I’m going to post a lot of pictures and information about what we did because I want to have this when I print my blog so just skim if you are not interested!
We left for Puerto Rico on Friday evening and it was A LOT of traveling! We flew to L.A. for some weird reason, then took the red eye to Atlanta and then flew to San Juan. We were pretty exhausted but super excited to finally be there and feeling the humidity as soon as we stepped off the plane was pretty weird!
We picked up our rental car and I was pretty furious to find out that we had to pay $20 extra PER DAY because we didn’t have a credit card for them tohold! I still cannot believe it and I tried everything, but they made us pay the extra fees as extra insurance because we didn’t have a credit card to use. Wow. I’m glad we have chosen a debt free, no credit card lifestyle, but that ticked me off. Next time I will ask about those things! So that was an annoying way to start the trip, but we got sweet little 2 door Toyota Yaris and got on our way!
We borrowed my parents’ GPS and made our way to our hotel (Hotel Yunque Mar) in Luquillo. It was about an hour drive from the airport and it took a little while to find it since the GPS didn’t have the exact address, but we made it! The hotel had an amazing view and was literally on the ocean. The waves were coming right up to the hotel and we could hear them from our room. The room was simple and clean, but not fancy and we loved that it was a little off the main path and not a big touristy resort. It was perfect for us and a great deal with free hot breakfast!
The pool on the left was our hotel and the house on the right was a private residence that we wanted to buy…for real! It was awesome!
The view from the steps on the hotel that led to the top floor where our room was.
We immediately changed into our swimming suits and walked along the beach to Luquillo Beach which was about 1 1/2 miles away. It was absolutely beautiful and we were loving it. The rainforest is on the right side of me which is the same direction as our hotel. I’m realizing how white I was after looking at this picture! We got a ton of sun and I’m not quite as pasty now as I was when we first arrived!
One thing that totally shocked us was how dirty some parts of the beach were. The beach around our hotel was gorgeous, and Luquillo beach (below) was awesome, but in between those beaches, it was filthy. There was trash all over right behind the sand and we just couldn’t believe that people let a place that beautiful get trashed like that. It was really sad.
The beach was almost empty and we just walked around and enjoyed it. Most of the beaches we went to were very uncrowded and we were even alone on multiple beaches! Puerto Rico is not super touristy and we were the only non PR people at a lot of places that we went! We really liked it though and I’m not a big fan of touristy places anyway.
We ate some kind of nasty fried food at the beach and then walked back to the hotel. We changed and drove to the Kiosks for dinner. The Kiosks are about a mile long strip of tons of different restaurants right on the beach. Some are more expensive than others and they offer all different kinds of food. There were tons of people there just hanging out, eating, drinking and listening to their LOUD music. It was a really fun atmosphere and dinner was good too! The below picture is during the day when a lot of them are closed. When we went for dinner, all the doors were open and there were cars and people everywhere. We realized that the dirty/trashed parts of the beach that I mentioned earlier were right behind these kiosks. It was really unfortunate that it was so dirty in that area.
On Sunday we slept in a bit and then drove to a branch for Sacrament meeting. It was only a few minutes away from our hotel and we had no idea what to expect. It was amazing. The church was really nice, but small and there were only about 18 people there! Luckily Dan speaks Spanish but people were so welcoming and kind and all the women gave me a big hug. The Sacrament meeting was in a small room with chairs set up and they used a CD for the songs (I would have volunteered to play the keyboard they had, but I just got there and felt a little uncomfortable!). It was testimony meeting and almost every person bore their testimony. Dan translated for me pretty well and I am pretty good at following the basics if people don’t speak too fast.
I was so touched by the meeting and the whole experience there. To see the people sacrificing to be at church when it’s such a small branch was amazing. It’s so much easier here where most people you know are LDS and you have a huge congregation. It would be really hard to go when there are only 20 people or so in your entire branch! There was one time where a woman was bearing her testimony and Dan got distracted by listening and he wasn’t translating for me very much, but I got really emotional and I could just feel her spirit and how strong she was. It was an amazing experience that I will definitely never forget.
The people were so welcoming and loving and were so happy to have us there. I’m so glad we chose to go and my testimony grew so much just by being around those wonderful people and feeling the spirit they brought to their Sacrament meeting. It was amazing.
The room we had Sacrament meeting in didn’t really have windows, just big wide shutters that were open to allow a breeze. It was pretty steamy and humid in there but they had about 10 fans on the ceiling in just that small room! It was awesome to look outside and see all the palm trees and greenery everywhere too.
After church we went home and changed clothes and headed to Seven Seas Beach in Fajardo. It was about a 20-30 minute drive from our hotel and it was gorgeous. We walked in with another couple and their college age daughter and we ended up sitting by them and going to another beach with them later. They were really nice and the only other non PR people we saw the entire day!
The water was so blue and warm and there were no waves so we were able to do some snorkeling and it was great. I love how relaxing it is to snorkel and just float around in the water and listen to yourself breathing. It was great. We didn’t really see many fish or anything interesting here but we did later at the next beach we went to.
We had read in a guidebook and online that there were some other really secluded beaches about a mile or two walk from Seven Seas and so we decided to check that out after a few hours. We walked through a jungley type forest and it was so neat! It was super dense and there were HUGE termite nests everywhere.
We got to the beach (Escondido and a litle further down was Convento) and it was stunning. We were literally the only people around and it was gorgeous. The jungle was right behind us and the ocean was in front of us. It was a nature reserve and we heard there are turtles there sometimes. We didn’t see any, but there were tons of reefs with awesome snorkeling and we saw a lot of cool fish too.
Dan was pretty wary of sharks so I had to keep dragging him further out but it was still less than 8 feet deep in most places and only a few inches some places where the reef was.
I got my toes in the water, toes in the sand, not a worry in the world…haha I love that song from Zach Brown Band and I just kept thinking about it the whole time!
Dan was being Tarzan on one of the Jumanji vines that were everywhere when we walked back through the jungle to the car. We had such a great time and got lots of sun even though we kept slathering ourselves with sunscreen! We did learn that the spray sunscreen is good for face and head, but not so good for everything else if the sun is super strong. The coverage was really splotchy and we had random splotches where we got burned. The spray sunscreen also ran out in about 2 days and we went through another full bottle of sunscreen and a full bottle of aloe vera during our whole trip!
One other helpful tip that I wanted to share is that we brought a bunch of nuts and seeds that I bought at Winco in the bulk section (they have a huge selection for cheap) and they were a perfect snack. They didn’t melt or get messy in the heat and they were a great snack when we didn’t want to go search for food or spend money on something.