For our year anniversary Hadel and I decided to get some beach and fun in Puerto Rico.
We got direct flights through Southwest which was awsome. We only had a few days there so we wanted to maximize the time off that we had.
We arrived in San Juan on July 1. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, no passports were needed, no Visas, no headaches! Just like traveling anywhere else in the States. We picked up our luggage easily and headed out to grab a taxi. The taxi was easy to get and thankfully the total was preset before we got the cab which takes the scare of getting ripped off by a shady driver. The total for the cab ride from the airport to our hotel was $14 US dollars (Everything is in US dollars since it is a US territory). At the time I thought this was pretty reasonable, hind sight since we went less than 5 miles, $14 US dollars was pretty expensive.
Our hotel for the trip was San Juan Water and Beach Club. We booked an ocean view room for less than $200 US dollars a night through Hotels.com, which was pretty nice because the view was amazing, and Hotels.com provided a $50.00 voucher for food and/or drinks at the rooftop bar and free breakfast every morning.
It was already 4pm local time by the time we finished checking into the room. We hadn’t eaten lunch yet because of the flight time so we were starving. We asked a hotel employee for a recommendation near by for tacos. He recommended Chidos. Chidos wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t amazing. They did have a pretty good deal on a pitcher of margaritas, which was about the same price as 2 margaritas, so if you want to sit back on the patio, people watch, and down some margaritas you can get this done at Chidos!
There wasn’t too much time left in the day, so we just wanted to take a walk along the beach and go for a little swim before sunset. The water was nice and refreshing, and beautiful shades of blue.
We needed to head to bed early because the next day was going to be a long fun filled day and we wanted to be properly prepared for that.
Day 2 was the day I think we were looking forward to the most. On the agenda for the day was El Yunque National Rainforest, and night kayaking in the bioluminescent bay.
The day started off with our free breakfast. It was actually quite nice. 2 eggs cooked how we chose, Puerto Rican coffee, bacon, lots of toast, and hash browns. The tour informed us ahead of time that we wouldn’t be eating “lunch” until after 3pm, so we wanted to make sure we had enough in our stomachs to enjoy the trip.
The tour from BeSpoke LifeStyle Management picked us up at our hotel and brought us to the main tour group. Normally, only one employee from Bespoke is needed for these trips, however, since this was the July 4 weekend, Bespoke went above and beyond by providing us an extra employee to make sure we could have the most time to enjoy ourselves. This allowed us to go out and enjoy the trip and not drive around waiting for parking etc. whenever we stopped at a site. Kudos BeSpoke for thinking about us and not just yourselves! Our main tour guide was Jaime(James)…if you get him he’s fantastic. So much fun, knowledgeable, and considerate.
The first stop was a little fruit stand on the side of the road. Apparently, due to the economic struggles of the country, this was one of the only small business fruit/agriculture business remaining. We all got out and received a fresh smoothie of our choice made from the fresh fruit grown by them. I got a plain coconut smoothie. Hadel made a face at this, but it was SO GOOD! Hadel tried some of mine and agreed that yes…it was tasty. She got a mango smoothie which was also good. It was also very considerate of BeSpoke to provide us this stop to get something in our stomachs considering the length of the day.
After the fruit stand we made our way into El Yunque National Rainforest. This is the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system. The main attraction is La Mina waterfall. On the way to the start of the trail, Jaime found us a local shop that made moonshine from coconut and another fruit. We all got to try it and it was an awesome local experience that we would never have gotten the chance to do if it weren’t for this awesome tour. Once we got to the start of the trail, Jaime assured us the hike would be slow and easy. He took the group down a side path which lead to a more private/secluded waterfall, which was great since the main waterfall was so busy. Another perk of using BeSpoke, as a regular tourist would not find these hidden waterfalls.
We made it to La Mina Falls and it was totally packed. You can swim in the falls so we set our things down to hop in the water. Even though it was a hot and muggy day, the water…was…FREEZING! It took me a long time to get the guts to dump myself in the water. After your body gets used to the shock, it is quite refreshing, but it certainly is cold. The falls were so busy we didn’t stick around too long. We made our way back up to the bus for the agreed upon time to be picked up.
When the bus came to pick us up, we noticed 1 couple was missing. Jaime sent us ahead while he went back into the rainforest to find the missing couple. The next stop was Yohaku tower. On a clear day, this would provide an incredible view of the rainforest, the ocean, and the coast. On this day, it was cloudy and the visibility wasn’t the best. But still a great view of the surrounding area. This was a quick stop, and from here we move just a little further down to La Coca Falls. This wasn’t a waterfall that you could swim around in, but a pretty waterfall right on the side of the road.
The next stop for us was a hike to a river swimming area. By this point, Jaime had found the lost couple who weren’t paying attention and didn’t know when they were supposed to be back up at the bus They continued to be a pain, because now they wanted someone to take them BACK to the Yohaku tower because they missed… because they weren’t paying attention. Despite the rudeness, Jaime was very considerate and accommodating and arranged a second bus to take the lost couple back up to the tower. The rest of us went down to the river where a rope had been left hanging from a large tree that allowed swinging into the river. Hadel was able to hop on and had fun swinging into the waters. Our time here was short so we made our way back to the bus. It turns out the consequence of the rude, lost couple going back to the tower, was that the rest of us had to cram into 1 bus instead of 2. This meant some of us had to stand. Hadel and I had to stand…and needless to say, we weren’t happy with those rude people for being so selfish, not paying attention and making others suffer because of their choices.
It was finally time for “lunch” even though it was nearing 4pm. We went to a restaurant where BeSpoke had pre ordered our meals for us. I got the baked grouper, and Hadel got the shrimp. I can’t describe how tasty the grouper fish was. They also preordered Mojitos for us if we wanted. All of this was to make sure that we spent every moment being productive and not waiting, which was very enjoyable. By the way, everything is included on this tour, except the cost of the “lunch and alcohol,” which the food ended up being about 12 dollars per person. At this point we separated from some of the other members. If you take this tour, be sure to get the combo El Yunque and night kayaking package. It is well worth it. Many of the other customers were upset that they didn’t realize the night kayaking was an option to do. Unfortunately, these spots book fast so they were unable to join us if they did not previously sign up for the trip.
We made our way to Fajardo, which is where we would start our kayaking trip. The kayaking was run by glassbottompr, which was a fun and lively group of kayakers that explained the dos and don’t of kayaking and in particular kayaking at night. They were very passionate about the experience and were a lot of fun. There are also a lot of other kayak/bio-luminescence companies out there, but this one has the glass bottom kayaks and will take your photos for free, which is a great add-on. After getting in the kayaks, we had a leisurely paddle through the mangroves of Puerto Rico. There are LOTS of mosquitoes so dress accordingly! Cover for your skin and some serious bug spray should help. As the sun started to set, the mangroves opened up and we entered a calm, pristine bay. We were given freedom to roam around until the sun set. As the sun was disappearing we huddled together to see the glowing water. Glassbottompr is great in that they were prepared even when the natural night sky was not ideal for viewing the bio-luminescence. Since there was a large moon out, our eyes could not adjust to see the faint glowing of the water. To counter the moon’s light, Glassbottompr brought out a tarp. We all pulled the tarp over ourselves and this made it dark enough for our eyes to adjust and see the very faint glow of the bio-luminescence. Definitely isn’t something that could be photographed, so all of those really pretty photos of glowing beaches definitely aren’t from this type of bio-luminescence. After we got our fill of the glowing water we made our way in the dark back through the mangroves. It was really dark and could be bad if you were a weak paddler as you might get lost, but the guides did an excellent job making sure we were all together and accounted for. We made it back to shore and got back on our tour bus. It was a long day, and we were ready to go back to the hotel and get some rest.
For our third day in Puerto Rico, we only planned walking around Old San Juan. We figured we had time to do a few other things so we signed up for parasailing and SNUBA. It was my first time parasailing. The view from above was great, just like getting a drone shot! But apparently my old body is letting me down. I ended up getting motion sick while floating above the water. The view was great and Hadel loved it, but I was glad to be back on the boat when the parasailing was over!
We finished up parasailing and had lunch at the hotel. We had to eat quickly, because now that we added SNUBA to the ageda the day was pretty tight. I thought SNUBA would be a nice next step for Hadel in her underwater adventures. She has snorkeled before, but couldn’t really explore under water for long. SNUBA helped us stay under water longer to explore a little more. I was a little disappointed with the area we were in. It was basically a beach area for a hotel. There weren’t many corals or really interesting things to look at, but it was a decent first experience for Hadel. We saw a lobster and lots of fish. The instructor let us play with safe urchins and brittle starfish.
The day was starting to get away from us. We still had to go back to our hotel after SNUBA to wash off the ocean water, and change into some more comfortable walking clothes. We rushed to get to Old San Juan before the sun started setting. To our disappointment the San Juan Fortress San Felipe del Morro Fortress had a closing time! We just missed getting to go inside and see the historic site. We were really disappointed as that was basically the one thing we wanted to do on this day! We tried to make the most of the rest of the day though, by wandering around the area. We could still see the large graveyard that was next to the fortress. After this we walked up and down the streets of Old San Juan. The city had an old charm to it that was fun to see the history as we walked the streets.
We stopped for dessert at Himalaya Ice Co for some rolled ice cream! It was fun to watch them make and a nice refreshing way to cool off from the summer heat. We walked for a while longer, but as it was our last day we were exhausted. We had a quick dinner and then caught a ride home.
This was our last day in Puerto Rico. Our flight was fairly early and we were really afraid of the lines since it was a holiday weekend. We went for one last swim in the ocean and packed our bags and headed to the airport. Puerto Rico was a great place to spend some time. The area was affordable, a lot of outdoor things to do, and didn’t feel like you were in the United States even though you don’t need a passport to travel! Thanks Puerto Rico for the wonderful early anniversary trip.
If you made it this far, please check out the video recap I made of the trip!