Saturday, March 17, 2012

Puerto Rico Episode 2


We got up on Monday and headed to Fajardo (about a 15 min drive without traffic from our hotel) for an all day snorkel trip with East Island Excursions. We were super excited and I had heard tons of good things about it. When we got there, we found out that the trip had been changed and we were not going to Culebra (a small island near Puerto Rico) because of high waves. So we ended up going to some other islands instead but it was amazing and we saved some money so it worked out okay!


We met a cute couple from Arizona and we ended up chatting and hanging out with them most of the day. They were great people and I love meeting cool people on vacation like that! And luckily for them, we realized that they weren’t on the boat when we were about to leave one of the islands so we told the captain and they waited for them! It pays to make friends. Smile


Here we are doing some sweet moves off the boat into the beautiful water. Dan rocks the toe-touch!


We left on a catamran around 10am and it took about 20 minutes to get to our first stop which was a small island called Icacos. There was a big dark cloud over the area and as we jumped in the water, it started to rain. We started snorkeling around the reef and didn’t even realize that it was pouring! It was really weird to be in the warm water while it was pouring rain! We didn’t mind and it was kind of fun. The rain stopped in about 10 minutes and the clouds cleared up completely! We got to walk on the beach there and enjoy how gorgeous it was.


We had lunch on the boat and it was yummy! They had a big selection of sandwiches, fruit and other food and of course, there was soda and they made virgin pina coladas for us too!


We went to the next island which was called Lobos. This was a private island so we couldn’t go to the island and we were able to snorkel more here. The fish were amazing and there was a coral reef all around the island so we just swam in and out of the different reefs and saw bright fish everywhere. It was really another world while we were snorkeling and I would have not known if it had been 5 hours or 5 minutes. It was weird but so relaxing and really amazing.


Unfortunately, after snorkeling for a while right after lunch, I started feeling a little icky. We went back to the boat and the rocking of the boat didn’t help. I got sick and my lunch (and breakfast) came back up. Luckily it was over quickly and I had a bathroom and no one knew or saw anything. I get motion sickness really easily so I wasn’t too surprised but I felt fine right away and so it was just a minor hiccup during the day!


Our last stop was a tiny deserted island called Palominito and it was AWESOME! It was the island used to film Pirates of the Caribbean 3 where he gets stuck on an island. There was a clump of trees and plants in the middle and the entire island was about the size of a football field.


We didn’t snorkel here but just swam around and walked around the island. It was so beautiful!


Pictures on Palominito.


I wanted a jumping picture because that’s what people do in cool places right? I don’t know…




After the snorkel trip, we drove back to the hotel and got cleaned up then went to the Kiosks for dinner. We ate at La Parilla which was one of the nicer and less casual kiosks. The view was really cool because the beach was right behind us This was the part of the beach that we walked along earlier and it was dirty but the small part right behind La Parilla was really clean and landscaped. It was a pretty sweet view.


Dinner was yummy and we both had fish and Danny got a side order of Mofongo (mashed plantains). Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish we had heard a lot about so we tried it out. It was pretty good and similar to mashed potatoes. They had these cool flowers made from leaves that I took home with me. We went back to the hotel and I was really craving chocolate so we got some chocolate flan from the restaurant below our hotel and it hit the spot for sure!


On Tuesday we went to El Yunque rainforest. It was really close to our hotel and we had lunch at a small panaderia near the entrance. It was a pretty sketchy looking place, but our sandwiches were great and the people there were so nice! I really love places and experiences like that.


We did a zip line adventure in the rainforest and we loved it! The guides were great and fun and the views were amazing.


This is our guide and he looks scary here but he was a sweetheart. They were so fun to chat with and they were funny and really nice people.


The zip line had about 10 different lines that we unhooked and re-hooked onto. The last one was at the top of the tower below and it was a few stories high! The views were awesome and we had a great time.


At the top of the tower getting ready to go down the final line!


The office for the zip line was like a tree house in the rain forest. It was so pretty and relaxing and a really cool place to hang out.


Below are a few videos we took. The first one is when we were walking along the kiosks after dinner and the second is Dan holding the camera during his last zip line. It might make you sick or dizzy!

Episode 3 coming up soon!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Puerto Rico Episode 1


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!


So beautiful!!066

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.