A last minute, much needed vacation to the Caribbean that I will attempt and surely fail to put to justice. It started, like many of these trips do, as a wistful kayak search, a day dream if you will - something to pass the time at work and to imagine a brighter reality than the dim, flat surroundings of the Midwest. After a long happy discussion with hubby which ended in us resolving to save the money because it is the responsible grown up thing to do, I just booked the flights impulsively. And with Delta's free checked bag and a semi guess that we would get seats upgraded at least on some leg of the trip, it felt so right.
And so began the honeymoon we had for so long wanted. Just the hubby and me flying off to the Caribbean, into the much beloved arms of adventure.
We flew through Atlanta, to San Juan. We saw Florida and Nassau and some other Caribbean islands from the plane. When we finally landed, the weather was sunny and 86 and we warmly welcomed that from the dismal and wet 30's and 40's we had been having in Nebraska.
San Juan Airport was bustling with American tourists. I also noticed as soon as I stepped off the plane that the average level of attractiveness shoots through the roof. People work out and are generally attractive. Even the tourists seem to have gotten prettier, or maybe its just the sunlight we haven't seen in weeks!
Once we got in a rental and started navigating to our hotel near Viejo San Juan, it became obvious that I would love driving on the island and hubby would hate it. Friends and family, imagine, a little hilly island with often narrow streets where everyone drives as fast, aggressive and with as much abandon as I drive with here. It's a wonderful, chaotic, sometimes scary drive. People are also quick to hit the horn. The signs are mostly in Spanish and it was funny hearing our GPS pronounce cities like Loquillo and Fajardo in the default American accent voice. Even if the drive hits you with a little more adrenaline than you care for, the views are breathtaking. You are always near a beach in San Juan, since its a port city. The music is incredible and the food is delicious. They don't call it La Isla Del Elcanto (The Island of Enchantment) for nothing.
We headed to Viejo San Juan almost as soon as we got into our hotel. Viejo San Juan is something to see. The sometimes narrow, pedestrian streets are lined with touristy stores full of souvenirs, tourist traps like Pandora, local craft artists, caricature artists, street food, restaurants, and of course everything is right on the port, with Forts jutting into the sea, kite surfers in the background. The pictures and words will not do justice - it is something to be seen and experienced.
We crossed off jet skiing off of our bucket lists on this vacation. Much like driving in San Juan, this takes a lot of, shall we say, cajones? Going only about 30 mph on the jet ski when the water is 29,000 feet deep and the waves are fairly high is scary, especially when you break. "Breaking" in terms of jet ski terminology is basically when you go fast enough that the jet ski is in the air flying, and then crashes into the water that is moving in waves. Even though I jumped into the water without securing my life vest properly and hubby literally saved my life, I would, in a heart beat go jet skiing again. In fact I'm pretty certain that crossing jet skiing off of the bucket list just added "Buy A Jet Ski" to my bucket list.
EL YUNQUE & fajardo
The day before we had to leave and go back to the mainland, we ventured out of San Juan and into El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest located on American soil. With rains coming and not having a lot of time, we hiked a bit and then headed off to Fajardo.
On the way, we stopped to get mangoes from a farmer on the side of the road. With our half- knowledge of spanish, a product of Duolingo, living in Miami and some middle school Spanish, we managed to walk away with a bag full of "chinos", what the island called oranges. Not wanting to stand in the way of spontaneity and adventure, we happily obliged the farmer who reassured us that the oranges were very sweet.
Having found a tranquil spot on Fajardo, we swam until sunset in the much calmer, shallower waters. Fajardo has a ferry that takes you to the island of Vieques. We didn't want to go to a different island since we had a flight the next day so we stayed in Fajardo. The best and most memorable part of this trip is unfortunately not on camera.
We went on a kayak tour of Mosquito Bay that night and got to see up close every aspiring marine biologist's wet dream up close. The bay is bioluminescent - the mangroves in the bay along with warm waters, and many other intricate factors are apparently a great place for the bioluminescent dinoflagellates that are teeming in the waters.
Movement triggers the light, so touching the water makes it sparkle as does the kayak paddles, fish and anything else moving in the water. It's a very surreal phenomenon that has existed for centuries. The native Taino people that inhabited the islands think of these waters as sacred.
Overall, Puerto Rico was an incredible, once in a lifetime trip to a part of America that more people should visit.