A few weeks later I’m finally sharing my Puerto Rican travel journal! Enjoy our adventures attracting animals wherever we go!
We flew to San Juan Puerto Rico and took a cab to The Gallery Inn, which may just be the strangest and best hotel I’ve ever been to. It is run by this artist woman and her sculptures, paintings, and parrots decorate the maze like halls and stairwells.
When we found our room up a spiral staircase, we opened the door to the patio and a cat ran inside to greet us. Apparently, we were staying in her room. We nicknamed her Rosalita and started buying her cans of Friskies.
We walked around sweating in the afternoon sun and went and got dinner at La Fonda El Jabarito. Very unassuming but the locals eat there and its probably the best Mufungo I ever had. The next day we visited the forts and got more sun burnt walking around. I bought a National Parks Passport in the gift shop and am now determined to get a stamp from as many National Parks as possible.
We took a puddle jumper plane to Vieques from San Juan, Puerto Rico. There were only 6 people on it including the pilot. It was scary but beautiful flying over Puerto Rico’s lush green hills and turquoise beaches.
When we got to Vieques’ tiny airport we got a ride from a chatty cabbie named Ruben who was a cook for 15 years but got sick of it, “Too much work.” He talked about how much his Chihuahua liked to eat grilled onions but not a certain kind of Alpo. He said his dog actually peed in his food when he tried to change it, “Little monster.” I seem to bring the animal talk out in everyone so we listened politely as we looked out the window at the wild horses roaming around on the sides of the roads.
We arrived at our hotel, Malecon House, in the small town of Esperanza. Malecon House is very sparse, white, and clean.
We took a swim in their small warm pool then had dinner at Duffy’s. Dogs roamed in and out of the outdoor bars and restaurants sniffing for scraps. Afterwards, we headed to the Green Store (which is one of the two convenience stores in the town) to meet up with our guides for a Bioluminescent Bay tour. We were early so we sat outside and ate ice cream and petted and talked to some of the dogs hanging out nearby. Most have collars, but not tags, I guess people just let their dogs roam around town all day. Finally, Vieques Adventures picked us up in a van for the Biobay tour at 7pm. We crammed into a van with a bunch of people and drove through the bumpy back roads to Mosquito Bay. There we waded through the dark and got into clear canoes. We paddled out to the middle of the bay. As it got darker and we were further from the shore, the stars shone brightly and the water started to glow around our moving paddles and canoe. Every once in a while we saw a streak of light through the water as a fish swam by. Bioluminescence is such a strange and surreal phenomena. We roped up our boats together and talked about the biobay and the constellations above. I felt the peace I can’t seem to find in the city out there on the water. I could’ve drifted out there forever but soon we headed back to shore. Thumping over the bumps along the dirt road back to town I tried to imprint the bay in my memory so I could go back in times of stress.
We tried to walk along the trails of Cayo de Terra a small (but bigger than it seems) strip of land off Esperanza’s Malecon. Lonely Planet’s guidebook described the trails as rambling. Next thing we know we’re off the barely marked trails in the woods and can’t find our way out until we hit a cliff. We sort of find another trail and follow it thinking it’s headed to Sun Bay beach but we hit a lagoon we didn’t even know was there. After an hour and some scrapes and swearing my Floridian girl scout roots kick in and I find the trail back. We head to Sun Bay finally and dive in to the warm blue water. I’m not really relaxing and doing nothing on my “do-nothing vacation.”
After having a family from New Jersey take over breakfast loudly at Malecon House we got a rental Jeep and drove to the Green beach. It was so peaceful, beautiful, and calm. Then some family with a kid came over which kind of bummed us out. We really just wanted some peace alone on a secluded beach but whatever.
We went to Isabella Segunda and were floored by how different it seemed from Esperanza. We got lunch at a good place but it took forever to get the food. Afterwards, we did a two-hour horseback ride on the hills and beaches of town. The hills were so steep it turned out to be super-stressful. Dennis wasn’t sure his old horse was going to make it. Mine kept eating plants and drinking salt water. After two hours my ass was killing me. Finally, we went back to the stable.
We hauled ass back to Esperanza vowing not to go back to Isabella Segunda while on Vieques.
Our last full day on Vieques we were happy, but sunburned and sore from hiking, riding, and canoeing. We drove forever in the Old US Millitary/now nature reserve until we found Playa La Plata (I think?). It was deserted and beautiful.
There was even a little wood hut someone had made for shade. We hung around there for a while then drove around looking at the creepy old abandoned military bunkers. It was like a scene from some horror movie, a couple on vacation goes to explore abandoned bunkers and finds some crazy predator like a giant rabid mongoose who hunts them. We had an amazing dinner of shrimp and lobster stuffed mofungo and roasted chicken and grapes at El Quenepo. All the restaurants in Esperanza were pretty good, Duffy’s and Banana’s had reasonably priced burgers and sandwiches and Tradewinds had great food and a great view out over the water.
We headed back to the little airport and ate at the little café outside. You can check in and then go back outside and eat there! Security is pretty lax. We flew back to San Juan and took a cab to Ocean Park to the Numero Uno Guest House.
Ocean Park is the beach most of the locals go to in San Juan and it isn’t as touristy as Condado. We went to the beach for a while then got dinner at La B de Burro which had great burritos and awesome Luchadora artwork everywhere.
We got picked up by this guy Manny from Eco Action Tours to go to El Yunque which is a national park/ rainforest. Manny was a stresswad about all the traffic and kept saying, “Oh no, this is a crisis!” We could tell he spent some years in NYC from his accent so we tried to joke around with him a bit. After picking up some other tourists and driving about an hour we finally got there.
We stopped at various points of interest. One was a lookout tower, another an older gentleman’s house and farm within the park. Apparently, he had a Salvia plant that Manny was trying to get all of us to eat and get high.
Next we parked and hiked up and down hills to a series of waterfalls and pools you could swim in. It was pretty crowded but if you hiked up above the main pools beyond a barrier you could find pools with no one in them. Dennis and I found one and jumped in then realized it was freezing which felt pretty good on a hot day.
When we got back to Ocean Park later that afternoon we went back to the beach for a while then had dinner at the local, awesome diner/ bakery Kasalta’s. I drooled over the pastry case as I ate my Cuban sandwich then ordered the best Tres Leches I’ve ever eaten.
After our last beach morning, we headed to the airport and back to NYC relaxed and ready to face it. That lasted about a week for me and now I’m ready to get out of here again! So I finally after 12 years without a car, I looked at and bought one! Perhaps, getting out of the city more even for day trips might make it more bearable. Hopefully, I can afford it….