Thursday, March 29, 2012

Puerto Rico Episode 4

This is the final installment of our Puerto Rico trip. Tragic, I know. But it has been super fun for me to relive the trip while editing and posting the pictures!

We left off on Wednesday where we visited Old San Juan. We wandered around a little longer and went back to our car. It was really busy and touristy in Old San Juan. The cruise ships dock there so there were tons of people, which I didn’t really love. I like a little more of an authentic feeling and not being around a lot of tourists, even though I’m a tourist myself! I have always had the most fun doing things when it’s closer to what the local people are doing and not trying to make things exactly how I would expect them at home. That is why I really loved Puerto Rico and specifically how we did it!

Anyway, we headed across the island to the west side where we rented a condo in the tiny surf town of Rincon. It took about 2 1/2 hours to drive and I (of course) took a nap for a while but it was fun to see more of Puerto Rico. Once we got to Rincon, finding our condo was kind of a trip. The roads are crazy and really steep and windy since Rincon is kind of on the side of the mountains. It’s so easy to get turned around and so hard to get your bearings there! We had some trouble but finally found our condo and we were really happy with it. I found it on vrbo and it was nice with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a huge wrap around balcony. I also asked the owner to waive the cleaning fee ($75!) and he did so that was nice. It was a good location and about a 5 minute drive to the beach.


The picture above is the view from our balcony. It was nice to be up high and have a view of the ocean. It was gorgeous and a little more breezy on this side of the island. We walked around the area near our condo and then drove and got some groceries in the center of the town. The guy from the grocery store was so nice and pushed our cart all the way to our car to help us! We didn’t know if we were supposed to tip but we did because he was such a sweetheart. He was helping Dan with his pronunciation of “azul” and it was funny.

We had dinner at a small pizza place that looked a little sketchy but turned out to be a dream. We talked to an American guy who was eating alone and he was such a doll. He was telling us how good the pizza was and it was super cheap too! He said his wife died a few years ago and when he talked about her, he had such a tenderness and love for her that it made me so sad for him. But he was so happy and nice and said he comes to PR often and is trying to buy property there and his son has been helping him look. When we said goodbye to him, he gave me a big hug and it made me really happy.


On Thursday we had surfing lessons and we ended up loading some surf boards on our tiny car and following the rest of the group to the beach. I’m so ticked that I didn’t get a picture of our car with the boards on top! But Dan is obsessed with surfing so he was beyond excited. Our guides were really nice and fun and there was only 3 of us in the group so we got more time with the instructors.


The beach was good for beginners and had small waves, but I was still really nervous. I’m a good swimmer but waves make me really nervous and I just don’t like getting pounded by waves and the salt water is sick! But I ended up getting up on my board a few times (even though I got slammed in the head by my board one time!). Dan got up a lot and did awesome. I wasn’t interested in going all day like him, but I loved watching him surf and just enjoyed the beach.

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I kept putting on sunscreen, but I felt like I was getting burned (and I did) so I put on Dan’s shirt for a while! We had a little snag when the other woman in our group got hit in the face with her board and broke her nose! She was covered in blood and had cuts all over her nose but she was way tough! She was alone and our guide had to take her to the hospital.

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We walked on the dock and watched some other surfers on the big waves. Dan is below in the green/yellow shirt on his surfboard. The instructor kept saying he was a pro surfer! We ended up getting pretty sunburned and Dan got all scraped up on his chest and stomach. I couldn’t believe how red my legs were that night and even my toes were really sunburned! We really lathered up in aloe vera and luckily my burn didn’t last too long and Friday was overcast so I was okay.


Below is a video of Dan surfing. He was doing so great and I was really happy to get a video of him getting up! I love how he gave our instructor a high five when he was finished.


We stopped at some fruit stands on the way back and got some fruit then went back to the condo and cleaned up and then walked to a sweet lookout point where we watched huge waves and tons of surfers. Rincon is really popular with surfers and they even have a lot of surf competitions there during the winter. The lighthouse is El Faro lighthouse.

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The look out area was gorgeous and we just sat there forever watching the surfers and enjoying the views and sounds of the ocean. I also read my book of course!

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Below you can see some black dots and those are all surfers. There were probably over 100 surfers out there!

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I had heard about a yummy Thai restaurant so we set out to find it which was an adventure. We got lost a jillion times and we had no idea how to find it even with directions and GPS. The streets are crazy and so confusing! But we finally found it and it was worth it! It was up on the hill and the views were awesome. The dinner was delicious too and it was so relaxing to enjoy a good dinner and sit outside high above the ocean and enjoy the views. We just loved it. We came back to our condo and watched a movie and nursed our sunburns!

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The sign below says “Entering danger zone”. We saw these signs everywhere and it kind of freaked us out!

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On Friday, Dan wasn’t feeling too well because he was extremely sore and sunburned from surfing and he didn’t sleep well. So we slept in and relaxed at the condo for a while. We had a big breakfast and I read my book and loved the breeze and the views. We walked across the street to this great coffee shop called Banana dang and had the most amazing smoothies and bagel with cinnamon and sugar. I loved the smoothies so much that I emailed them when I got home to see if they would share the recipe! I think the secret is that they used agave and soy milk. I have yet to try it but I’m sure I will eventually. We make smoothies a lot and they’re good, but that smoothie was amazing.

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When Dan was feeling a little better, we decided to go find Steps Beach. This was harder than expected because it’s so un-touristy and the beach ended up being at the end of a tiny bumpy road with only a few cars parked haphazardly along the sides of the road! It was amazing that this awesome beach was just right there! Once again, we were the only ones on the beach! We went under a big tree (sunburn recovery) and I read my book and Dan rested. The waves were too big to snorkel but we watched tons of tiny crabs all over the beach!


Below is a picture of Steps beach and the arrow is pointing to the cement steps that are on the beach. I don’t know how or why they are there, but it’s pretty random to see!


After a few hours on the beach, we went back to the small city center and got some ice cream and sodas and just wandered around. It was so quiet and cute and there were a bunch of old men playing dominos! We went to a few shots and got some gifts and souvenirs then went back to the lighthouse to watch the surfers. We had frozen pizza for dinner at the condo and just relaxed for the evening. It was a quiet day, but really wonderful to relax and have a day to chill. That’s why we go on vacation right?!

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We slept in on Saturday and got packed up and had breakfast and left our condo. We went back to El Faro lighthouse again and watched the surfers for a while. We had heard that there were whales around Rincon in Feb/March and suddenly Dan spotted some a few miles out! We couldn’t believe it but we watched the whales for a long time and they just kept coming up and breaching. It was amazing to see whales like that and I’m so glad that we got to witness it! We headed back towards the other side of the island and drove to San Juan where we had a hotel for the night. We couldn’t check in yet (side note: I hate Embassy Suites in San Juan for so many reasons…luckily we got a great deal through Priceline but ugh).

We had a trip scheduled to go to the Bioluminescent Bay on the island of Vieques for Saturday night. The tour started around 4 and we rode a catamaran (the same boat we rode on our snorkel trip earlier in the week) to Vieques. For any Bachelor fans, this is the island that they went to on the Bachelor this season! Yesssssss. It was beautiful and we met some great people on our boat. When we got there, we rode some vans to Esperanza and walked along the water.


The views were great and the balusters below are all over Puerto Rico. I love the simple, thick design of them and they were honestly all over the place so I’m glad I got a picture of them!

We rode the vans to dinner while the sun was setting and we had good conversation with an older couple from Michigan about the church and Utah. They were really nice and so amazed by our culture and religion so it was fun to discuss it with them.

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After dinner came the adventure. We loaded up into a super old, rusty school bus that was probably 50 years old. We took about a 20 minute drive down the bumpiest, craziest road ever. There were branches scraping the sides of the bus the entire time and it was literally like we were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland! The windshield of the bus was shattered with cracks so getting on the bus was kind of a leap of faith. It was crazy but really fun and there was an adorable family from Florida that we made friends with and they had girls some young girls about age 4, 8 and 9 and they were so funny and cute!

We got to the Bay and got on an open boat and headed out. We immediately saw the amazing glow in the water and we absolutely couldn’t believe it. There are small organisms in the water that glow when they are disturbed and this bay has the highest concentration of them in the world. I can’t even begin to explain it, but it was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life.


These pictures are not from me because it’s really hard to get good pictures so I didn’t get any. Plus, I was standing there with my mouth hanging open in total shock so pictures weren’t on my mind. It honestly looked like a laser show was going on in the water and as the fish swam away from the boat, they made the water glow and light would shoot out around them as they swam away. It was incredible. Dan kept saying that he felt like it was magic. That was the only explanation we could think of!


We were on the bay for a while and they brought some water on the boat in buckets and we got to play in the water. Our hands were glowing and sparkling and it was just the most unreal thing we have ever experienced. The kids were losing it and I felt the same way! Our guides were great and they told us a lot of great information and we also talked about constellations for a long time which was really interesting.

They recently passed laws that you can’t swim in the bay because our shampoos, lotions, etc can kill the organisms so we didn’t swim, but it was still ridiculously awesome. I will stop rambling about it, but it was life changing and well worth the pricey trip! If we were to go back to PR, we would spend a few nights on Vieques because it looked really awesome.

After the trip, we got back to our car around 10:30 and didn’t get to our hotel until 11:30pm. We checked into our hotel and literally went to bed and got up a few hours later for our early flight! There was a huge line in security and we barely made it in time to get on our flight, but we made it and after travelling for about 18 hours, we finally  made it home. The travel is definitely the worst part about trips and it is exhausting. We had to get up and work the next day too!

Our trip was absolutely amazing and even though it was expensive, we are so glad that we did it. We had so much fun together and it is just something that we like to make a priority for us. We probably won’t be doing a big trip like this again for a while, so we are so glad we had the opportunity to do it. And the best part was that we saved the money for the trip and paid cash for it so we’re not paying for the trip after we’re home! It is such a good feeling to work hard and save money and be able to go on a wonderful trip like this and we are grateful that we were able to do it!