly enough for the 60,000 first class ticket, as well as up to 130,000 Marriott points, depending on how many you transfer to the hotel property. 50,000 Ritz-Carlton points a night are needed for the recommended hotel, but we will get to that later. Three cards for the Ritz, only one for just the flight – quick and easy.
Flights to San Juan are plentiful, which means redemptions options are varied by airline. For our purposes, we’re looking at American Airlines, who offers direct flights from major hubs such as New York (four hours), Miami (two and a half hours) and Dallas (five hours).
The 737-800 plane that American flies to and from Puerto Rico is not among their new fleet, but at a paltry 35,000 miles for an economy saver ticket it is well worth the moderate discomfort of not having a personal TV or more comfortable seat. And if the flight really does mean a lot to you, at 60,000 miles you can book a roundtrip saver seat in First class.
Just to be fair, other airlines offering award flights to San Juan include Southwest, Delta (what we took, since we both had extra Delta miles) and United, among others. See pictures below of our particular flight below.
There is only one hotel I deem worth the points in Puerto Rico, and that is the Ritz-Carlton San Juan. For a hotel that can run upwards of $400 a night, the 50,000 points (booked via Marriott Rewards points) allows a night at the Ritz-Carlton, offering amenities that you would expect from one of the premier hotel groups in the world.
A massive entryway leads to a grandiose lobby with floor-to-ceiling (and, for the record, they are big ceilings) windows out to the pool area. This area is covered with scattered palm trees and is located directly on a semi-private beach area, where beach chairs are consistently available for hotel guests.
The beach is nothing like the wonders of Culebra, but for a quick, non-stop flight for the weekend the beach in San Juan will do. Rooms are incredibly clean and comfortable, albeit not the best I’ve seen from a Ritz-Carlton property. And, not to end on a poor note, but I should note that the food is just okay – better options are within walking distance from the hotel - try Bajuice for breakfast - or a $20 cab ride into Old San Juan.
A free flight and two nights at a world-class hotel group for spending on miles credit cards as you normally would? I’ll take that every day of the week – preferably a day in the sunshine, far away from reality.