Travel to/from: Many cities fly to San Juan nonstop on American Airlines. Europe nonstop service is seasonal on Iberia, British Airways, and others.
If using American Airlines for any flights, collect your OWN advantage miles but please provide THIS “Business Extra” number for your discount, and assisting my charity simultaneously. This does NOT raise your fare in any way or rob you of your normal Advantage Miles: #796197.
Fajardo: San Juan is busy, has restaurants, and has shopping. It also isn’t the Caribbean, but the Atlantic. It has traffic, and can seem congested. I recommend a drive all-around the island, staying at a local parador. At very least, get out to see the hotel where the Golden Door Spa is housed, the El Conquistador Resort: goldendoorspa.com. If you want to find out about great rates, the hotel puts amazing rates online at several travel websites, including tripadvisor.com and hotels.com. And to have a local experience you can consider vacation rentals which you can explore on Airbnb.com; their review system is quite trustworthy cause tenants and hosts post from each other. Golden Door Spa is the Spa whose fitness programming I both opened and ran for almost ten years. Now that the hotel has become a different chain, rules have changed and getting you complementary guest passes—like many things—has become a thing of the past.
Natural Wonder: In Fajardo, you should also experience a bioluminescent bay tour, either by kayaking, by motorboat or the nature reserve has a walking tour (paralanaturaleza.org). This is an amazing experience after dark, best seen with no moon, when the water glows from microorganisms when agitated. Some contacts are: 787.720.7711, 787.616.9594, 787.762.3928, 787-860-1654, and787-244-1545. For the day, I recommend a nearby lighthouse tour and seafood at “Estrella del norte,” all walking distance of the hotel’s property, and a catamaran tour to a nearby island for snorkeling with Barefoot, Salty Dog, East Wind, or Spread Eagle II companies. Also there’s a mini boat tour which is excellent to explore as a couple. And parasailing, scuba and fishing charters.
Old San Juan: Amazing shopping in beautiful cobblestone streets awaits you in this town near the airport. There is a Polo Outlet, amazing Butterfly People store, and jewelry galore catering to the hundreds of cruiseline tourists. I recommend eating at Dragonfly, Agua Viva, Parrot Club, all by the port, or Amadeus Café, up by the Old Morro Fortress. I’ve been going to those for years.
Guides: Please find a Que Pasa guide located at most hotels and tourist places. It is your single best guidebook, in English, of what to do and see, including detailed island maps. Current copies are available in baggage claim when you await your luggage (at least at American, for sure) or online. Check seepuertorico.com the official site of the island for recent information.
Lighthouse Tours: You can go to paralanaturaleza.org or call 722.5882 for Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve for information and times for English and Spanish-speaking guided tours, cycling tours and other activities that might be of interest from the reserve. Its lighthouse is visible from the my house. The view is quite incredible from over there. Reservations are a MUST. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes; you will be over 300 acres of mangrove and land. 1882 began the lighthouse’s first year of operation, and it continues today! Check the website for days, hours and cost of each tour. The reserve has a quite ample calendar with so many activities to choose from.
Movies: The movie theaters in Fajardo are available at 787.863.2230, or caribbeancinemas.com and click on Fajardo. There are also Redbox machines at the nationwide pharmacies.
Restaurants: Lawrence’s favorite, Estrella del norte, is at the bottom of the lighthouse hill in Las Croabas and they feature fresh barbecued lobster, a la parilla. You can be sure they have fresh lobsters that day by phoning 787. 863.2046. They are closed on Mondays. Qui-qui is a waiter who used to wait on my when I barely could speak English. In Las Croabas there’s several restaurants to choose from and the plate of the area are Arepas Rellenas “Stuffed Arepas” which you stuff them with any seafood you desire.
Shopping: If you do shop in Puerto Rico, Plaza Carolina and Plaza Las Américas are the two large, well-crowded shopping malls. Both are rather close to the airport (depending on traffic) and easy to manage.
Old San Juan: eat in Dragonfly, Aqua, Tantra, and across the street at Parrot Club. They are fabulous. Also during the day in Old San Juan, the restaurant Amadeus offers EXCELLENT appetizers for lunch and order the guava/mango mousse that isn’t on the menu; just order it. Cafe Valencia @ 764.3790 offers authentic Spanish paella at normal prices.
All over the island you have the option to stay at homes and apartment rooms which give you a better taste of the island. Consider checking Airbnb postings such as:
Facebook Pages abound, and also LIKE and peruse the Page I run for locals called @mykonews with our mission: #localandvocal
Almost all of the places I recommend below have Facebook pages and you can find contact details on tripadvisor and just Google searches.
I recommend flying into and out of Athens from most other countries. Emirates (from EWR), Delta and American offer the only nonstops from New York, but the last 2 are only in summer. If you want a One-World carrier, I suggest either BA or AA to London and then BA to Athens. British Airways has begun seasonal daily service from London Gatwick to Mykonos without having to stop in Athens which is SO worth the extra money.
Once in Greece, I recommend only using www.aegeanairlines.com to travel by air, or check www.openseas.gr (click on English flag to get website in English) and navigate instantly among all boat companies offering affordable and fun ways to get from island to island (for example, from Athens to Mykonos, or from Mykonos to Santorini). Bear in mind that you will be tired if you arrive directly from the USA, so waiting 2-4 hours for a 2-4 hour boat ride may just make you wish you purchased a direct 15-minute flight to one of the islands. It’s best to use boats when traveling between islands.
Before departing to Mykonos:
Make sure you see the movie "Shirley Valentine." If you have additional time, see "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and "Summer Lovers."
Mykonos is part of the Cyclades islands which stands for "cyclones," so be prepared for a very windy experience on all islands outside of Athens.
What to do: Athens:
The following neighborhoods are all within walking of each other:
Acropolis and coffee after at Dionysius Restaurant/Café, and the new Athens Acropolis Museum is a MUST.
Kolonaki Square for outdoor cafes and chic shopping
Tea at the Grand Bretagne Hotel and tourist walks around nearby Plaka area.
Taxi: Use metered taxis only. X95 bus from town to the airport is efficient, inexpensive, and dependable under most circumstances.
Dining: best fish throughout Greece is Lavraki, Tsipura and Sargos; ask for these at restaurants.
What to do: Mykonos:
Here’s how to blend like a local: 9am is wake-up and breakfast, check the wind and choose a beach, lunch on the beach never before 2pm, snacks back in town upon arriving from the beach like crepes or Olive-oil-fried French fries with fresh oregano; shower, catch the sunset around 8pm (depending on the season), dine around 10pm, and walk and shop the pedestrian town before and after dinner.
Agrari (the entrance alone is spectacular) with a choice of taking sunbeds or avoiding sun beds and just using the lovely, comfortable pebbles and sand.
Kapari: a bit out of the way with hard parking but spectacular, the nearby Agios Ioannis is almost as lovely with beds, tavernas (Hippie Fish), and parking.
Agios Sostis: far away but a lovely beach with no umbrellas and a lone tavern with a 2-hour waiting list (see elsewhere here)
Beaches & Meals: The best meals are the lunches. Here’s where to eat at each beach. Your beach choice will be made for you based on the WIND.
When there is NORTH WIND:
Paranga Beach: eat at Nikola’s Taverna (the world’s best fried calamari) and tell the kitchen when you order their organic vegetables from their garden and fish from the sea in front of their tavern that Lawrence sent you. Then walk up the hill to have a coffee at the spectacular Scorpio’s Restaurant.
Psarou Beach: the VERY chic Nammos (reserve a corner table for 3pm: 22890.22440).
SuperParadise Beach: Jackie-O for the beach or pool is awesome, and eat here even just ordering the lovely jars of appetizers and the breads baked in flower pots is enough.
When there is SOUTH WIND:
Fokos Beach: eat at Taverna Fokos (tell owner and chef Canadian Kate and daughter Marissa that Lawrence sent you; watch for tar on the beach!)
Agios Sostis Beach: Taverna Agios Sostis (the most spectacularly-romantic barbecue spot for lunch under a very old tree on the planet; tell Vasilis that Lawrence sent you). They take no reservations. The advantage to going at 1230pm is to be the first round of tables served, even though it’s early; the advantage to going late in the day around 1900 is that there is no queue, but most salads and other choices are finished by then. The nearby beach has NO umbrellas for shade and NO opportunities for purchasing water.
Ornos Beach: just outside of Ornos beach is Apaggio with spectacular views and faery lights. Book a waterfront table.
Bowl Mykonos: in Ornos offers vegan, vegetarian, and amazing all-day breakfast, always served in a bowl. They also have staff just dedicated to teas and coffees and has California communal seating as well as tables individually placed in sun or shade.
Dining in the Town of Mykonos Town (Chora)
Many restaurants on Mykonos are tourist traps. Following are my recommendations of places that I go:
Before dining, catch the sunset (a major happening throughout all Greek islands) at Kastro Bar (my favorite bar-restaurant in the world) or another bar along the "Little Venice" Kastro area: Kastro or Verandah or Caprice are the others to patronize. Their restaurant is also a GREAT place to eat, and anytime of the day you should have (truly) their world-famous Kastro Coffee as well as stay for dinner as the food truly is memorable. Tell Nikos or Kostas or their son Alex that Lawrence sent you. If there’s no wind, table #34 outside is the single most romantic table in Mykonos for dinner or a drink.
Have also a drink at Piano Bar down the little street from Kastro’s with live piano music, but between 11pm-2am. They don’t serve food. Also for drinking and lovely location have a stop at Jackie O in town when there is no wind.
Waterfront Dining in Chora/Town:
It’s difficult to get a bad meal, but locals and residents go to:
Alegro or Madupas Café on the waterfront, Raya, Captain’s, and Kazarma.
Taverna Nikos in the center of the action where the pelicans are (tell Stella the owner in the kitchen processing all of the bills that Lawrence sent you). She also has her own fabulous bar next door called Thalami that gets going after 2am. You must eat here at Niko’s Taverna once; it’s an institution and the very center of town. See the food first in the kitchen and then tell them what you want.
If you eat in town, eat at Niko’s Taverna or Kastro’s or the tavernas I mention above along the harbor.
Nobu Restaurant inside of the fabulous (and white) Belvedere hotel (ask for the General Manager Christoforos who is my neighbor in Mykonos and tell him Lawrence his neighbor sent you).
Elysium Hotel has a spectacular view, piano music for sunset, and then a live drag show that takes you into 11pm when the hotel closes and the diaspora ensues for dinner.
Mykonos Bay Hotel has a great pool open to everyone all day long. They do great sunset cocktails. Their food menu served all day long is innovative, fresh, and exciting. Check them out on tripadvisor and tell the owners Mr. Nikos and Ms. Evangelia that Lawrence sent you. This is the home base camp of the Mind-Body Retreats we run in Mykonos with spectacular oceanfront rooms. Other nice hotels in town are Terra Maria (tell the owner Vicki that Lawrence sent you). Anna at the bar will make your drinks.
Just outside of town a short walk from the gym is the Starbucks of Mykonos and, very new, next door the new Liberty Café that does breakfast all day long, offers a great wine list, and spectacular views with and with and without wind. They do pancakes and a full yogurt buffet bar in the morning.
Petrán: My favorite new typical tavern has a spectacular view, isn’t crowded, and amazing prices by a girl (Dina) and her mother (María) who run the place. Get the fried potatoes, the grilled eggplant, and the individual, boneless grilled fresh sardines. This taverna is remote and found after the pub (which I also recommend called "Dubliner" that is an oasis on the island from Greek food. Tell the owner of Dubliner Lorraine that Lawrence sent you. They sell cider from England and Ireland!).
In the town of Ano Mera there are great tavernas in the town square by the monastery, but I recommend even more just near the main square the tavern called "Whatever Is Left" taverna.
The only legal gym in Mykonos that I have worked at, where I work out at, and that recommend you work at is:
Bikes and Cars: Very near Bus Station is Fabrikas rent a car and ask for Dimitris and tell him I sent you: +30 694 4765132 and +30 2289 028028 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Bank: if you need anything at the National Bank of Greece at the entrance to the town, look for Eleni K the manager who is a dear friend.
Clothing: for clothing made in Greece from Greek cottons, check out Salachas Mykonos which is next to the only Catholic Church at the bottom of the hills of the famous windmills and tell them I sent you. Almost all of my travel clothes come from these 2 stores, and many items their Mama Rania still makes by hand. They have Facebok pages.
Lodging: Stay at an amazing part of the island where I first stayed upon arriving Mykonos and stayed every year for 12 years until my home was finished: Mr. Nikos Apartments. Just outside of the noise of town (5 minutes walk), you’ll have a kitchen, beds, daily maid service, and the most spectacular view of the island. Call to reserve your apartment and guarantee a room: be sure to specify you are calling on the request of Lawrence, King of Mykonos…Mr. Nikos Kousthana: +306944433173 (from the USA substitute 011 for the "+"). The best way to reserve the apartments or the Mykonos Bay Hotel (same owners) is to reach via their website or booking.com: http://www.mykonosbay-hotel.com
Luxury: Cavo Tagoo (a short walk outside of town) is spectacular with many private pools, great breakfast and evening restaurant, and lobby. Tell the GM Tasos Didimiotis I sent you when requesting rates. I designed their menus and their Golden Spa.
This is not a comprehensive guide to NYC but a selection of the things I opine you must do on a special trip to NYC.
Laduree and Balthazar in Soho
Breakfast at Landmark in the Time Warner Building and see the Wholefoods in the basement
Weather permitting, the Boathouse in Central Park and New Leaf (newleafrestaurant.com) by the Cloisters.
Rosa Mexicano chain throughout NYC
SushiDen (one of the few restaurants in NYC whose sushi is not frozen); tell Shimura-san the manager that Lawrence sent you. I had TWO properties for my 50th here. There are two locations and Shimura works at the location on Madison Avenue and everyone, I mean everyone, gets them mixed up because they are not far apart.
Chop’t Salad chains all over the city.
Beyond Sushi chains for sushi-less sushi.
Relaise de Venise is where I had my 50th birthday dinner. They take no reservations but you’ll eat just like in Paris. They only do one thing and do one thing well: steak frites.http://www.relaisdevenise.com/newyork/
A fun, touristy, but also very very historical thing to do is Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
Bergdorf Goodman NYC on Central Park SouthEast and find Roberto Vargas of the Francis Kurkdjian counter and tell him I sent you. He’s in charge of that counter but we all refer to him as the "mayor" of Bergdorf’s. Have a drink at the bar upstairs at BG restaurant w/a spectacular view and tell Mark and Eric at the bar I sent you.
Across the street, the VERY upscale food court in the basement of the Plaza will wow you - and a great place to use the loo as well.
St. Malachy’s the Actor’s Chapel does a Saturday night 11pm mass after theater which is usually full of dancers and actors from the shows.
Arrange for tickets to have NYC at your feet with breathtaking views from topoftherocknyc.com.
Cloisters (and eat at New Leaf, see above)
Guggehneim and Metropolitan Museum of Art (visit Bloomingdales in between these two for a bite to eat)