Hola amigos. It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything here and honestly I feel as if a part of me has been missing for these past seven months. Wow, did I just say…..seven months. I guess this has been a crazy year so far. I’ve moved to and from six different places already trying to settle back into life and I guess I couldn’t make writing a priority. I am really exciting about getting back into it though since writing and being a creative person is very important to me.
One of the six places I moved to and from to is San Juan Puerto Rico. I only lived there for a little over a month so technically it was like a long vacation and not really a move but still, how many people can say they’ve lived in the Caribbean so let’s just roll with it. San Juan, especially the old part, is an absolutely stunning place. I mean Puerto Rico in general is pretty amazing and full of so much life.
I’m sure you can imagine island life right? Bright rays of sweltering sunshine, pristine sandy beaches dotted with towering palm trees, seemingly endless rounds of tropical and boozy drinks, and friendly locals who believe that dancing and singing along to their local music with local brews while feasting on whatever the grandmas are cooking are the most important things in life. Honestly, it was EXACTLY like that.
My grandmother and her family are from a city called Caguas which is about an hour south of San Juan. Driving southbound on highway 52 to Caguas you’ll catch glimpses of the rain forest, El Yunque, in the distance to your left. If you keep driving south along the windy highway you’ll eventually end up in a city called Ponce. Ponce is an old charismatic town that flourished under the indigenous Taíno tribes only to be seized by the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon.
As you stroll around the central part of the city be sure to take in obvious details like the intense crimson painted fire house built in 1882 and the white washed towers of the cathedral looking down on you. Those things are captivating yes, but it’s when you notice the kids running around the plaza playing soccer, the abuleos and abuelas gossiping while perched on the benches by the fountain, or hear the pitter patter of the heels worn by the glamorous women of Puerto Rico that really gets you grinning with joy.
Soon after Ponce you’ll see exits for La Parguera. If you like dazzling aquamarine waters, mangled tropical mangroves, and the freshest mofongo on the island then La Parguera is your place. Out of all the beaches I have been to on the big island of Puerto Rico, I can confidently say that where we were on Isla Caracoles in La Parguera had the most beautiful turquoise water I have ever seen.
Keep driving past La Parguera on highway 2 where you will reach a town called Boqueron. Here you can find inexpensive fresh seafood options and the best mojitos I’ve ever had on the island. I think we paid five to seven dollars for a dozen of freshly shucked oysters and clams. Here you can also spot wild manatees, native birds at the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, and the fresh catch of the day hauled in the small fishing boats down the shore. Drive a little north of Boqueron and you’ll reach Cabo Rojo. This small town, named after the reddish tinted salt flats and cliffs, is worth visiting for the beach views alone.
Last but not least on my Puerto Rico road trip was Rincon. The surfer mecca, the town where all the cool hipsters live, “the Caribbeans’ Hawaii,” and where time just doesn’t seem to exist. I arrived to Rincon right at sunset and we jumped into the water floating around until sundown. It was one of the most magical sunsets I’d ever seen. Maybe it was the coconut flavored rum, maybe it was because I was surrounded by great friends, or maybe just maybe there was love in the air. Either way that sunset was unforgettable. Camping out on the beach is how everyone does it. You crash on the beach circling a campfire with Medallas in hand then you wake up at dawn, grab your surfboard, and hit the waves. Since hosting the 1968 World Surfing Championship this area of Puerto Rico has been the preferred destination for the sport and when you’re there you will clearly see that.
That ends my southwest road trip through Puerto Rico. If you want to circle the whole island back up to San Juan I reccomend checking out Aguadilla and Isabella where you can find places like Crash Boat Beach, Cueva Survival Beach and Jobos Beach. Then over to Arecibo to view one of the worlds largest observatories until you reach a municipality called Manati. There you should swim in Mar Chiquita which is a small cove of a beach protected from the Atlantic Ocean by a tall wall of rocks.
Then coast your way back over to San Juan. Let me know if you’ve been to any of these places or if you plan on hitting up any of these hot spots on your trip.