I have been meaning to write about my vacation to Puerto Rico back in December and due to the snow and cold we’re experiencing here in New England, it is now an appropriate time to reminisce.
In December I spent four days in Puerto Rico with two of my coworkers after a conference we held in Orlando. We did a little bit of everything – sun, adventure, and culture. We sat at the pool, the beach, the swim up bar, and the hot tub. We rented a car and hiked in the rainforest, stopping to dip our feet into a waterfall. We kayaked into the ocean in the dark, through a tunnel made by mangrove trees, to see bioluminescence in a secluded lagoon. We traversed a fort in Old San Juan and walked the narrow painted streets while rain showers passed overhead. Like I said, a little bit of everything.
We naturally ate a lot of Puerto Rican food, including mofongo, the local specialty. Mofongo is mashed plantains, which look like bananas but are savory and very starchy in comparison. Every place we went served mofongo a little differently – with sauce and shrimp on top, next to a pile of rice, beans, and shredded chicken, or with pulled pork.
A highlight of the trip was a nighttime kayaking tour to a secluded bioluminescent bay. We rented a car on our third day in PR and drove out to Fajardo on the east coast of the island. After visiting the rainforest, we drove to the edge of the beach for our tour. It was scheduled to depart at 8:00 PM, and we arrived while the sun was setting. The darker it got, the more terrified we became – we were going to be kayaking out into the ocean! After grabbing dinner and trying to talk ourselves down, we changed into our kayaking gear and went to find our tour group.
I was slightly put at ease after meeting our tour guide who happened to have gone to school in Boston and once upon a time lived just down the road from me. (Side note: we were all surprised by how many people we met had lived or visited Boston! It made us feel at home). I felt like if we ended up in a bad situation out there in the ocean he’d show some allegiance to Boston and at least save us first. We were lucky to be the only group of three, so I got to ride with the tour guide to even everything out – which meant I basically didn’t have to do any work and got the inside scoop on the tour, Puerto Rico, and the best places to eat.
When it came time to depart, we hopped in our kayaks and started paddling out along the shoreline. Each kayak was tagged at the front and the back with a glow stick so that we could see each other in the dark and stay together in a single file line. We kayaked through the marina and our guide led us to an opening in a tunnel made by mangrove trees. We kayaked into the tunnel, which blocked the light of the moon making it very dark. Even though I was with the tour guide I was a little scared because that put me at the front of the line, kayaking out into the darkness.
When the tunnel ended we were in a huge lagoon. The water was perfectly calm, no waves at all. The moon was almost full (which was bad for the bioluminescence but good for my peace of mind). Our guide pulled everyone together and talked about the science of the bioluminescence in the bay. Essentially, a combination of a lot of things (plankton, mangrove trees, and other chemical things in the water) makes the bay glow in the dark. Unfortunately the bright moonlight made it hard to see, but our guide had a tarp that you could put over your kayak to block the light. It was amazing – the water glowed and sparkled in the dark. It was by far the most amazing part of the trip and I can’t wait to go back (during a new moon so the conditions are better for seeing the glow!).
I won’t write too much more, but let the pictures speak for themselves. I highly recommend vacation in Puerto Rico for anyone looking for a relaxing vacation that’s a little more than just sitting on the beach with a cocktail.
Puerto Rican Vacation by Pictures
Day 1 – We arrived at the hotel with just enough time to find dinner down the street and take a late night dip in the hot tub. After 6 days of nonstop work and standing on our feet, we were ready for bed pretty early.
Day 2 – Again, after 6 straights days of standing, we were ready for some relaxation. First stop: beach. Second stop: pool. Third stop: swim up bar. Fourth stop: dinner in Old San Juan (shrimp and garlic mofongo).
Day 3 – We were ready to mix it up a bit after a day in the sun, so we embarked on a day of adventure. We rented a car and drove to the east cost of the island to the rainforest. After a pit stop to pick up a new bathing suit top for Carolyn (hers flew off the balcony while air drying the day before) and a few wrong turns, we arrived at the El Yunque Rainforest. I had never been to a rainforest before and was shocked by how greenery! By the time we arrived we were pretty hungry. Our guidebook directed us to a cheap little shack on the side of the road where we had our favorite meal of the trip.
Then we parked to see La Coca Falls, an 80 foot waterfall.
Then we hiked to a tower that overlooked the luscious green rainforest.
Then we hiked to another waterfall – one that you could swim in! The water was freezing and we didn’t bring our bathing suits, but we dipped our toes in.
After the rainforest we drove to Fajardo for our kayaking tour. We don’t have any pictures since it was dark and we left our cameras in the car.
Day 4: We embarked on a historical day in Old San Juan. One of the oldest cities in North America, it is rich with history and culture. We went to the Fort San Felipe del Morro, and I was amazed! The fort is enormous and you and explore every nook and cranny. I’m not usually big on history but this was amazing.
For our last night in Puerto Rico, we went to a beautiful dinner down the street – definitely our favorite!
Day 5: Our flight departed in the early evening, so we had enough time to visit the beach, hot tub, and pool again and enjoy a few last Pina Coladas.
Just a few weeks ago, my fellow travelers/coworkers reunited for a Puerto Rican night. We recreated mofongo, the classic Puerto Rican dish I mentioned before. The recipe came out well enough that we (almost) felt we were on the beach again, with a pina colada in hand!