A few weeks before heading to World Championships, Stacey and I discussed taking a tropical vacation after Beaver Creek instead of going home. After some half-assed research and light discussion, we decided on Puerto Rico. We wanted to check out a spot in the Caribbean (in between the States and Europe), head south South (for the warmth!), and not have to apply for a Visa (Puerto Rico is an American territory). We had also heard that there were some great waves to surf in Puerto Rico, so that made our decision even easier.
our sunset dinner stop near Aguada, on the way to Rincón
Although these first two pictures don't show it, the waves were much too large for myself and Stacey (we're eager, but extremely inexperienced!), they were 18+ ft almost every day we were in Puerto Rico. We were there for 7 days. The ocean was going off, crazy angry, fast and hard, heavy, punchy, NUTS.
We flew into San Juan in the evening, and headed straight to our first hotel there in Condado. On our way to the airport in Denver we thought it over and decided to book our first nights' stay there, just in case we landed late or ended up confused, lost, unorganized, baffled tourists searching for shelter. Other than the first nights' hotel, we decided to leave the rest of our trip open, to decide on where to go when we got there, play it by ear, wing it and explore freely instead of being tied down to a hotel room. Turns out this wasn't the most intelligent planning strategy, as it was Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend....yikes. We ended up scrambling quite a few times to try and find a place to stay. But it all worked out in the end. The photo above is of the bar/bar tender at our first restaurant visit in San Juan.
nighttime streets of San Juan
We woke up on our first morning in San Juan, did a quick workout, hung out poolside (by our resort hotel--found a gem on Hotwire!), and explored Condado in San Juan a bit before hopping in our car and heading West to Rincón. On our drive we stopped in town (Rincón) and luckily came upon an art fair/party scene downtown.
a woman and her hammocks at the Rincón night fair
drum circle party
We stayed at Lemontree Oceanfront Cottages on our first night in Rincón--a last minute find by Stacey. Our cottage was literally on top of the ocean...I could have jumped off our back porch balcony and landed in the crashing waves (although I would have smashed up against our building wall and likely gotten seriously injured). It was a cozy and comfortable place to stay, with the waves crashing outside and the birds/sun waking me in the morning.
from our balcony at Lemontree
the living room of our sunlit cottage
good morning world
On our first morning in Rincón, we woke up and headed to the beach to watch the surfers. Stacey and I decided, after our first day in PR, to make daily ocean bathing a requirement, so as to embrace and absorb the tropical lifestyle as much as we could while we could. The waves were too big to surf on, but they weren't too big to play in (we thought). We got tossed around a bit, smashed against the shore, knocked over countless times--faceplants, stripped of underpants, sand in every crevice, salt water up my nose, powerless and tiny.
THEY ARE SO BIG
We found a pretty awesome nameless beach south of Maria's (Rincón area), grabbed some Acaí bowls, and found a tree swing--on which Stacey swung while I climbed atop the anchor.
climbing! and swinging!
the water rolled so high up on shore, it tried to steal our shoes and drinks and soaked our towels. such amateurs.
in the top of the tree! any help with the tree variety?
from the top
From Rincón we headed north to Jobos, our next stop on the tour. On our way we paused for a peak at Maria's beach to check out the waves (too big. again.). It seemed to be run by locals, so we got a bit frightened, took a few photos, hid in a cove, and peaced out.
Stacey at Maria's (notice the sign)
After arriving in Jobos and finally finding our hotel (a no-frills surf hotel just south of Playa Jobos), we went beach searching and exploring. We found my favorite restaurant on the island, Ola Lola's, which was down road 4466 just off the beaten path west of Jobos. I had my first peanut butter burger (way way way way WAY more delicious than it sounds), my favorite meal of the trip, and proceeded to Aguadilla to check out the surf. It looked delicious and relatively small (head-high ish, there is usually not much to surf on in Aguadilla unless it's huge everywhere else), but we couldn't find a surf shop to rent boards at, so we played in the water, took some photos (below!), and drove back to Jobos defeated and hungry.
jealous of the surfers...
more of the crumbled boardwalk
sunset at Aguadilla
The next morning we woke up and did a wonderful beach plyos/gymnastics workout (check out my Instagram/Facebook page for a taste), hung out on the sand, and got incredibly sunburnt. After recovering at a lunch shack (El Carey Cafe) with some Octopus and fresh coconut water, we headed west to explore the coastline and find a spot to watch the sun set. We drove south past Crash Boat beach and took a right down a backroad to the water. After discovering a good spot to play in the waves, we opted to drive a bit further to see what we could find....
i like this blue bench
...and we stumbled upon this gem! I have no idea what it is called, where exactly it is, or what it used to be. But it was a beautiful sunset spot (although we couldn't exactly see through the clouds...) and gorgeous ruins to wander through.
Stace wandering around the rocks below
skies and letters
makes me wonder what it was like when this building was new...
fake leaves // real toes
The next morning we woke up and jumped on a few horses--YES WE RODE HORSES ON THE BEACH AND IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER. They even let us canter. We ran on the beach on horses. Amazeballs.
leaving the stables
my horse Bailey--she didn't like me taking photos of her....
we had to do a bit of bush whacking to get to the beach!!!
so so dreamy
We tied our horses up to a couple of trees on the beach, and came across a beached boat. Our guide told us it was a drug-running boat from the Dominican Republic that had gotten caught and ended up running and beaching at this deserted cove. After exploring the abandoned beach a bit (you can get to so many wonderful places on horseback!), we hiked up a small mountain to get an aerial view of the surrounding beaches. It was gorgeous up there....
about to jump (I love the crouching photos in jumping series like this!!! so funny!)
the abandoned boat
wading through a puddle
last beach / horse photo...promise!
After our wonderful horse ride we headed to Playa Jobos for our daily dose of ocean. It was a bit dirty, but seemingly very popular and made for some good photo ops. There was another abandoned building on the beach that I obsessed over for a few minutes with my camera while Stacey played in the water....
fences and webs
remnants of a plastic bag
a beautiful mess
textures, colors, depths
As we began our drive across the island (eventually landing in Caguas), I found another abandoned building... heh.... sooooo many photos.....
in the mirror
graffiti / high heels / colors
like this stencil
Then we finally hit the road. I'm sure at that point Stacey was ready to break my camera...but I saved it from her wrath (legitimate wrath...). We were starving by the time we got in the car, so we stopped at a roadside stand and got some traditional Puerto Rican lunch--roasted chicken (a whole one) with rice and cooked plantains. So satisfying! After doing some research on the drive east, we opted for the scenic route--the Ruta Panorámica. Unfortunately the signage was terrible, and our 3 compiled maps were not detailed enough (nor was google maps) to find our way. So after getting lost countless times along the way, we bailed and followed the highway to Caguas for a good nights' rest.
Actually, our frustrating excursion didn't turn out to be completely fruitless--La Ruta Panoramica is incredibly gorgeous. We were driving through a lush and dense rainforest, overgrown and overhanging onto the road to the point where it was like we were driving through a luscious green tunnel. It was worth getting lost for 5 hours on....
After a relatively uneventful sleep in Caguas that night, we jumped on a ferry in Fajardo the next afternoon and headed to Culebra, a tiny island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. We had heard that one of the most beautiful beaches in the world existed on Culebra, and decided we had to see it. That ferry ride was the coldest I got during our whole trip in PR--the air conditioning was cranking, and it was filled with other tourists just like us, heading to see Playa Flamenco and other gorgeous beaches on the island.
Upon arrival we headed straight to our hotel, Mamacitas (which was an awesome spot to stay--delicious drinks***TRY THE BUSHWHACKER!). They told us of a spot to rent bikes for our stay on the island, so we dropped in just before closing and picked up a few beaters to ride around the island on. We hadn't yet plunged in the ocean that day, so we hopped on our bikes and headed to Playa/Punta Melones for the sunset and some ocean time.
Stace playing in the water
strange, colorful tire planters next to Playa Melones
dead things, moving on
That night in Culebra Stacey and I hit the town. We started off at Zaco's Tacos (YUM), had a few drinks at Mamacita's, and then ate at a spot on the water. There were TONS of sturgeons next to the dock, glowing in the underwater lights.
a mural in Culebra
The next morning (a bit hung over) we woke up and hopped back on our bikes. We rode to Tamarindo beach to snorkel, but the ocean was still so angry and wild that we couldn't even see our hands. Our hotel manager told us that the snorkeling at Tamarindo beach was some of the best in Puerto Rico, and that if we went in the morning time we would be swimming with the turtles.... that was false. At least on the day we went. Silly ocean. But the bike riding was really enjoyable (and hilly), and made it easy to beach hop. It was off to Playa Flamenco after Tamarindo, the famous gorgeous beach. Turns out it was true--it was one of the most pristine beaches I have ever seen, if not THE most. But it was ridiculously crowded, and Stacey and I are not good with crowds, so we moved on after some sun-soaking and headed back to the hotel to grab our stuff and continue riding around a bit before getting back on the ferry.
so dorky. so happy.
Stacey's helmet was far too large
the famed Playa Flamenco
It was back to San Juan for the evening before our flight the next day. We stayed at Hotel Casablanca in Old San Juan, which was in such a perfect location and had some really incredible amenities--such as the beautiful roof-top viewing tubs...
We explored the city a bit that night, but got a bit more adventurous the next morning. We set out without a plan and jaunted around the city. It was interesting to learn about some of the history of San Juan and Puerto Rico, and to check out the fun colors and architecture of the city.
a wall at the edge of the city (and two fun-havers)
she's got good aim
even the bricks are colorful
a nice door
love the alleys
After some exploring we FINALLY GOT ON SOME SURFBOARDS! It was a dream come true. Truth be told, the waves were absolutely hideous, but I managed to catch a few and got that feeling that I have been missing for so long. Then we hopped on a plane. The end.
Actually, I am extremely sick of writing this post. I have been trying to finish it for a week, and need to go to bed so I can sleep and rest up for tomorrow's Super G race here in Garmisch! K bye. One more fun photo below :) love peace and wellness.
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adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind