Puerto Rico (April 2015)

Puerto Rico. My first trip where I tested the non-reving waters, I had no idea what I was even doing. I was going with my best friend Lindsey though for my birthday, so no one is better at going with the flow like her. The flights were all super full, but I was able to jumpseat and went down to Puerto Rico first. We figured this way I could go get the car from the rental company and go check into the hotel. The only problem was we sent the wrong person. I speak very little Spanish, while Lindsey is fluent in it. The road signs were in Spanish and the GPS used the metric system, also Puerto Rico has it’s own rules of the road, but we will get into that later. By time I managed to find my way to the hotel, park the car in this sketchy lot they had a mile away, get checked in, it was time to give myself another heart attack and drive back to go grab Lindsey from the airport. I made Lindsey drive back to the hotel. We were finally both in San Juan, it was surreal.

We were only spending a day in San Juan as it seemed like the rain forest would offer more adventures. Our plan was to go to dinner, take a power nap, and then hit the town. We were so tired from the process it took to get to San Juan that neither one of us felt like getting up to go out. It was probably for the best as we were able to wake up early, check out of our hotel and go explore Old San Juan. The colorful buildings, old forts, and crystal blue waters had us enchanted. We spent most of the day walking around el Morro. A former Spanish fort, until the US Navy was able to conquer the fort during the Spanish-American War. This was due largely to the fort having outdated equipment. After a morning of non stop walking and getting lost we finally headed to our hostel on the outskirts of the rainforest. When we arrived at the hostel, we learned we were the only two staying. The hostel was beautiful and I quickly found my spot, in a  hammock that overlooked the bay.

The next morning we headed to the rainforest and after getting lost a couple of times we arrived. We must have looked lost because a local offered to take us up into the rainforest  I would not normally recommend this, but there was two of us, and we trusted our gut. And he led us up into the rainforest on this crazy path, to the point where we had to hold on to vines to climb. It was not the path that most tourists take. To cool off about half way through he led us to a mini waterfall. The rainforest was like nothing I’ve experienced before and I sometimes had to stop to catch my breath but also take in the view. After the grueling hike he led us through this persons back yard into a local swimming hole. Where we jumped off a mini cliff to get down into the water. We laid out to dry off and watched the locals do dives and flips to jump into the water. Alas it was time to say goodbye to our local tour guide and get ready for dinner.

The couple who owned the hostel recommended a section to heads towards for dinner, once we were there we immediately saw people advertising for the bioluminescent bay. We walked around and asked and it appeared everything was sold out and we were about to give up when we were told that one group had a last minute cancellation and we jumped on the chance. What is a bioluminescent bay you ask? Well it is where a bay appears to have shooting comets under the water. (Warning: up coming science talk) This is due to a micro-organism called dinoflagellates who capture the light by their chlorophyll and the glow occurs whenever the organism is agitated. And the reason why the dinoflagellates thrive in this particular bay and few other locations is due to the small size of the bay and the abundance of mangroves which provide an excellent source of B12 which is necessary to their survival.  Okay enough science talk. The point is, it was beautiful, but also another risky adventure. For starters we were kayaking at night, and as previously mentioned there are a ton of mangroves surrounding the bay, and there are crocodiles and a couple of dangerous snakes in Puerto Rico, and Lindsey and I of course were leading the group and got separated once or twice. Once we were in the bay however it was lovely, the stars were bright, there was a peaceful silence, and of course underwater shooting stars. When we safely arrived back we walked around a little bit and came across more advertisements and found one where we would kayak and snorkel with sea turtles and sting rays. We jumped at it, since it would be our last full day in Puerto Rico.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and caught a ferry to an island off Puerto Rico called Culebra. Where we caught a van over to a beach and kayaked out, tied everybody’s kayaks together, and went snorkeling. If you know me, you know I love sea turtles, if I could be any animal it would be a sea turtle! For me that was the highlight of the trip being able to snorkel with them! It was a dream come true swimming with the sea turtles, the sting rays, and around the colorful coral! After we had our share of snorkeling (I could have floated with the sea turtles all day) we were shuttled to Flamenco Beach which was rated one of those most beautiful beaches in the world. I believe it! After a day of getting sun burnt it was time to head back to our hostel to pack up and head home.

Tips and Tricks on Puerto Rico (based off our visit):

  1. Eat the local cuisine! Plantains, so much plantains, you won’t be able to eat another banana for at least a month. Our favorite sweet treat was a pastry called Mayorca! They are a large distributer of rum and coffee, so both are always on the menu.
  2. Explore old San Juan, but adventure outside the city. There are so many great adventures to be had on this island. From hiking El Yunque (the only tropical rainforest in the United States) to snorkeling with sea turtles. And we did not even make it to the west coast of Puerto Rico which we heard moved at a slower pace and called the old Puerto Rico.
  3. Puerto Rico is not like any other part of the United States, sometimes it’s okay to not take the official tour guide but instead rely on a local. Just be safe and trust your gut.
  4. Renting a car is probably the cheapest option to really getting around Puerto Rico.
  5. The hostel we stayed at was really nice, if anyone is curious it was Hostel Bahia Del Paraiso in Naguabo, Puerto Rico.
  6. Driving in Puerto Rico gave me the biggest anxiety. Two ways roads would all of a sudden become one way, there were very few speed limit signs. I seriously made Lindsey drive most of the trip, because driving in Puerto Rico…ay dos mio!
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