Four days in Puerto Rico. Wow - This was a good trip. The trip Started on Tuesday when we landed at the San Juan airport and picked up our rental car. We spent virtually no time in San Juan, which is/was one of my biggest regrets of the trip. But there was so much to choose from and decisions had to be made… So after picking up our rental car, we headed straight to Luquillo where we would spend our first two nights.
Luquillo is a surfing town about 45 minutes East of San Juan. Easily available by car. Which leads me to my Tip #1: Unless you are planning on staying in San Juan for the entirety of your trip, rent a car, more specifically, a Jeep (Jeep thing explained below). We decided to stay in Luquillo because of its proximity to El Yunque National Forest - one of the most popular destinations (if not the most) and the thing we were most excited to see. Getting to our Air BnB in Luquillo was the most stressful part of the trip. Typical of much of the Latin World, Google Maps is not very accurate in Puerto Rico, which always leads to a lot of frustration. So, Tip #2: Make sure to get thorough directions from your hotel or hotel before hitting the road.
After finally finding our guest house, we hit the town for a light dinner and walk along the beach. Truth be told, I was not very impressed by Luquillo. The food options are limited, especially for a vegetarian, and the beaches are not the white sand/ turquoise water wonders that can be found elsewhere on the island.
We dedicated Wednesday to El Yunque, which, in my opinion, can easily be seen in a day. At the entrance of the forest, we stumbled upon a charming little town called Palmer. The main street of Palmer is lined with cafes and shops that more than made up for the lack of offerings in Luquillo. Our favorite place ended up being Degree 18 Juice Bar, an outdoor shack with all the juices, smoothies and wraps my veggie heart could ever want. Tip #3: Skip Luquillo, go to Palmer.
After our juice fix, we started our El Yunque adventure. El Yunque is the only rainforest included in the National Parks System and boasts tremendous waterfalls accessible by well maintained trails. We saw 20+ waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. One my favorite things about the park is the fact that you are allowed to swim pretty much everywhere, so Tip #4: Bring a swimsuit and towel on your hike. I saw so may people hiking around in dripping wet clothes, which did not look fun. Also, when you go to the park, Tip #5: Skip the tour bus and explore at your own pace. I’m not against group tours or excursions in general, especially if it saves you the hassle of renting a car, but El Yunque is best enjoyed at one’s own pace.
On Thursday, we left Luquillo and traveled to the island of Vieques. Vieques can only be accessed by local plane or ferry. There is a ferry service via Fajardo, but we opted to fly from the Cieba airport, and it was very well worth it. Tip #6: Fly to Vieques. The airports are a breeze, the flights are cheap and the views are once in a lifetime. So after a delightful ten minute flight, we landed in Vieques. And let me tell you something… I LOVE VIEQUES. Seriously. This is probably one the top 5 places I have ever visited. Maybe top 3.
Vieques is magical. Relaxed. Pristine. Perfect. The reason I love this place, much is because it is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly unique, but still feels relatively untouched. The population on the island is spilt between the northern town of Isabel and the Southern town of Esperanza. We stayed in Esperanza, but you can’t go wrong either way. You won’t find any massive hotels or resorts (or any kind of chain at all) on the island, which is one of the reasons why it is so special. We stayed at a quaint Boutique Hotel called the Malecon House, would I would definitely recommend to anyone planing a trip to Vieques.
After checking into our hotel, we made our way to the biggest and most popular beach called Sun Bay. One our way to the beach, we stopped to photograph a pair of wild horses. These little horses are all over the island and coexist peacefully with the human population, often roaming the main streets and interacting with people. After the beach, we ate dinner at restaurant called Trade Winds, which I also recommend and got ready for our bioluminescent bay kayak tour. Tip #7: GO TO A BIO-BAY! Mosquito Bay, in Vieques, has such a high concentration of bioluminescent organisms, that the water actually GLOWS. Yes. The water glows in the dark. There are several of these bio-bays in Puerto Rico, but Mosquito Bay is known as the best. We booked a tour with Abe’s Tours and it ended up being the top highlight of the trip. Unfortunately, the organisms that make the water glow move too quickly to be captured on most cameras, so I don’t have any have any photo evidence of this excursion.
Friday morning, we set out to explore a new beach and after walking a mile west of the main strip, we ended up a Playa Negra. Playa Negra, with it’s rock shoreline and signature black sand, was quite different from the previous day’s Sun Bay. Aside from getting stung by a bee at the beach, it was another perfect day. After the beach, we packed up our bags and flew bag to the mainland, marking the beginning of the end of our trip.
All and all, Puerto Rico was much more amazing than I ever anticipated and Vieques was a once in a lifetime discovery. I’ll definitely be heading back. Hopefully soon.
More photos on "Photos" tab or Kierahall.com/photos.