A Puerto Rican Paradise
The Caribbean US territory island of Puerto Rico is a tropical beauty that is a complete 180 to the continental United States. Surrounded by the vast Atlantic, Puerto Rico is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches and clear teal water, home to marvelous creatures such as turtles and their national symbol, the frog which the locals call coqui. After being cooped up for over a year, claustrophobic in our small apartment, a trip to Puerto Rico sounded perfect. We had to get tested for COVID before arriving, and the line to exit the airport was long, but we were thankfully greeted by smoking hot temperatures.
Throughout our holiday we were sadly inconvenienced by a lot of rain. The first evening, as soon as the rain stopped for a few minutes, I ran into the ocean close to us, not knowing that because of the rain it was full of seaweed. It only took an hour to get 80% of the seaweed off my body and hair. But the next day was beautiful, bright and sunny. We sat on the beach, ate empanadillas and swam in the gorgeous ocean. Our only error was that we forgot to bring a lot of cash, so we were limited in what we could buy, including fresh coconut we craved which could not be purchased with plastic.
When it wasn’t raining, we would go for walks on the beach and had a blast riding on the jet ski. Although the ocean was rough and turbulent, my first time driving a jet ski was exhilarating. Towards the end of the week, we took a tour into the El Yunque rainforest, surprisingly the only rainforest in the US.
We hiked into the lush green expanse until we came to a river. From there we continued climbing up a little further where there was a natural water slide with a thrilling 60-foot cliff jump. We were meant to hike a little higher to view a couple of beautiful waterfalls and bathe in the fresh falling river water, but it started pouring heavily, cutting the tour short. Although most of us were wet from jumping in the water, we became completely soaked and muddy on the endless walk back to the bus. The rain didn’t deter us from continuing our adventures, and the next day we drove to Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park for an ATV sightseeing tour. The journey through the wilderness was bumpy, but fun and when we stopped at viewpoints of the El Yunque, the sights were simply breathtaking.
At the end of our weeklong vacation, we visited old San Juan on a piping hot day, and enjoyed the AC on our two-hour long tour. This territory is rich in history and culture from the time of the Spanish occupation when they used San Juan as a military fort. Now old San Juan is a vibrant town with bright buildings of different colors and plenty of restaurants and bars for tourists to enjoy local cuisine filled with plantains and, of course, the iconic Pina Colada. On our tour, we stopped at the elegant newly constructed marble capital building, which was, unfortunately closed due to Covid, and bought some fresh almonds from a local vendor extracting and drying almonds from the island’s numerous almond trees. There are multiple forts to visit in Old San Juan, but once the tour ended, we ventured to the smallest one so we could go back to the AC. Just outside the fort is a large green park of sorts where kids fly their kites, and local vendors sell mouthwatering coconut, pineapple, and passion fruit sorbets. I tried the passion fruit sorbet and I still dream about it every day, dying to get one more spoonful of heaven.
Puerto Rico has many exquisite beaches, and it is a great place to snorkel, tan, drink coconuts and lay on the sand, but its landscape and history is so diverse and rich, that if I had only gone to the beach, I would have missed out on so much beauty and adventure. If you can get used to the endless rain, it truly is a paradise, that can be a fun-filled vacation for all.