H jokingly calls me a hippopotamus for how much I love staying in the water. Puerto Rico, for that, and many other reasons was one awesome vacation spot! There was a little bit for adventurers, history buffs, beach lovers, foodies and lazy vacationers, alike.
An island vacation brings to me images of a hotel by the beach, a book in hand, a huge hat and big sun goggles, a generous amount of sun screen, beach towels and umbrellas, lazing in the sun and not doing squat, the warm evenings of long walks, or early morning walks by the beach, with mimosas for breakfast and Mojitos for dinner. Or it did! Our first beach vacation together in the Dominican Republic was all about these things. A trip to Puerto Rico, can be that lazy trip, or it can be a healthy mix of laziness and activities alike.
A hectic month at work for me, an ongoing strenuous project for H at his work place, and a last minute almost-canceled trip kept us sober when it came to travelling for our anniversary weekend. We were surprised and delighted at our experiences there over and over again, that it was as if Puerto Rico was trying to do its best to keep our moods elevated!
I am still not sure if I can do justice to the ‘just WOW’ moments from the trip with my descriptions, as my brain right now, is swimming with images from the trip. It seems to work faster than my hands that are definitely trying hard to keep up! So it might just be easier to break it down by my top picks from the trip.
The flight between the main island and Vieques
Thanks to a friend’s input from her trip to PR, we booked a Bio-luminescent bay tour at Vieques. We decided to just do a night, and fly right back the next day. This was not without my usual research and much contemplation about the ferry services there, a proper mix of activities and leisure and the reviews. Our Jetblue flight reached there at 5am, and we decided to do the tour that very night. A rental car in hand, helped with us driving down to Ceiba, right across the sea from Vieques. The small 8-seater flight was quite the experience on its own. The gorgeous views of the islands in the Caribbean sea, the way we boarded the flight, rode right next to the pilot, all made it to my favorites’ list. This may be a good time to declare that we were extremely glad we invested in a Go-Pro!
The island, Vieques
You could get from one end of the island to another in about twenty minutes. That makes for awesome sun rises and sun sets. This time around, we did not get to spend more than a night here. That gave us an evening of lazing in a cafe by the beach, and strolling in the sand for the evening sunset. Not to miss out the exciting little flight to get here (I hear the ferries can be unpredictable and getting tickets is tedious). We could just get a taxi to take us everywhere, with some pre-planning. Our hotel hosts were great, and helped us with the planning and making reservations. So friendly people is another thing that makes it to my list. Riding around in the cab and the traffic here, reminded me of driving in India; what with people parking on the roads, and honking at turns.
The bio-luminescent bay
I highly recommend doing this if you come all the way to Puerto Rico, and more so, if you are visiting Vieques. There is another tour, apparently, from Ponce. I was told it wasn’t as good as the one at Vieques, but I am saying that based on other people’s feedback. Try to do the kayak tour, and not the ferry tour. Our kayak tour turned out to be quite the adventure. Just as we got off the huge van that took us to the ‘Mosquito Bay’, it started pouring. It continued to rain as we embarked on our kayaks in pairs. “Will we be able to see the sparkling, and will the tour still carry on?”, I asked my guide. “Do you want to go and see it?”, he asked. It got hard to even keep a track of the orange blinker he wore on his life jacket, to follow him. “That’s the small pass that keeps us away from the Caribbean sea”, he yelled over the thundering rain. The rain stopped in a few minutes, and we kayaked once again to where he said he usually sees activity. No luck there. Just as we started paddling to get back, the water shone with the activity of our paddles. The guide asked us to let the water run through our fingers. No go-pro, no camera, can do justice to that moment, you see the jeweled spots run on your arm. I continued playing with the water as he shared tales of the tribal people of the island, the first Spanish that came and discovered the Bay and thought it was a demon, and later, about the chemical content in the micro-organisms causing the light. It turned out to be a private tour for H and I, and another couple from Boston, as the others returned to the shore, due the heavy rain.
El Yuncue Rain Forest
If you have done your research as well, you probably already know that this is the only tropical rain forest in the country. What makes this rain forest unique? They don’t have any big mammals.This rain forest is also an excellent place to spot a multitude of birds, and the different plants and their leaves. We drove about the road with stops marked out on the map provided at the visitor’s center. It was a Saturday when we did this, and the place was pretty crowded, with tourists and locals. Make sure to slather your arms and legs with bug sprays. The little bit that I had on, did not help much. I felt the after-effects only after a day or two, and I was going at my legs for hours together for 6 days after our return. As the name suggests, it rains often. The hike to the falls is definitely worth the 40 minutes’ effort, as you can see from the picture. Oh, the greens!
The lazing around part of the trip, Isle Verde beach
The last two and a half days of our trip was divided between eating, sleeping, and strolling by the beach. The downside of our stay at the TRYP hotel by Wyndham, was all the traffic noise. The hotel is right off the highway, and that could be something to keep in mind. There is no question about the ease of getting to the beach, as all you had to do was cross the road to get to the entrance.
Back home, I remember the days when I went to the Chennai beaches in salwar kameez with friends.We would get our pants wet up to our undies and leave a trail of sand as we walked into the restaurants for breakfast or dinner. I was reminded of those moments, as I walked with my wet, dripping dress and my sand-covered legs back to the nice and clean hotel room.
Old San Juan was another place we walked around in. The colors in the place were pretty, the fort was impressive, and the food, lip-smacking good.We missed checking out the night-life here. That is for another time, I guess!
A general concern that most of the people expressed when I asked them for suggestions,and feedback, was the food available for vegetarians. Thankfully, my experience wasn’t bad at all. I enjoyed every one of my lunches and dinners (it could be the rum too :p). Mofolongo (mashed plantains) is always an option in places with Puerto Rican cuisine. You could also ask for fajitas.It is true that there aren’t as many options, but there are a few if you look for them, or modify something on their menu.
All in all, I would love to go to Puerto Rico and do everything all over again!
P.S. I do think the pictures from H’s camera were well worth the time taken to publish the post! 🙂 Thanks H!