After many months of studying and working, I decided that I needed a vacation. With many choices in mind, me and my boyfriend decided on Puerto Rico as the destination. It is relatively close to Toronto and has a tropical climate, so when I saw the flights were not too expensive during New Years, I was sold. I wanted a trip that was more involving than just a cruise or an all-inclusive resort, thus there was definitely a lot of research and planning that took place. However, as you’ll soon see, nothing really went as planned…
We arrived at the San Juan airport and stepped into the hot and humid afternoon sun. Outside the airport, we were greeted by many taxi drivers who were looking for customers. We were looking for someone to drive us to the ferry terminal in the city of Fajardo which is an hour away. Though we tried our best to bargain around, most drivers did not budge much, so we finally accepted a price of $80 (which is still quite overpriced in our opinion). We planned on taking the ferry to Vieques, which is an island off the East coast of Puerto Rico. We missed the 5pm ferry, so we decided to explore around Fajardo by foot (while lugging around all our bags and suitcases). The part of Fajardo we were in was a more run-down area of Puerto Rico and it was mostly residential.
With our stomachs growling, we followed some loud music on a quest to find something to eat. To our dismay, all of the places that we found were only bars and did not sell any food. And because it was New Years day, most of the restaurants around were closed.
Time passed slowly as the sun set and we waited eagerly to board the 8pm ferry to Vieques. We were almost about to board when an announcement was made that there were mechanical problems with the ferry. Things became more and more bleak as a 15 min delay turned into an hour, and there was the possibility that the ferry would not run that night. At about 10pm, we gave up on going to Vieques and decided to just stay at a resort in Fajardo for the night. Luckily some fellow travelers were also leaving and gave us a ride to that resort. With that, our first day in Puerto Rico ended on an unfortunate note.
Feeling refreshed with renewed hope, we spent a relaxing morning in Fajardo and headed for the ferry terminal again after lunch. We encounter some problems again as our ferry was overbooked and we could not get on. After an hour of delay, we finally boarded the next ferry. The ride started off bumpy but I felt so exhilarated being on the water, but then the waves got larger as we encountered a tropical storm. After an hour long ride, and some seasickness, I was more than happy to finally set foot onto the island. To our delight, our hostel was beautifully furnished, complete with a pool in the yard.
After a (definitely necessary) photo session, we had some time to to explore Vieques until our bioluminescence tour that was scheduled for 8pm. We had dinner at a dive bar with an ocean view, and there was definitely a great view.
Despite out best efforts to make it to the pick-up location for the bioluminescence tour, we were never picked up by the driver due to a reservation mix up. It was absolutely very disappointing and that was probably the lowest point of our trip. But we tried our best to get over it, and grabbed some drinks and snacks and enjoyed a peaceful night on the hammocks by our hostel.
Given all the bad luck that we’ve encountered with the Vieques ferry, we made sure to be extra extra early for our 6am ferry back to Fajardo. We had a jam-packed day planned ahead of us! From the Fajardo ferry terminal, we took a taxi to our car rental pick up, and we felt invincible with our little Kia that could (but could not really climb hills). We drove to old San Juan and experienced the crazy Puerto Rican driving first hand. While in San Juan, we had some delicious breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice, and walked along its colorful streets.
Then, off to Old San Juan. I definitely recommend going to the National Park: Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. It is a 16th century Spanish citadel that is located along the coastal cliffside. There is beautiful architecture with forts and cannons, surrounded by clear blue water on one side and huge areas of greenery on the other. It was so picturesque and I have never felt so free. The photos will not do justice to the feelings that this national park gave me.
Though I did not want to leave, we had to get on the road again. We were driving from San Juan to Rincon on the West coast of Puerto Rico. But along the way, Matthew was adamant on seeing the world’s
largest second largest telescope (China now has the largest as of a few months ago). The drive there was rough, and we managed to make it to the Arecibo Observatory 5 min before closing.
Though I was not expecting to be impressed, I have to admit that seeing it in person left a lasting impression on me. It is so symbolic of human ingenuity and how limitless science and technology really is. I have the upmost admiration for all the engineers who have contributed to such a scientific feat and I felt pretty inspired.
After a long day and a stressful drive, we couldn’t be more happy to finally get settled in at our hostel in Rincon. We had an early night, and I pretty much fell asleep as soon as I got into bed (despite a very noisy air conditioner haha).
It was an unanimous decision to finally take an easy beach day to relax after those pretty ambitious schedules in the past couple days. Soon we realized that we were the type of people who didn’t really know how to just chill. I grew restless just laying on the sand, and so we channeled that energy into taking many photos on the beach.
I have to give a shoutout to the restaurant where we had lunch because I had the best fish tacos of my life. It is an outdoor restaurant called La Cambija with fresh daily catches and a great atmosphere right by the beach. The fish tasted fresh and juicy and everything in the taco just worked so well together (a stark contrast to some fish tacos I had for dinner the next day…).
After walking along some boardwalks and browsing some shops, the day ended perfectly as we took a long walk along the beach with the sunset. I enjoyed the warm water and soft sand and the occasional large wave that came through and splashed onto my legs, but that was juxtaposed by Matthew’s apparent stress by the water wetting his shoes.
“I am very awkward at the beach.” – Matthew
I’m sure he was exaggerating and (slightly) joking, but in the moment, it was hilarious.
On our last day in Puerto Rico, we drove to another city along the West coast called Aguadilla. The morning was spent exploring the town, and we had lunch at a more expensive restaurant with a creative and friendly chef who made us custom dishes. Unfortunately it was not very suited to my taste so it left me with mediocre feelings (and cravings for those fish tacos).
In the afternoon, we went a more touristy beach called Crashboat beach in Aguadilla. It was a lot more crowded than the beaches in Rincon so it had a different feel. We drank from fresh coconuts, had a Pina colada, and waded into the water for a while. Our last stop before the airport was a secluded beach that included a 20 min forest hike to get to. We started the hike a bit late and I was getting quite anxious as the sun was setting. Partly due to the heat, and partly due to the anxiety, I arrived at this secluded beach drenched in sweat. It felt very bittersweet to stand on this rocky beach as I watched the more tumultuous waves hit the shore. With just the two of us alone, I reflected upon all the memories made and felt so grateful in my heart.
Overall, we had many ups and downs on this trip. Our plans were very ambitious as we travelled from East coast to West coast, from mainland to the surrounding island. It was the first time we went on a trip this involving, and it was the first time we ever drove in a foreign place. We were challenged, but we got through it together. These are the times that I will cherish the most, but in Matthew’s words…
Let’s just go to a resort next time!
(Haha, I’m kidding… where’s the fun in that, right?)
P.S. Follow me on Instagram (@angelle) to get more real-time updates on my travels 🙂