I just had the best vacation ever and fell in love with Puerto Rico.
BF and I had been looking to take a Caribbean vacation. Winter was beating down on us and we were both in need of a world without snow – this winter has been especially irritating on the snow front, with the white stuff covering the ground pretty universally since the first big snowstorm of the season in December that dropped something like two feet on us. We had considered several options, but they were all just too costly to be justifiable.
I happened to mention our predicament to my mom in passing when she alerted me to the fact that my uncle (technically my second cousin, but I’ve always called him my uncle) and his family own a home in Rincón, a surf town on the westernmost part of the island. I was really surprised and understandably overjoyed. What had once been an unattainable $3k vacation had just shrunk to $350 plane tickets and a rental car.
So I got in touch with my second cousin, who said he’d be down there until the 13th of March and that we were welcome anytime before then. So we got our tickets, made all of the necessary arrangements and waited anxiously to leave on February 23rd. We got a great set of flights that allowed us to take full advantage of all eight days we stayed. We left Philadelphia at 7:00 am and got in to San Juan around 10:30 am then drove the two and a half hours across the island to Rincón, getting to the house at just about 2 in the afternoon. On day seven of our trip we left Rincón and drove back to San Juan, stayed there overnight and got a plane back home at 7 in the evening on day eight.
Rincón was beautiful. The barrio we were staying in, Stella, was a nice quiet little town. Not very touristy at all and everything that we wanted to see was within a few minutes of the place we were staying, the beach was a block from the house, the lighthouse was five minutes away, there was a coral reef that we snorkeled out to right near the lighthouse. On the whole it was just a great place to be, and very tourist-friendly despite not being very tourist-oriented. There are US based chain stores all over the place – Walgreen’s, Burger King, Kmart, Costco – and nearly everyone has at least a workable hold on English for those of us who speak all of ten words of Spanish. A couple of days we just hung out at the beach and snorkeled right there. One day we went out to the reef and got to check that out. I was wowed by all of the sea life that was right there, we didn’t have to take a boat out or anything, but I saw all different kinds of fish of different shapes, sizes and vibrant colors and I even saw a conch-like snail thing swimming around outside of its shell. Another day we took a trip up into the mountains, through the jungle. From the top there was an old castle that we climbed up into where you got a panoramic view of the coast, about 30 miles away. It was breathtaking.
The first day in San Juan, we got some lunch at Señor Frogs, which I suppose might be entertaining on a Friday night when everyone’s drinking, but for a Tuesday afternoon is just obnoxious and over-priced, and then we took a walk around the harbor area and checked out all of the little street vendors that pop-up whenever there are cruise ships in port. We had a nice time that day, but we were really in need of some down time, so we spent most of that evening hanging out at the hotel, watching movies, swimming in the oh-so-chilly rooftop pool, and eating junk food.
The next day we took a taxi up the hill to El Morro, a Spanish fort that was first constructed in the 1500’s. After wandering around the fort for the better part of an hour, we made our way down the hill, stopping at various little historic sites – the governor’s mansion, the Catedral San Juan Bautista – and the little shops that dot the city until we finally made our way to the second fort in Old San Juan, Castillo San Cristobal. San Cristobal was a challenge to get to. Well really, the whole vacation was a challenge. I’ve been having a terrible pain in my ankle for about a month now, we’re thinking that it’s a torn ligament at this point. So walking everywhere was pretty painful. It’s swollen and just generally miserable – great way to spend a vacation! Anyway, San Cristobal is at the top of a great big, very steep hill, but it was worth it. It was beautiful and the views were just amazing. We wrapped up our day with coconut ice that was pretty freaking awesome; I could’ve eaten a dozen, and then headed back to our car and on to the airport.
We planned to get to the airport early, have a late lunch/early dinner, and jump right on our flight. Didn’t happen quite that easily. The process of returning the car and getting through security went by far quicker than we anticipated and then we found out that our flight had been delayed by an hour, so the two hours we thought we had to kill had just become more like three and a half. To make matters worse, once through the security gates we discovered that there wasn’t really anywhere to sit down and order a meal, there were a couple of sports bars with a selection of appetizers and an express Dominos. So we got pizza and settled in to read our books. It was a relatively uneventful flight. They screwed up the in-flight movie, so instead of watching The King’s Speech, we got to watch Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps, which was just bad. I also had my first experience sitting next to a nervous flyer, well, not so much nervous as scared. I first became aware of this as she clutched my sun burnt arm and buried her face in her sweatshirt as we took off. Of course this was repeated when we hit turbulence off the New Jersey coast, and as we landed in Philadelphia, I just said screw it and held her hand. I felt bad. I can’t imagine being that legitimately afraid of flying that I would grab a hold of whatever person was closest to me for comfort.
So that was the end of our adventure. BF says that he could spend every vacation there for the rest of his life and I tend to agree. It was an amazing vacation and I can’t wait to go back.