This Is What You Came For

Let’s be honest, being U.S. territory in the Caribbean, I didn’t put Puerto Rico too high on my list of places to visit. From my regional experience, I pictured a beautiful chaos: a delightful, delicate lay of land in constant battle with ravaging tropical storms. I mean, sometimes island maintenance is just too overwhelming with half torn down stone homes abandoned along the whirlwind curved palm trees.

But who am I to judge? We went there for my friend’s wedding; needing only a 3 day stay but booking 9 nights instead. Our way there stopped in Dallas and our way back stopped in Miami (including a 4 hour layover to check out Wynwood Art District, eat delicious breakfast at Zak the Baker, and whiskey tasting at a pop up Jack Daniel’s).

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Anyway, we definitely tried our best to experience everything we could in the least stressful manner; which was successful. We went south of the island, west, back north, to east, to another island, and back to San Juan. Here’s a pro and a con of what I thought of the country:

PRO: The land is way more diverse and cultivated than you’d expect. From Old San Juan buildings, historical forts to the agricultural farmlands, the rain forests, hills, surrounding islands, beach towns, and caverns.

Road Trip to Rincon:

A friend suggested taking the 52 route from San Juan to surftown Rincon – so why not? We drove inland through deep green mountains, swung right at Ponce, and curved our way around the southwest corner to hit up Rincon Beer Company. Next couple of days involved drunken shenanigans, making friends with English-speaking fellows, randomly going to a person’s house off the shore of Step’s Beach, visiting Dome’s Beach (an inactive nuclear reactor and lighthouse), and Maria’s Beach (Calypso).

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As insane amount of cars were parked on the road shoulders, causing traffic as they blasted music from loud speakers, honking and blowing police siren horns. People were on the side of the street, waving their affiliated party flag into your windshield as you drove by. It was one of many political rallies. The same night, we walked to another rally and learned that they handed out free beers and baked desserts to the supporting crowd. It was at this point that I felt emerged into Puerto Rico’s culture.

Caverning with Tanama River Adventures:

Everyone raved about El Yunque Forest, but we opt to stay west for fun in Utuado on the Tanama River instead. We went on Tuesday, November 8th, when most businesses/restaurants are closed (or dry) for Election Day. We repelled the bat-filled Cueva del Arco down 120′ into Tanama River, where we trekked upstream through waterfalls, hiking through bamboo trees, tubing into a water bat cave, and ended it with cliff jumping.

During our tour, we learned a lot about the agriculture on the outskirts of the forest. Just in one small field alone were mangoes, coffee beans, oranges, and grapefruit. Apparently, there’s an elderly lady who has been farming there for over 60 years and was the boss in town; everyone sought her wisdom, respect, and power.

Taking the Ferry to Culebra: 

First of all, Fajardo: not much…. Second thing, one-way/person was only $2.25 for a 1.5 hour ride (you can take a 15 minute flight for <$50/one-way for a great areal view). Third, there are two ferry’s: a cargo and then a nicer passenger one. Fourth, rent a golf cart in Culebra.

Jerry’s Jeep Rental closes at 6 PM and our ferry departed at 7 PM. I called them around 5 PM. If you send them a picture of your ID along with your CC, they’ll leave the buggy parked at the port for you to pick up when you arrive. Culebra is a tiny island but you won’t get much done by walking.

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Flamenco Beach was as perfect as everyone praises it to be (watch a glimpse HERE). Bright beach, turquoise water, blue skies, and green mountain in the distance; definitely helped that we were there off-season too. There were waves but subtle, not pushy, and no rocks. We also built a sand mold on Zoni Beach, snorkeled at Tamarindo Beach (National Wildlife Refuge), hiked the forest trail to Brava Beach, and watched the moon from Meloney Beach – all less than 48 hours.

Old San Juan:

We had time to kill before the wedding, so we took an Uber to Old San Juan. NOTE: there’s a rivalry between Uber and Taxi drivers – you’ll want to stand clear of getting picked up by Uber near any Taxi stations (including hotels and the airport, although they can drop you off).

It was Veteran’s Day, so El Morro Fort was free (typically only $5/person anyway) and we walked through the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. There’s so much history in the monuments and beautiful representation of what the country has been through.

Bacardi Distillery Tour:

Do the rum tasting tour, it’s worth it. No words, just a picture.

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CON: The food was not too impressive, considering the cost. We tried multiple places with various backgrounds and they weren’t bad however, were they worth the price?

I love food, but when you combine the U.S. dollar with almost everything imported, that’s an expensive bill. At least the Puerto Rican beer – Medalla – was cheap (however, we had to drink a ton to get a buzz since it was a light beer and we were sea level). We tried to veer away from american or european descent (although who doesn’t love pizza?) and stuck mostly with seafood or latin american. I’d rank my favorites as Puerto Rican, Cuban, or Mexican.

The best meal we had was part of the Tanama River Adventures (lunch provided with the tour). It was a home-cooked meal from the owners wife (bottom level was house, top level was business). Basic rice, beans, veggies, pasta, and plantain.

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The enemy in the background, coming down the stairs.

While on Culebra, we decided to have a few home cooked meals to limit money on mediocre food however, there was one meal we went out to eat and I have to say, it was pretty awesome. Not necessarily because of the food though, but because the free-range chickens plotted an attack on our nachos and quesadilla at Zaco’s Taco’s. So, we were handed a water gun and my alterego G.I. Joe came out to battle. It was fun.

THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR!

The wedding! WHAT-A-BLAST. The bride previously asked if I had a song request, I said Dancing Queen. You bet your booty that the boyfriend and I killed it on the dance floor when the song came on (we were actually the only two dancing). At some point, I think we did the dirty dancing lift maneuver. So much fun! Open bar and dancing the night away with good company, all drenched in our own sweat from the humidity.

I am absolutely grateful that we took advantage of their wedding. I probably would never have opt for a trip to that little gem if they hadn’t picked San Juan as their destination. Of course it wouldn’t have been as amazing as it was without the company. All we brought there was a backpack each and came back with new friends, great memories, five more pounds, and a stronger relationship. That’s what we went for.


SIDE NOTE: This post is primarily titled This Is What You Came For because we jammed out to Rihanna and Calvin Harris on the trip more than you’d want us to (OoOoouu, oooOoOouu, OoooOooOuu….).

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