TRAVEL DIARY: PUERTO RICO

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YOU GUYS! I know that I sound like a broken record at this point, but I’m seriously still sitting in awe and gratitude for our Puerto Rico trip. I figured that I should do a full blog post on it so that I have a way to share our trip with you all & a resource for what we did/ate/saw, incase you’re looking to travel there soon! But also as a way for Billy and I to look back on this trip and have some form of a diary detailing all that we did and experienced while there. It was honestly the trip of a lifetime. We left on Thursday night 5/24 and our flight left Puerto Rico the following Tuesday on 5/29.

THE BACKSTORY

We didn’t plan this trip, like at all. It all spawned from a spur of the moment conversation over breakfast where Billy asked me if I wanted to go on a vacation somewhere… as in next weekend. As soon as we got home, he started researching where to go––the flights to Puerto Rico were so affordable ($400 round trip for two people, insane!)

But the planning of this trip was just a preface to the entire trip itself. Before we went, I did a little researching and asking around to see what the best sites and activities there were on the island. But that planning in no way, shape or form prepared me for what was about to occur. We truly experienced Puerto Rico by the seat of our pants… I mean, pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road to take down a billboard’s number for Horse Back riding at the Foothills of El Yunque National Rainforest level of adventure.

PUERTO RICO TRAVEL TIPS

  • RENT A CAR! You absolutely should rent a car, if you can, the rates for Taxi’s are so expensive and Uber isn’t available on most parts of the island. We rented a car from Enterprise and it was the best decision we made. Like, seriously, it made the trip THAT much more of an adventure. We were in full control of our days, and didn’t have to rely on a taxi service or shuttle to pick us up.
  • BUDGET MORE $$$ FOR ADVENTURES! Puerto Rico has SO much to offer depending on what types of vacations you like. I enjoy relaxing vacations and need time to sunbathe, but I also get bored easily so adding in some time for adventure is crucial. Seriously, any and every thing that you could ever think of doing, Puerto Rico probably has it. Because the island relies heavily on tourists for their economy, the prices are pretty steep for each adventure (it adds up). You could be spending $30-$100 per person for each adventure that you choose. Do your research, read this guide, and budget extra moola for some adventure/fun!
  • PLAN YOUR DAYS AROUND THE WEATHER, BUT DON’T RELY ON THE WEATHER APPS! LOL, this sounds so counterintuitive, but seriously. The weather app was right 20% of the time, when it says that it’s going to rain it means that it’s going to rain for 10 minutes and then stop. BUT, use your gut. You can see the rain from miles away, plan your days/adventures accordingly. Rainy day? Hop in your car and explore the country side. Sunny day? Book a trip on the catamaran.

 

ADVENTURES

FRIDAY, MAY 25TH (ARRIVAL): Old San Juan

We arrived (early) Friday morning (around 1 AM), so we woke up to the sun through the shades and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. We checked into our first resort which was in Isla Verde. This resort was beach front with a swim up bar which was super cool. The sands here were much more refined and not as grainy. We eventually ended up moving resorts (I’ll get into that later) because there was some sort of Volleyball tournament going on, and it wasn’t as relaxing of an environment as we had hoped for. Anyways, this was the one day of rain our whole entire trip, so we spent the day familiarizing ourselves with the resort, surrounding area and eventually took a trip to Old San Juan. We were blown away at the beauty of the city. It’s seriously breathtaking. Hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The history is rich, each building is a beautiful pastel color––It looks like a rainbow all over the town.


SATURDAY, MAY 26TH: Snorkeling/Catamaran & Luquillo Beach

We took a day trip on a Catamaran to the Spanish Virgin Island of Icacos and an uninhabited island where we stopped to snorkel in two different spots. THIS WAS MY FAVORITE PART OF THE TRIP! We had planned to go to the Rainforest this day, but after looking outside and seeing how beautiful it was, we decided to book a trip on a Catamaran. After calling 5 different boats and companies, we finally found some open spots on the Spread Eagle II Catamaran––and we’re so happy that we did. Once we arrived to the island of Icacos, we saw the other Catamaran’s that we’re out on the sea that day. They were packed with people, and everyone on our boat kept saying how lucky we were there it wasn’t as packed and we had space to enjoy the sun and sea! The tour guides were so FUN (and knowledgeable/helpful). They made it so worth it––you get a full day of snorkeling AND unlimited drinks and they served you lunch (sandwiches and fruit with fresh Puerto Rican bread). I can’t even explain how clear blue the water was, I actually lost my bracelet in the water, twice, and was able to find it with my snorkeling gear! We saw some amazing tropical fish, a sea turtle, stingray, barracuda & fed the fish bread!

On our drive back to San Juan, we decided to purposely get “lost”, we traveled down some closed off road that had a detour sign. We saw open fields with tall grass where we could see the El Yunque mountains in the background. As we drove, we stumbled upon horses and even a mom and baby pony! We hopped back in the car and kept driving back towards our resort when we last-minute stopped at the Kiosks at Luquillo Beach, which are a long strip of “garage” type restaurants/shops where tons of locals were hanging out. We watched the sunset from further down on the beach which was so peaceful and beautiful!

 

WHO: SPREAD EAGLE CATAMARAN: HERE
WHERE: Fajardo to Icacos Island & an uninhabited island
WHAT: Snorkeling & sailing on a catamaran.

SUNDAY, MAY 27TH: Parasailing & Jet Skiing

SO. MUCH. FUN. Billy kept telling me that he was surprised I wasn’t more scared than I was. I wish that I had more pictures from this but, obviously, we were in the middle of the ocean for both of these activities so I couldn’t bring my phone with me! This was the first time that I ever went parasailing, and we picked the perfect day to do it! This was also the morning that we switched resorts, and moved our stuff to our new hotel room at the Condado Vanderbilt Resort (more on that later). So we woke up super early, around 6 AM, packed all of our things from our Isla Verde resort and dropped all of our bags off at the hotel. From there, we jet off to the Jet Skiing & Parasailing place. The key to Puerto Rico is to talk to the locals. We followed Google Maps as best as we could, but ended up finding a fresh coconut water cart right along the beach side. After looking around the beach, we couldn’t find the tents where the Jet Skiing and Parasailing vendors were. The people who gave us our fresh coconuts with coconut water pointed us in the right direction.

Jet Skiing was so much fun, Billy and I rented separate Jet Skii’s mainly because he’s insane on them, lol. He actually ended up flying into the water because he was going so fast, LOL! I take my time on jet skii’s and like to just have fun on them, and ya know not fly off the side. Afterwards, we went right into parasailing which was beautiful to say the least. We hopped onto a small boat that guided us out to sea. We were the last pair to go up into the air, which was good because I was getting sea sick from the boat, ugh, but we went up at the perfect time! In Puerto Rico you can see the storms rolling in from the distance. When we were up in the air, we saw thunderstorms rolling in across the mountains and rain forest. To our left, all we saw was open clear blue skies. I’m usually scared of rides when I feel like I don’t have control (hate roller coasters) but I surprisingly wasn’t scared! At one point, the wind really picked up and we went super high into the air. But I think that I was too distracted and mesmerized by the water and sights to be scared.

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WHAT: Parasailing & Jet Skiing in the ocean
WHERE: Isla Verde – Water Sports 4 U (here)

MONDAY, MAY 28TH: El Yunque National Rainforest & Horseback Riding

EXCUSE ME WHILE MY JAW DROPS! WOW, I can’t even put into words how breathtaking the El Yunque National Rainforest is. We woke up our second to last day there, hoping to get a good day of hiking and sight seeing in the rain forest. We drove to Fajardo, where the rainforest is, and started following the GPS and signs for the rainforest. We stopped the car along the way to take in some of the most breathtaking sights and waterfalls, but ran into two points of stopping. The rainforest is still badly damaged from Hurricane Maria, crews are working around the clock (even on holidays) to get the rainforest restored. We were only able to reach the first HUGE waterfall, they had barricaded the higher points and the hiking trails were closed. BUT, if you go, I highly recommend exploring. Hopefully it’s restored by the time that you make your trip there.

So, obviously we had to make a change of plans. We drove through the winding roads back down the mountains/rainforest and were on our way to go grab some lunch. While on the road, we saw a huge sign for horeseback riding and pulled over on the side of the road to take down the number and call. Luckily, the place still had afternoon horseback ride tours through the foothills of El Yunque. The same place, Carrabali, takes groups on horseback rides on the beach which I totally would have done if we knew that we were going to be doing this that day. ANYWAYS, THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! I actually used to ride horses growing up, I took lessons and fell in love with these beautiful animals. But this was my first time mounting a horse in, like, 10 years! This was Billy’s first time ever riding a horse and he had so much fun. The horses are so well trained, and well fed/taken care of. We had two tour guides who helped to navigate us through the foothills of the rain forest… so beautiful.

 

WHAT: El Yunque National Rainforest ride & Horseback Riding the foothills of El Yunque
WHERE: El Yunque National Rainforest & Carrabali Rainforest Park (here)

TUESDAYMAY 29TH: Old San Juan (Castillo San Felipe del Morro Tour).

Old San Juan is hands down one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. Besides the fact that you’re surrounded by clear blue and turquoise waters, the buildings are all old cobblestsone roads. You quite literally feel like you’re stepping back into time. All of the buildings are bright, pastel colors. So gorgeous! There’s so many good restaurants, eateries, shopping and sites to see here! Youc an also tour the Castillo and San Cristobal, which was built by Spain in the 1600’s to protect the city of San Juan against attacks. You can tour both locations, which look over the beautiful seas.

RESORT

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Please forgive these poor quality photos –– nothing can do this place justice. It was unbelievable. Originally, we stayed in Isle Verde for the first two nights (Friday and Saturday) and switched to the Condado Vanderbilt after we were on our way driving to Old San Juan and saw how beautiful it was. When Billy was booking the trip, he was actually inbetween this resort and the Isla Verde resort. After seeing how incredible it was, we flew with the “spur of the moment” vibe of this trip and switched resorts halfway through. Best decision ever.

The resort was at 100% occupancy, and we got one of the last rooms available. So freaking lucky! I HIGHLY recommend staying here for anyone who is going to be traveling to Puerto Rico soon! There’s two private beaches, three delicious resaurants, and the staff is AMAZING. From the second you walk in, butlers (that’s literally what they call them) and staff treat you just as you are… on vacation. The people there are so kind and take pride in their resort, keeping it spotless and beautiful.

There’s an infinity pool, lounge pool, and a second larger infinity pool. There’s a beautiful gym, spa for massages, and even a hair salon. This resort had it all and we so plan on going back one day!

 

OUTFITS

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