At last, here is part 2 of my short trip to Puerto Rico! If you haven’t read part 1 you can do so here. After a wonderful afternoon spent at El Yunque National Park we headed to Fajardo on Puerto Rico’s East coast. Fajardo is just an hour or so away from San Juan and the best spot from which to go explore Culebra and Vieques, Puerto Rico’s beautiful islands. We thought we’d find a small hostel or bed and breakfast in Fajardo but to our surprise there were only two hotels to choose from and the cheapest one was $120 a night! So it was that or sleeping in the car…
Since it was my 29th birthday (uh-oh 30 next year!) and that I had never celebrated my birthday outside of Canada before, I definetly wanted to spend it on a gorgeous beach! We took the ferry (which by the way almost left without us because they close the ticket booth 5-10 minutes before departure) and thought we would play cards to pass the time but MY OH MY, it was impossible! I had to concentrate on not throwing up, a difficult thing to do when everyone is sick around you! But luckily I made it to the dock just a little green-faced. Well it was just the perfect time to get a tan! We took a taxi to Flamenco Beach, one of Puerto Rico’s finest and most virgin beaches. It was exotic just like we wanted! We found a bit of shade and enjoyed our day sunbathing and walking down the beach. There’s no use describing the beauty of Flamenco Beach, the pictures speak for themselves:
We took the ferry back to Fajardo and planned our night excursion to the Bioluminescent Bay, a bay that has some of the brightest recorded organisms in the world! It’s a natural phenomenon where organisms produce a bright burst of blue light when they come in contact with other organisms or are shaken. While my boyfriend kayaked (I know I’m lucky!) I let my hands swish atop the water and stared amazingly at the blue light. The kayaks were lighted by glow sticks but people still wound up bumping into us. Oh the fun we had! It was the perfect birthday experience even if we were wet and cold. The Bio Bay is truly a magical place that I recommend everyone to do once in their lives. Afterwards we were so starved that we got Burger King and ate it in our hotel bed!
On our last day in Puerto Rico we took the $0.50 ferry across Old San Juan to head to the Bacardi Factory. Great, great idea!! It was huge and the tour was free. But the best part were the 2 free drink coupons on arrival. Of course my bf got my 2 coupons (I was preggers then) so you can imagine how giddy he was as we embarked on the guided tour aboard a golf cart (like at Universal Studios!). I couldn’t believe how interesting the tour was and was very sad to have to leave in the middle of it because we were going to miss our plane! We rushed back across the river, dropped off the car and walked into the plane as they were closing the gates. Ohhh what a close call! That’s what happens when you’re having too much fun (and you’re trying to cram in every sight-seeing possible in 4 days haha).
Now as much as Puerto Rico is a beautiful and accessible country, I must say it is NOT a backpackers destination. A 4 day trip cost us around $1000 and we didn’t even splurge on anything. Thank god it was cheap to rent a car (about $30 a day). I was somewhat disappointed to find out that almost everyone spoke English. Even if I tried practicing my Spanish everyone would answer me in English and it was frustrating. It took out a lot of the exoticness. As for the cost everything from fruits, to hotels and gas weren’t as cheap as we thought it would be. The scenery was beautiful but very Americanized with its fast food joints and big chain stores on every corner. Thank god the rainforest’s lush jungles, the island’s wind swept beaches and the colorful colonial towns around PR made up for its commercialization. Puerto Rico was a real mix between Latin and American culture. But all in all I’m really glad we saw Puerto Rico and that I can put a check on it. I don’t think I would go back though. For those of you departing on a cruise from PR I suggest taking at least 2 days to visit. For you backpackers out there I suggest you try to couch surf or forget about the destination all together.
For more information on Puerto Rico, head to Lonely Planet