TRAVEL Q&A

San Juan in Seven Hours

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By Elissa Leibowitz Poma
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 10, 2007

Q. What do you recommend we do during a seven-hour layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico?

Anne Kuester, Bethesda

A. Few spots are as nice for a long layover as San Juan, thanks to the proximity of the old city, beaches and the El Yunque rain forest. You couldn't see all three in five hours (that's minus two hours to return to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, re-check luggage and clear security), but you have nice options.

A $19 cab ride gets you to the Old San Juan to walk along cobblestone streets, admire colonial architecture and explore the 16th-century El Morro fort, with its expansive Atlantic Ocean views. The Bacardi Rum Factory is nearby.

To put your toes in the sand, head to Isla Verde Beach, suggests Jorge Lopez, operator of Puerto Rico Tours (787-306-1540, http://www.puertorico-tours.com/). It's a pleasant beach with watersports, and "you have the ability to use the hotels for meals and bathrooms," Lopez says. Isla Verde is a five-minute ($10) taxi ride from the airport.

For a visit to El Yunque, which is 30 miles northeast of the airport, it's advisable to go through a tour company. Puerto Rico Tours offers private, customized visits from $85 per person, and Legends of Puerto Rico (787-605-9060, http://www.legendsofpr.com/) has a five-hour walking tour for $68 per person. Both include transport to and from the airport.

Additional tips: Pick up maps and guides at the tourist office in Terminal C before leaving the airport. If the airline requires that you retrieve your checked luggage -- that can happen if you have a long layover -- use the luggage hold service near the American Airlines terminal. The cost is about $3 to $5 per bag. And watch your watch: Traffic can be horrendous.

More info: Puerto Rico Tourism Co., 800-866-7827, http://www.gotopuertorico.com/.

I am planning a cross-country road trip and would like to stay at all-suite hotels. Are there any directories available?

Ross Morgan, Washington

All-suite hotels are ideal for business travelers who don't want to conduct meetings on their beds and for families needing to spread out. They're also a great way to save money, because you can prepare your own meals in the suites' basic kitchens.

"Putting yourself at the mercy of having to eat out every night [while traveling cross-country] is only for the brave and the wealthy," says Pamela Lanier, an author of numerous guidebooks, including the "All-Suite Hotel Guide" (Ten Speed Press, $14.95). Unfortunately, Lanier's guide was printed in 1999, though it could serve as a decent way to get started.

The best guides we found, surprisingly enough, are those for people traveling with pets. Quite a few of the lower-priced all-suite properties allow domesticated critters, and these guides cover the country comprehensively and are generally updated annually. AAA's "Traveling With Your Pet" (AAA, $17.95) is a standout.

Choice Hotels International has a downloadable directory of nearly 5,000 properties, including Comfort Suites and MainStay Suites. Go to http://www.choicehotels.com/ and click on "free e-directory." In addition, Quikbook.com lists 60 all-suite hotels in 23 cities; visit http://www.quikbook.com/ and click on "ShortCuts."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company


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