If you’re planning to get married in Rincon, Puerto Rico, you’ve made the right decision. My husband (!) Stephen, and I, just returned from the most magical week in that adorable little surf town. Below, I outline every aspect of the best trip of our lives.
Outside of location, the most important decision is the wedding planner. Especially because we don’t live on the island and are trying to figure out everything through email and phone, it’s important to have someone on site who knows the area and the vendors. Look no further than Rincon Events. Allison and Cassandra are EVERYTHING. I cannot stress how incredible they are at their job. I could write a whole post just raving about how much I love them (because I really do), but for the purposes of this post, just know that hiring them will be a sure way to make your wedding exactly what you want it to be.
I would also advise, if it’s at all possible, to visit Rincon prior to the wedding so that you can meet Allison and Cassandra in person (and to see all the venues – more on that later). Meeting them in person really seals the deal for me. Allison is a combination of strong and soft-spoken. She speaks with a quiet confidence – she knows what she’s doing. Her calm sense of being immediately makes me feel like it is necessary to have her help us because Stephen and I are (so) high-strung. Cassandra is Leslie Knope. She’s on top of everything. She’s meticulous, organized, detailed, and so friendly. She’s someone who can command a room and keep people in line while still making everyone love her.
If you hire Rincon Events, they will also do the catering for your wedding. Congratulations, you will now have the best food at your wedding and all your guests will be raving about how amazing everything tastes. You’re welcome. Allison is a chef and her team is amazing. If you take nothing else from this post, hire Rincon Events to plan and cater your wedding.
We opt to rent houses near Maria’s Beach because of the proximity/walking distance to other villas, as well as restaurants and bars.
Villa de Zecheo
The actual wedding is held at Villa de Zecheo. It is a dream. It’s also where we and some of our friends stay. A 7-bedroom gorgeous villa. One guest tells me, “This is the nicest place I’ve ever stayed.” We have the ceremony in the front yard and it’s the most picturesque yet simple scene (you can also have your ceremony on the beach but I’m so glad we don’t). Cocktail Hour surrounds the pool (also gorgeous) and the reception is in the yard area overlooking the ocean. I don’t know how to describe it other than gorgeous. And perfect. This villa is made for weddings. Eric is the concierge – he’s so accommodating and on-call for anything we need – groceries, beer, water activities, transportation, etc. Evelyn does the housekeeping. She’s there every morning from 9am-12pm cleaning up our huge mess from the night before (every single night is basically a party) and leaves us clean towels. Always with a smile on her face. She tells me the morning after the wedding that she “can’t wait to see the pictures.” She’s adorable. She doesn’t go into the bedrooms – just cleans all the common areas – so you’re on your own for the week.
Favorite things about Villa de Zecheo:
- The Pool – it’s awesome. This is where we mostly hang out.
- The Views – every floor has balconies with incredible views and comfortable places to sit.
- The Service – Eric and Evelyn are lovely and make us feel so welcome the entire week.
- The Location – walking distance to multiple wonderful places (more on that later).
- The Venue – did I mention that this is a perfect wedding venue?? Especially for our group of 65 people (although it accommodates up to 175 people).
Drawbacks about Villa de Zecheo:
We love it, so I’m just nitpicking… a full bathroom does not accompany every bedroom, so some people have to share. It doesn’t seem to be a big issue for our group of friends, but that’s easy for me to say as I stay in the bridal suite with a full bathroom adorned with two showers. Water pressure isn’t great (at least it isn’t in the bridal suite). Finally, the two biggest bedrooms which are on the first floor – essentially the nicest bedrooms – do not get a lot of natural sunlight. They’re very dark rooms.
Tips if you’re staying at Villa de Zecheo:
Bring refillable water bottles. They have filtered water but it’s not cold, which is fine, but I feel like I don’t drink enough water all week. If you’re staying with a big group and have purchased groceries for the week, have someone in your group organize the groceries so they’re all in one place. There is a kitchen on the first floor and the second floor and the groceries are spread out. It’s confusing for people and they don’t seem to eat as much food because they don’t know where to find it. Finally, when ordering groceries through Eric, I figure they’ll have some basic condiments at the house (hot sauce, ketchup, mayo, mustard), but they don’t, so be sure to order that stuff, too!
Villa Playa Maria
My family stays next door at Villa Playa Maria. This is a 9-bedroom gorgeous villa (OK, last time I’m using the word gorgeous.) We do not utilize this as an actual venue, but weddings can be held here for a smaller number of guests – up to 75 people. Elizabeth is the concierge here. She is wonderfully accommodating. Even though I don’t stay here, I email, speak on the phone, and meet with Elizabeth prior to the wedding week. She is prompt and answers all my questions with professionalism and kindness. My family has nothing but rave reviews of the place. They also have an incredible chef they work with named Gaby. He cooks a number of meals (lunches and dinners) for my family and they are all absolutely delicious.
Favorite things about Villa Playa Maria:
- The Accommodations – each room has its own access and full bathroom. They also have light maid service every single day. The place is immaculate and … very pretty.
- The Location – walking distance to multiple wonderful places (more on that later).
- The Views – incredible.
- Yoga/Dance Floor – uhhh yeah. It’s on the second floor, outside, shaded, with a perfect view of the ocean. I lead two workout classes up here and it’s awesome.
- Refillable Water Bottles for all! – and cold filtered water. My family members walk around with these water bottles all week. It’s adorable.
- Sunscreen dispensers onsite – like, the good stuff. Organic and all that.
Drawbacks at Villa Playa Maria:
- Tiny Pool – and because it’s not very big, it warms up a lot in the heat.
- For any older people, there are no bars in the shower to hold onto (apparently, this is a slight issue).
- For the Master Suite (where my parents stay), you have to walk a far distance (up the stairs and all the way around), to get up and down.
If you plan to have a big group flying in for your amazing wedding week, I highly recommend using both Villa de Zecheo and Villa Playa Maria. There are two other villas that are walking distance to these. One is Casa Palma Azul. This villa was under construction after the hurricane so we were unable to consider them, but are since up and running. The pictures online look stunning. The other is Por Fin Dogmans. This is the most affordable of all the villas in this area. Definitely great for a big group on a budget! I know friends who have attended a small wedding here as well. (You can walk directly to Villa de Zecheo or Por Fin Dogmans from Casa Palma Azul, then through Villa de Zecheo or Por Fin Dogmans you can walk on the beach to Villa Playa Maria – see map above.)
The final villa we use is for my husband’s family (still not used to calling him my husband!): Hacienda Miramar. This is also where we host the Rehearsal Dinner. Our initial idea is to use food trucks and keep it casual with tacos and pizza. I am really excited about the idea of food trucks, but this idea is nixed for two reasons:
- We don’t find two food trucks in Rincon that we absolutely love and we don’t want to compromise on delicious food.
- The driveway to Hacienda Miramar is incredibly steep, so our wedding planners let us know that it might be a tall order for a food truck to make it up this hill. They’re not kidding. It’s like a mountain. When Stephen’s parents ask in advance if they’ll be able to walk anywhere and I tell them absolutely not, the driveway is insane – Stephen thinks I’m exaggerating. But he forgets. When we arrive in May and he goes over to visit them, he remembers that yes, this thing is really, really steep.
Stepping onto the property at Hacienda Miramar is like stepping into another world. It’s the first venue we visit on our trip six months prior. We’ve already been in town for a few days and I’m beginning to wonder if we made the right decision. The town is cute, but it seems to have some grit to it. I’m wondering if the venues are going to match our expectations. We follow Allison and Cassandra in our car up the crazy driveway. When they finally let us in the gate, we pull in and step out of the car. We walk to the back yard and all I can do, besides smile stupidly, is start jumping up and down. Yes yes yes yes YES! Are you kidding me?! This place is stunning. The views of the ocean, the breeze, the infinity pool. It’s breathtaking. It’s nothing short of magical.
We also have a smaller event here for our extended family only – about 30 people. It’s a Paella Cooking Class/Demonstration led by Allison’s team. This is a huge hit with so many of our family members who are extremely into cooking. The food is amazing – two types of paella, a Caesar salad, and garlic bread. And of course, the scene is beautiful (remember, it’s at Hacienda Miramar).
Favorite things about Hacienda Miramar:
- The Venue – it’s the most beautiful 360 degree views of the ocean and town; the breeze this high up is so nice.
- The Pool – too cool. It looks awesome.
- The Kitchen – huge, beautiful kitchen for cooking. We hire Allison’s team to be the private chef for Stephen’s family for the week and they do not disappoint.
Drawbacks about Hacienda Miramar:
- Accommodations – we don’t realize that there won’t be a concierge service like at the other villas. There is no one there to clean up, answer questions, or help with anything. Stephen’s family is on their own for the week.
- Location – being so high up makes it difficult to get anywhere without a car. They are the only group a little far away from everyone else (a 7-minute drive).
La Copa Llena
We rent out this restaurant for our Welcome Cocktail event. It’s right on the beach, with amazing views of the ocean and sunset. It’s mostly outside, but for parties, they require you rent a tent. Initially, we want to do a short party – two or three hours with some passed appetizers, and then let guests stay and order dinner from the restaurant if they prefer. But if you rent out space at La Copa Llena, you have it for the night. They will not re-open the kitchen with their regular menu. Since we don’t want our guests to have to figure out dinner on their own after Welcome Cocktails, we decide to do two passed apps, a family-style sit-down dinner, and extend the party from 5-10pm.
During our visit six months earlier, we get to see the venue, but the restaurant is closed and we never get to try the food. Cassandra’s husband is actually the head chef here, and she assures us that the food is delicious. It’s not that I don’t trust her, but I would feel much better if we could taste the food before deciding what to order for all our guests.
In short, I am blown away by the food. It’s so, so, so, so good. Passed apps of croquettes and poke. For dinner, a delicious salad, followed by fish with an incredible sauce and a side of rice, followed by some of the best steak I’ve ever eaten, accompanied by chimmichurri sauce, potatoes, and vegetables. It’s safe to say that every single guest is blown away by the food.
Rincon is a hard place to describe if you’ve never been there. When we initially let our friends know about the place, some immediately start Googling nearby places to check out. When looking at Google Maps, everything appears to be very close. Most places appear to be walking distance, but this is NOT the case for most places. For example, when looking at the map above, The Beach House looks close to Villa Playa Maria, but that is one heck of a climb! Rincon does not have many sidewalks, the roads are narrow and steep, and the drivers give zero fucks. Walking can be a little dangerous – especially after dark. It’s smarter to get driven around.
That said, Villa de Zecheo, Villa Playa Maria and Por Fin Dogmans are all very close to each other and only a short walk along the beach (see map above). They are also walking distance to a strip of exceptional food/drink places. Our favorite, hands down, is Jack’s Shack, an adorable food truck that serves breakfast, lunch, coffee, and smoothies. Do yourself a favor and go for both meals. For breakfast, a green smoothie and breakfast wrap. For lunch, the fish tacos with their housemade pineapple hot sauce. Everything they make is awesome, but these are my personal favorites. Follow them on Instagram to keep up with their hours (it varies with the seasons).
Next to Jack’s Shack is an adorable little bar called El Bohio. They are only open on the weekend during our wedding week, so be aware that their hours don’t seem to be fixed. They have fun juices, smoothies, and cocktails. Yum.
Finally, is Calypso Cafe. Sadly, I have still never been here, but plenty of our wedding guests have. Calypso Cafe is great because it’s always open, day and night, seven days a week. It’s a full-service restaurant. Some of my family get in very late on Tuesday night and end up going to Calypso for late-night burgers and fries – they look delicious. My cousin orders a beer while she waits. The food comes up fast, and she asks, “Can I bring this beer with me?” The bartender looks at her and says, “You’re in Puerto Rico. Yes, you can bring the beer with you.”
OTHER LODGING OPTIONS
We do not use Tres Palmas Inn and Villas, but it can host up to 200 people for a wedding. I don’t get the chance to see it in person, but it looks beautiful online. Because it is on Marine Land, they are a bit stricter with the noise, so if we used them, the DJ would have had to stop playing at 11pm (we are able to keep the music going until midnight – huge plus).
On the other side of Villa Playa Maria is Maria’s, a luxury oceanfront vacation rental. It’s not as new and doesn’t have as much natural sunlight as Villa Playa Maria, but still beautiful and incredibly well-maintained. Elizabeth is the concierge for both.
A couple of our guests also stay at Blue Boy Inn (a 15-20 minute walk on the beach to Villa de Zecheo) and Fisheye View Rentals (not walking distance but only a 5-minute drive) and love it. The one hotel in the area – Rincon of the Seas – will block out rooms for your guests if you prefer. The hotel is fine for guests who want to be on their own and can’t/won’t commit to a villa early on (their loss!).
Stephen and I love good wine. We’re at that point where we’re not super knowledgeable about it, but we appreciate it, and we just can’t drink the cheap stuff. Rincon is not exactly known for wine, so we do some research and find this little place called Tinto Wine Shop. It’s an adorable shop, the owners – a couple named Tiffany and Dan – are wonderful, and we’re very impressed with their ever-changing selection. We ask them about sourcing the wine for our wedding week events, and they are happy to do it.
They send us a very long list of all the wine that they have access to, and we send that list to Stephen’s cousin, Laura, a Master Sommelier (too cool, I know). She does us the kind favor of combing through the list and letting us know all the good ones – there are many. We go over the shorter list with Stephen’s Dad (he also loves wine), and the four of us nail down which wines we want for all the events.
Allison and Cassandra are fine with this, except for Welcome Cocktails at La Copa Llena – we’ll have to choose from the bar’s selection of wine for that event. We send that menu along to Laura as well, and even though it’s a small wine list, the five wines we choose for that evening are delicious.
There are three airports that you can fly into when traveling to Rincon. The most convenient airport is in Aguadilla at Rafael Hernández International (BQN). This airport is only 30 minutes outside of Rincon. The flight times aren’t always the most convenient, but if you live on the east coast, there are direct flights from JFK and Newark.
The second airport is in Mayaguez at Aeropuerto Eugenio Maria De Hostos (MAZ), which is about a 20-minute drive to Rincon. Folks flying into MAZ will first have to fly into San Juan (SJU) and then take a puddle jumper to MAZ.
Finally, one can fly into San Juan at Luis Muñoz Marín International (SJU), and then rent a car or grab a shuttle to Rincon, a 3-hour drive.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Photograpy: Allison and Cassandra send us a list of possible photographers and we go with E. P. Anderson because we like the look of their candid shooting style. Elliot is wonderful. He’s laid back and friendly while still being professional and direct. He also shoots our engagement photos in San Juan six months earlier. We love him.
D.J.: Again, we’re sent a list of possibilities and go with Elijah at E.J.K. Entertainment. We’re not completely sure he’s what we’re looking for because there’s a lot of techno stuff we find about him online and we definitely don’t want that type of music at our wedding, but Allison and Cassandra assure us that he’s the best. He’s their favorite. We take the gamble (which we now know is not a gamble – anything Allison and Cassandra suggest is a win), and our guests are on the dance floor all night. Elijah even makes a point to meet with us a few days before the wedding, just to touch base and say hi. My brother, a real curmudgeon who doesn’t have much of anything nice to say to me all week, says to me at the end of the night, “This is the best DJ I’ve ever heard at a wedding.” …Elijah rocks!
Hair and Makeup: Katie at Blushing Brides. This is the only option I’m given and man am I lucky. Have you ever had airbrush make-up? It’s incredible, natural-looking, and feels like nothing! Katie is extremely intuitive and able to know just what I want for both my hair and make-up.
Videography: Soul’s Anchor Studio. Husband and wife team Jose and Cristina are so sweet. Jose makes a point to speak with us on the phone to get to know us a little better. We don’t want any of the packages they offer because all we want them to get is our wedding dance, and they happily oblige.
Waterfall Tour: If a small group has time for an Airbnb experience, go on the Waterfall Tour with Gio to the San Sebastian Waterfalls. Gio is the most magical human being on the planet (we love him so much, we invite him to the wedding). The waterfalls are incredible – there’s a rope swing, cave, and plenty of scary jumping from high places! At the end, grab delicious mojitos and yummy food from the local Puerto Rican bar. Such a cool experience.
Surf Lessons: Rincon is known for surfing, after all. One of our guests take a private lesson with Melissa at Puntas Surf School. He raves about it.
OTHER SHOPS/ RESTAURANTS
Ode to the Elephants: If you’re up for a short drive, this is a must. This Thai restaurant serves the most delicious food and amazing cocktails with excellent service.
La Cambija: The place all the locals talk about. Unfortunately, I can’t speak from experience only because it doesn’t work out with our schedule, but this place is supposed to have the best and freshest local seafood.
Tamboo: Amazing location on the beach. I only have drinks here, but my family has dinner here and loves it.
Pool Bar Sushi: Such a cool spot – would you believe there’s a pool next to the bar?? Head chef is our very own wedding planner, Allison. I’ve mentioned this before but she is amazing and her food is amazing.
The Beach House: The best views! And because it’s up so high, it’s nice and breezy and not as bug-gy as other places. Great place for sunset and they’re always open.
The Uncharted Studio: If you’re looking for a cool tank or T-shirt that isn’t your typical “vacation buy”, this place has some really cute tops for men and women.
Ocean State of Mind: I don’t get to check this place out but my hair stylist tells me about it when I compliment her incredible necklace and earrings – both from this shop. All the jewelry is made locally.
A FINAL NOTE
According to Urban Dictionary, Island Time is “the time vacuum created by the ocean’s presence. Everything moves nice and slow. This carefree aura even has the ability to travel with islanders and can engulf you in their presence.”
Island time is a real thing. Don’t hate it; embrace it. Planning a wedding is stressful, but all of the people mentioned above are incredibly talented and professional and take their work seriously. Sometimes, people might not get back to you as quickly as you might expect or prefer. Please know that they have not forgotten about you. They know what they’re doing and they’re doing it. I promise!
Now go get wedding planning and enjoy the process!