February 12 – 16.
Getting to Puerto Rico was a trek. We left on a Wednesday night after work and flew to Phoenix Arizona. Had a quick layover, then flew to Miami. From Miami we flew to Puerto Rico on a red eye, and with the time change we arrived Thursday at around 1pm. The humid heat stepping out of the airport was an incredible feeling. It felt like melting after hours of being in a frozen box. The difficult and extra stressful hours previously put in at work came down to this rewarding moment.
Right away it was fun. From their car rental system making us feel like we stole a car, to driving on the highway with reggeaton music playing on the radio trying not to get lost. Our first stay was in San Juan, near Ocean Park. Our hotel was a quaint place, with white walls, blue doors and not one room the same. The workers were so friendly – and the view from the balcony was amazing. There were hammocks everywhere & a free boogie board rental which we took advantage of right away. After putting on sunblock we walked to the beach and the day turned extremely gloomy & overcast. It was pretty comical.
We did a lot of walking around, it was mostly calm and serene. We ate a tripleta and a media noche (sandwiches) and drank medalla beer & cafe con leche in a cafe whose claim to fame is that Barack Obama ate there a couple of years ago. A tripleta was probably one of the best sandwiches we have ever had! 3 different types of meat, cheese and so much flavor.
Old San Juan was just as beautiful as ocean park, cobblestone roads, different colored buildings and much busier than the beach. Vendors everywhere! Really cool parks and colonial plazas. We had so much good food while in Puerto Rico, that it’s hard to pick one best meal – but we had some amazing dishes here!
We spent time in the rainforest El Yunque. One of the trip highlights. We stayed in an eco-tourism lodge that was secluded and simply breathtaking. We hiked during our lucky couple of hours with no rain, with the beautiful sounds of waterfalls and birds. There were so many cool watering holes. The hike wasn’t clearly marked, so we had to do a lot of jumping around through rocks. We found a solo hiker which was comforting, and then worrisome (cue in scary movie music). After surviving the hike we walked down to the only restaurant in the area & ate like kings. Not much was said, the seating was outdoors so we were staring into the rainforest, but the food was just amazing. We had mofongo – one of the main dishes there, and our new obsession, made with plantains and pork. We also ordered a soup and salad after seeing what they looked like, and we weren’t disappointed. We also had chocolate flan that was incredible.
We took a 12 minute flight on a 9 person passenger plane to Vieques. A smaller island in Puerto Rico that isn’t very touristy because for 60 years it was closed off by the US Navy. We stayed in a boutique hotel with more beautiful breathtaking views. Then we did one of the most incredible things I have ever done. Top 10 list for sure. We went kayaking on clear bottom kayaks on the brightest (1 of only 9) bioluminiscent bays in the world. The luminescence in the bay is caused by a micro-organism (dinoflagellate) which glows when the water is disturbed.
The Spanish thought the bioluminisence they found was the devils work. So they tried to block the oceans water from entering the bay by dropping huge boulders. However, this actually helped preserve the bay and increase the luminiscense.
We spent our last day back in San Juan visiting the “Casa Bacardi.” The Bacardi rum factory was originally opened in Cuba by the Bacardi family. However they were exiled, and they relocated in Puerto Rico. I was a bit confused as to how this is now considered Puerto Rican rum if it was created in Cuba. One of the ambassadors on the tasting tour we did – simply said that it is now Puerto Rican rum because that is where it is made. All the world’s Bacardi rum comes from this one distillery – but oddly enough it is all bottled in Florida. Besides the interesting history lesson, this is where we had the best pina coladas of all times!