For me, the best part about traveling to a new place is, and has always been escaping the ordinary.
There’s a high in meeting new people, connecting with souls you would never meet in your mundane life, binging on delicacies, and even trying out some adventures you would otherwise not have access to. The sheer confidence that builds up unknowingly within you from knowing that you can make your way just about anywhere, and the sense of belonging you derive the first time you learn to string together a simple ‘hello sir/madam’ in a foreign language; All of these pretty much make up why I like traveling.
Getting away for a few days during early Spring in New York just makes up for a perfect mini vacation. This trip was the first this year outside of United States’s border. Also, a trip to celebrate my birthday. My husband and I have been doing this thing for a few years now, every birthday[mine and his] we try and see a sunset in a new place, a new city we haven’t visited. For however long this has been ongoing, has turned out to be worth every effort we put to make this happen.
However, when we were all booked, I didn’t find myself being too excited about this trip TBH; I think most of it was because I barely had time to get distracted about anything but work. Not sure what a ‘a-month-younger’ me was thinking, but I was in for a surprise.
This was a good four-days-five-nights plan, and we did have the luxury of time on our side to chill and explore PR at our own pace.
Having reached our cute little airbnb in the wee hours of morning, we gave ourselves enough sleep before heading out to explore the Old San Juan. When we hunted for great cafes, Yelp directed us to this cafe slash restaurant that goes by “Chocobar Cortes”. Now, I cannot swear by all of the 700+ 4 star reviews on Yelp, but I would agree it had great coffee. We did end up finding better food spots eventually. If I haven’t told you already, I am a vegetarian and I take my food and COFFEE very seriously. 😛
Following the course of events we had planned for the day, next up on the list was, the Bacardi Tour. I do have a thing or two to say about this extremely hyped Bacardi Tour. You know that feeling when you look forward to something so much because that’s really what everyone’s been talking about lately and you end up doing it and go completely clueless what the hype is all about?!. Well, Bacardi tour turned out to be just the opposite. Starting off with a fantastic welcome drink where I opted for a Bacardi Mojito, their open waterfront Bat Bar Pavilion is to die for. The views, the wind, those cute pineapple/coconut cocktails, fun games, cozy lounge and not to forget just the right amount of crowd [I have an all new level of appreciation for places that aren’t too crowded, I mean growing up does teach you a thing or two.] were all just too perfect. I don’t remember a single second staying there and thinking about work or any of the 9867 problems I have in my life. Isn’t that a testament in itself?! Let pictures do the talking.
After the tour, we just relaxed the rest of the night and walked around old San Juan to get ourselves familiarized. hashtag boring stuff to write about.
So, I am sure I babbled enough about how I like being outdoors [can be running, hiking, adventure sports or a mix of these] even on a beach vacay. Well, this wasn’t going to be an exception. And we WERE in tropicals, we couldn’t have missed out on the oh-so-gorgeous El-Yunque Rainforest. As we all know the sad truth of Hurricane Maria washing away most part of PR, we weren’t expecting a whole lot of hiking here. That indeed turned out to be right. The place is still recovering from the Hurricane and although most hiking trails are closed, the forest itself is open for visitors. We drove around and ended up getting in a few really small hikes purely for views. I hope the pictures do you some good in explaining why you shouldn’t miss this on your visit to PR.
Also, we stumbled upon this CUTE [probably my third usage of this adjective?! but this cafe deserves it the most] lunch spot called “Degree 18”. And I am not just saying it guys, YOU HAVE GOT TO STOP BY THIS PLACE IF YOU ARE AROUND El-YUNQUE. The most delicious Acai bowls and smoothies ever. PERIOD. It was so good, we decided to drive all of 45 minutes each way the following day just to eat here again. Truth be told, duh.
The same evening, we came back to explore more of Old San Juan and found ourselves at El Morro, tip of Old San Juan by the fort and sea. I am sure anyone who’s ever looked at pictures of PR wouldn’t have passed without seeing this spot. So breezy and open, this area calls out to the kid-in-you. And what do you think is a rather rare sport played here? Kite[chiringa] Flying. We weren’t prepared, neither expecting to see a bunch of kids flying kites like they were born for it.
If you are feeling excited and in the mood, you can walk a few steps to the nearest store to buy a Kite of any shape and form and go at it. I can’t say I take pride in my Kite-flying-skills, but hands down did better than my husband. haha. If kites are not your thing, there is always the fort El Morro itself; which is a must to walk around.
We started the day right where we had left off. We visited the Castillo Del Morro fort for its gorgeous views, did a bit more of kite flying and were just lost in the glory honestly.
The “Happy Us” then grabbed delicious dinner at this place, Punto De Vista; one of the very few rooftop restaurants with good food and cocktails. Plaintain chips were finger-licking good, besides the regular mofongos, that you’ll find in every restaurant. Make sure you have reservations in advance if you plan on grabbing a bite here.
Interestingly, we met a bunch of friendly Puerto Ricans here who told us about a special traditional dance that’s performed by the locals on the first Saturday during summer months. We were lucky to get some glimpse of it.
Night Kayaking: This deserves an entire blog post in itself. Trying to do justice explaining it to you in all its beauty, knowing I won’t probably succeed. This was an experience you MUST have when you visit PR.
I usually try and take pictures with enough details that I can catalogue for my own memories. But the sad truth is that some of the coolest things that I’ve seen on my travels are those that you cannot capture on film:
Bioluminescent Bay was one of them.
Before I go at lengths talking about this, let’s get some facts in order, courtesy google:
- The bioluminescence of a bio bay is caused by single-celled microorganisms that glow briefly, usually in a blue-green color, whenever they are disturbed. This means that every splash and every movement in the water causes the micro organisms to light up in the water around you, giving the bay its distinctive glow.
- There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world and three of them are are in Puerto Rico.
- The ones in Puerto Rico are Laguna Grande, Mosquito Bay, and La Parguera. Mosquito Bay is the most popular since the bio luminescent is very evident here.
- You need to Kayak to these Laguna in the dark, [darker the better since the then it becomes more evident, with a guide of course] through mangroves to get to the actual spot of luminescence.
We did the Laguna Grande and I mean it when I say this was just pure MAGIC. It’s true that bio bay is virtually impossible to photograph unless you have special equipments to get your shutter speed to extremely low and still capture enough light to film them because these organisms light up for fraction of a second when disturbed and go back to their regular self.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you hit google whilst reading this to see pictures of these Laguna. Before you go all ‘OMG’ on them, let me tell you, more than half those pictures are photoshopped. DO NOT buy into what you see on google. Blue, or green, or lighting up the whole laguna like some crystals, lies. ALL of them. That doesn’t mean the activity is too subtle either, I just want to portray that what you see on google isn’t the reality, although the reality is still serene, beautiful and one of a kind. Let’s keep it that way.
This day was all about visiting Culebra, a neighboring Carribean island. Food, small-town-feel, beach, people, everything about this island was worth it. We rented a jeep for really affordable price[$40/day if my memory serves me right] to get around the island.
We had researched enough about Culebra to know this island is the shelter to couple of beautiful beaches. Just how we imagined, we soaked up all the sun we could get while we were there at the Flamenco beach and snorkeled in the blue waters. I would highly recommend getting your own snorkeling gear than opting for any guided tours because it’s not too hard to spot all the beach-loving-creatures plus it takes you on an exploration of your own.
Getting to the end of our beautiful vacation; Bonus pictures and deets below, all taken in Old San Juan. Would love to know your thoughts on visiting PR on the comments section. Also, if you have already been to PR, and visited any of the places I have described, would love love to know your experience and if you enjoyed anything in particular that stood out for you.