On a Saturday at end of April, J and I boarded a direct flight for a destination wedding near San Juan, Puerto Rico. Despite some online research, I felt neither overly excited or prepared for the trip. I also wasn’t too keen on the possibility of the plane plummeting into beautiful, blue Caribbean water.
Instead of crashing, we arrived at SJU. Our wedding party from the flight all divided onto their various rental cars, and decided to meet at a local restaurant.
Island time is real, and the restaurant was on it. After a long delay, I saw our waitress leave the restaurant and return with an enormous, underripe smooth skin avocado to be used for my order.
The scenery along the main toll road was a mixture of beautiful green hills, tropical plants, weathered local business that looked like a cross between something in Mexico and Eastern Europe, along with typical chain stores.
After an hour, we arrived at our beach resort hotel between Rio Grande and Luquillo just in time to check in, switch into flip flops, and get to the beach for sunset.
Our first sunset.
Since our resort was an all exclusive, we resorted to driving back down the road and go to fruit smoothie shop near the main road. Breakfast was delicious, and we would return to the shop numerous times while staying in the area.
The smoothie road led into El Yunque National Forest, so after breakfast we drove into the park, checked out the refurbished visitors center, and scoped out as much as the scenery we could without park reservations.
Good morning view.
Smoothie patio wall.
Snail of unusual size.
Lizard of usual size.
View from Yunque.
A peak in Yunque
Monday morning, some companions joined us for smoothie bowls and hiking down to wade and swim in the cold waters of Rio Mameyes, accessed from a short hike on the Angelito Trail.
After the hike, we returned to swim in chlorinated and red flag salt waters before departing for the wedding.
My favorite color.
Hiking down to the river.
This stupid high waisted trend has spread to the jungle.
Mouth of Mameyes.
The wedding venue was a on a lush hilltop about half an hour from the hotel. It featured an orate main building with open air courtyard, a lounge area, and a variety of spots for wedding ceremonies depending on weather conditions. The landscaping was on point.
After a beautiful and tear filled ceremony, delicious dinner, hours dancing (where I was mostly an elderly and sober observer), a surprise drum line and carnival dancers, I was falling asleep with J on the couch when our shuttle van arrived.
My dream house.
On Tuesday, J and I went on a half day drive eastward checking out some of the smaller towns along the coast. Our “destination” was a chocolate farm that we never found after driving up a mountain on a one lane road.
Driving in Puerto Rico isn’t that hard, and in a lot of ways it actually feels safer than home as while more chaotic, everyone is driving defensively. If you don’t, you’d either hit endless potholes, crash into other cars, road debris, iguanas or run off the narrow roads.
More Luquillo deco.
Living the life.
Temporarily closed lighthouse.
The jungle reclaims itself.
Wednesday morning, we checked out of the hotel and began an epic and winded drive across middle of the island. The entire drive was gorgeous, but with very few places to pull off and safely take photos of the view. Switchbacking up and down the mountains on a road that rarely had a center line took most of my concentration.
J and I stopped for lunch at one of the better rated restaurants on a stretch of road nicknamed “The Pork Highway”. We split a serving tender suckling pig, blood sausage, rice, tamale, and two Cokes.
After some more mountain roads, we descended to the southern shore and drove westward to Ponce. It looked like this was the dry side of the island, but our stroll was cut short drizzle that turned to a downpour.
We crossed back over the center of the island along another route, enjoying the scenery and daydreaming about living in a small house with an epic view and our own tropical fruit trees.
We arrived in Old San Juan by sunset, found a parking garage, checked into our final hotel, and went out for another island time dinner of traditional Puerto Rican favorites. Plus, rum cocktails.
Coffee farm and pee break.
Time to head over the mountains.
Cow and crane.
The dry side.
Mural honoring the firefighters.
People are dying to meet Oliver.
We had to drive up and over this.
Views for days.
My dream farm.
On Thursday, we explored Old San Juan in the heat that radiated off all the stone surfaces. We enjoyed seeing the numerous birds, cats, and iguanas all over town. Though we did witness a baby chick die alone in the cemetery.
The narrowest house in OSJ.
Tourists like repeating hanging things in streets.
Beautiful old buildings.
Iguana guards the entrance to the fort.
The other peninsula.
J in her business call pose.
Life amongst death.
Rows of color.
Beautiful police station.
Don’t stare at the marble.
The housing department is missing some cladding.
On Friday, we walked around a little more after breakfast, the got in the car and drove on backroads along the coast to Mar Chiquita Beach.
We spend the afternoon relaxing under the shade of a coconut palm, watching the blue ocean smash against the volcanic stone guardians to the cove.
The original gate.
Tree lined street.
Greeting the return of Spain.
Mar Chiquita from atop the rocks.
Blue water goes smashy-smashy.
That evening, we ate snack platter dinner on the balcony of our hotel, enjoying the sounds of the city in privacy.
Saturday morning, we got soaked by rain while walking to the farmers market. I had to wear damp clothes to the airport, though they dried before boarding the plane on our bumpy flight over the beautiful blue Caribbean back to our land locked house made of very little concrete and landscaped with exactly no mango trees.
I’m excited to return to Puerto Rico, but this time with plan, better Spanish, and with a body that won’t get mistaken for a local manatee.