Ann's News

Puerto Rico: Beaches and Rainforest

My primary reason for being in Puerto Rico was to write. I need to emphasize that my current traveling is not for vacation purposes. I’m traveling to have new and stimulating places to write from – the traveling makes my writing more inspiring and interesting.

I picked Puerto Rico based on the cheap airfare. This turned out to be a mistake because this is not a cost effective place to travel to, Puerto Rico is a beautiful island, but also quite expensive. It is however, convenient, the currency is U.S. dollars, and while Spanish is the main language, most people speak English. I also rented a car which made exploring that much easier.

Old San Juan

I spent three days in Old San Juan. The highlight was touring Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Lying on the northwestern-most point of the islet of Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. The fortification, also referred to as el Morro or ‘the promontory,’ was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan from seaborne enemies. (Wikipedia)

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

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Had I not been busy writing, three days would have been too long in Old San Juan. There isn’t that much to do, but I enjoyed walking around during my writing breaks.

The Mountains

From Old San Juan, I spent a week in the mountains where it unfortunately rained all week. Had it not rained so much, I really think I would have been able to enjoy a few wonderful hikes. On one cloudy but dry afternoon, while the power was out, I took a walk on the road and enjoyed the scenery.

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Making my way in, out, and through central Puerto Rico (mountainous area) during my stay was a pleasure. The lush green Rainforest landscape provided fabulous views. It’s easy to drive for a few hours when surrounded by beauty – even through constant twists and turns.

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Camuy River Cave Park

In between my time in the mountains and the beach I visited the Camuy River Cave Park – Parque Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy. This cave is the third largest underground cave system in the world and the Rio Camuy runs through it. The tour takes an hour, and the Cave is a marvel that took 11 million years to create. It’s one of those places that pictures can’t do justice. I left in awe of nature’s power and wonder.

Camuy River Cave Park Camuy El Rio

The Beaches

I visited many beaches in Puerto Rico, and clearly, beaches are the top reason to go to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, my planned trip to Vieques didn’t pan out. Vieques and Culebra are two islands to the East of Puerto Rico – had I been better educated about them, I would have planned to spend a few days on one of the islands. You can rent a hotel and a car on either islands.  Apparently, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are on those islands.

The trick to getting there is by taking a ferry from Fajardo, but you have to get there a few hours before the departure of the ferry to get on. The ferry only runs a few times a day. It’s cheap to take the ferry and there are other ways to get to the islands that are more reliable, but also more expensive.

I showed up two hours before the ferry left, but didn’t make it on. I was totally bummed out. I was looking forward to touring the island on bike and enjoying some time on the beach. This was the day before my last day, so I missed out. Again, had I known better, I would have spent a few days there – biking, kayaking and snorkeling.

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Fajardo is also where bio bay is located. You can go on a night kayak trip through bio bay and learn about the Pyrodinium Bahamense, a microscopic plankton capable of producing natural light at the touch of your hand. It looks like glow in the dark water.

This was something else I really wanted to do, unfortunately, I was there during a full moon, and was told not to bother because it was too bright out.

Thankfully, I spent 6 nights staying at a beach house, so I got to spend quality time enjoying the ocean. The water was a perfect temperature. I even tried paddle boarding for the first time. The water was entirely too choppy to stand-up, so it was more like knee paddle boarding. I did stand-up at one point, holding on to to paddle, in an attempt to ride the waves back-in to shore. I did this a few times, it was a lot of fun, until I wiped out and lost my Oakleys.

Ann Bernard on Beach

Rainforest

After missing the ferry, I made the best of the day and headed to the El Yunque National Forest. Getting to the Park was easy, but once it the park, the lack of signs made it confusing. In a nutshell, if you go, keep driving up until you get to the “recreational area”. You’ll know you’re there when you see a large parking lot. Get there early, before 10am, or you’ll have a hard time finding parking and the waterfall will be overcrowded.

On my little hike to the top of El Yunque

On my little hike to the top of El Yunque

The “hike” – it’s really a walk, to the waterfall is easy. People do the walk in flimsy flip-flops but I recommend you at least have sneakers. The walk to the top of the El Yunque Mountain is a few miles and I also did it in sneakers. Hiking boots are not required. The path is well cleared.

I was happy to be “hiking”. Any time I’m on a trail going uphill, I’m happy. The view at the top would have been a lot more incredible had it not been raining.

Top of El Yunque Mountain

Top of El Yunque Mountain

A stop in the rainforest is a good day trip. If interested, there are tours so you can learn more about the vegetation and wildlife.

Overall

I had a couple incidents that were unpleasant and found Puerto Rico expensive, but I also met some nice people, enjoyed my time on the beach, and got my second book written.  If you don’t like finding yourself in completely foreign lands, you want quality beach time and have money to spare – then Puerto Rico is the place for you.

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