We just love these thirty minute flights, especially flying JetBlue. No worries about overweight luggage, carry-on bags, or seats with zero legroom.Take note Spirit! Flying from St Maarten to Puerto Rico was the international leg of our homeward trip to South Florida, albeit with a ten day stopover thrown in for fun, and because neither of us had ever been here. After much back and forth over whether to rent a car and stay in the San Juan area, or take note of everything online that highly recommended a car, we bit the bullet and rented a small Nissan – this gave us total flexibility on where to stay on the island.
Our first stop for a week was Isabela, located in the northwest of the island, around an hour and thirty minutes from the main airport. We found a great little studio cabin overlooking the Caribbean on Airbnb, perfect for our requirements, even if we did have to make and tear down the futon every day, and ignore the sewage plant down below us when gazing out over the water. After the first day our eyes found a way to ignore the crappy part of the beautiful view.
Continuing on from our week in St Martin, we had no TV, something that we never miss anymore, and Internet that barely sufficed. Fortunately AT&T has a great presence in Puerto Rico, giving Andrea no issues with work. Our drive to the water took all of five minutes, a trip we did numerous times a day – Andrea would run along the multi-use path in the morning, then we would return later in the day for our afternoon beverage, usually one of the excellent Piña Coladas offered by the shacks along the waterfront.
Isabela itself had nothing to really offer us, just the odd local hangout bar, a few crappy looking restaurants, and a central plaza with locals playing dominoes. We were used to plazas in Central and South America being the center of attention, where locals of all ages came to chat, play, and while away the time. The waves are what makes Isabela, with huge rollers relentlessly breaking on the shore, giving local surfers the perfect way to spend a few hours. Less than an hour along the coastline, Rincon is the tourist equivalent, with the only difference being the huge foreign contingent.
We were sad to leave the basic amenities of our oversized rabbit hutch, after all, our recent North American roadtrip had grown us accustomed to cooking on a two burner stove and living out of a tiny space. Sleeping with the sound of the ocean, and a deck complete with loungers and hammock had made our stay perfect. Now reality would set in as having spent the past two weeks with an un-obscured ocean view we had nothing reserved at our next destination, Fajardo, and knowing that staying anywhere for one or two nights would incur us a premium. The benefit of booking, using our preferred methods of vrbo.com or airbnb.com is that almost all the accommodation has far better rates for stays of a week or month.
Staying at the Fajardo Inn, overpriced by our standards, allowed us to be close to the areas main attractions of Bioluminescent Bay, famous for its glowing, magical waters, and El Yunque, the only rainforest in the United States. Barely making it into one of the popular bioluminescent tours provided us with the chance to witness a pretty cool natural display, although first impressions were slightly disappointing – with a twirl of your hand in the dark waters a glowing trail of sparkling light followed. The darker our surroundings, the more vivid the experience.
Our final night took us to San Juan, the old town to be specific – once again we had no reservation, and based upon previous internet searches this could be pricey. A quick Starbucks stop so Andrea could get some work in gave me the chance to call around the Tripadvisor rated hotels. Before long we had lucked out on a place, included with a balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas, for less than a hundred bucks. Perfect! They allowed us to check in far earlier than the 3pm listed time, giving us plenty of time to get out and explore the old walled city.
As long as we could see the Castillo’s and narrow cobbled streets, with a nice coffee shop thrown in then we would be satisfied. This all panned out as expected, and having a mid afternoon departure gave us the chance to see the sights at sunset, and once again at sunrise, both perfect times of day for me to get out and practice my new found passion, photography. Neither of us felt that we needed anymore time in San Juan, nor Puerto Rico as a whole – we had a great ten days, probably missed out on loads of sights and sounds, but were content with our visit.
January 24th – February 3rd 2015