for goodness sake, let us be young.

Back in February Hayley called me and wanted to get away from Salt Lake City's winter weather for a bit. On a whim we booked red eye tickets for the end of the month and I flew from LA and met her at JFK at dawn. I've never been to New York City but it was really cool landing when it was still dark outside and clearly seeing Central Park and Times Square illuminated so brightly. A few hours and a terrifying turbulent plane ride later, we landed in San Juan. We were totally exhausted but headed to Old San Juan anyway and spent a few hours poking around a really old fort and getting lost in streets full of colorful houses. 
Anyone who knows me knows that I instantly love pretty much any furry creature that comes my way. San Juan was FULL of cats. They were really friendly and not exactly strays?? Maybe, I don't know. There were bowls of food and beds tucked away in nooks and crevices for them all over the city. Strangely enough, it was only San Juan that had cats. Everywhere else on the island had dogs running around. 
That canon has been there for 500+ years. Crazy to think about!
Most of the towers were used as pirate lookouts and some (slightly) more sophisticated concrete additions were added during World War II. I love history. 
Our second day we decided to go back and explore the second fort before we hit the road. This one was deceptively large. It looked pretty small at first but we found this section behind the main building that the other tourists failed to notice. It felt like being in another world in an ancient time with Hayley and I having this outdoor area completely to ourselves. This is Hayley crossing the moat. 
I like that some of the towers look like chess pieces. Somewhere in here we found a few wild iguanas. Growing up my brother had a pet iguana named Draco and I remembered learning that if they had black tails, they had been pulled off at some point in their life and grown back. I am happy to report that Puerto Rican Spanish-Fort-Iguanas had their original striped tails. :)
For the week we spent on the island we rented a car and drove the 500 mile loop staying in a new town almost every night. We did the AirBnB thing and I'm totally converted to that system now! I loved staying with locals and getting to hear their stories and suggestions for places to eat and beaches to explore. My favorite was a beach house in Playa Jobos on the northwestern part of the island.
Ominous storm clouds... every day like clockwork it alternated from downpours to blue skies and sunny. I love the rain (and it rarely rains in LA) so this just added to the tropical vibe of the whole experience.
Probably less than 30 minutes after that last picture was taken... aaaand there's the blue skies.
When we were deciding on where to go, Hayley wanted somewhere with warm weather and I wanted somewhere with clear turquoise water. We both got our wishes. 
Our days consisted of swimming, climbing rocks and saying "hey what's around that bend? I dunno, let's go check it out!"
At this shop you can buy custom painted surf boards on the left, and smoothies & omelettes on the right.
Later on we decided to go back in the direction of Arecibo and headed inland to Cueva Ventana. So. Cool. We saw bats and a boa snake and had to climb tree roots to get out of the cave. 
This was the view for a lot of the trip. I'm big on road trips and this definitely goes to the top of my list as far as favorites go.
Crashboat beach. There's a sunken ship below the surface. 
Another downpour. You know in movies how at dramatic moments all of a sudden huge rainstorms come out of nowhere and it's obvious that weather never actually behaves like that? Well it does here. I was SOAKED to the bone within a couple of minutes, it was like stepping into a warm shower fully clothed.
No matter though because of course the sun came out later and dried us off. The couple we were staying with in Playa Jobos tipped us off about this location. We went as far as the road would take us then went a few more miles on a desert dirt road and then all of a sudden this lush bay came out of nowhere. This is the most southwestern point in Puerto Rico called Playuela at Baja Sucia in Cabo Rojo. This has got to be the most perfect beach I have ever seen. I totally understand why pirates would fight over this place. 
This section of Cabo Rojo was obviously a locals spot, nobody spoke English and it was mostly families with kids digging in the sand, teenagers playing frisbee, and an old man with a tiny cart selling ice cream packed in dry ice.
I could get very used to living island life on a more permanent basis someday. 
Cabo Rojo lighthouse in the distance.
On the side of the streets in Puerto Rico are all these ramshackle stands with people selling their goods: fresh fruit, crafts, hammocks, etc. I knew going into the trip I wanted to get a hammock and I chose a turquoise one to remind me of the color of the sea. At this point in the trip my meager Spanish was not too shabby and I am pretty proud of myself that I was able to barter for my hammock to get a good price. Um, it is also worth mentioning that driving in Puerto Rico is an... experience. Thankfully I am used to crazy Los Angeles drivers, but in this part of the world, there are sort of no rules when it comes to the road. Fair warning to anyone who plans to drive there. :) 
We continued the loop around the island and stopped in Ponce for dinner. I don't have pictures because I'm not sure I could have put in a photograph what it was like there. It was so strange, a complete ghost town void of any people but the streets are crammed with brightly colored historical buildings at every turn. Maybe because it was a Sunday evening and people were at home with their families, I'm not sure, but it was eerie. We continued on our way to El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest in US territory. Near the top it was trees in every direction, as far as you could see. 
We found three waterfalls from a couple different hikes we did and I sent this picture of a lookout tower to my 4 year old niece and said it was Rapunzel's tower. She totally bought it.
The last night isn't pictured because it was after dark and we were kayaking on the ocean so no cameras. We took our boats down this canal a few miles then ended up in this lagoon and saw the the most incredible thing. When we put our hands in the water and swished it around a little it glowed and sparkled. It really looked like gold glitter in the otherwise pitch dark. It's apparently some phenomenon that only happens in a handful of places in the world. It's called a biobay and the plankton glow when found in an environment where water flows into the lagoon but it can't get out. So the water evaporates like normal, but the sea salt is very concentrated. It made me wonder if there are parts of the Great Salt Lake that this phenomenon occurs because of the rivers that flow in but do not flow out... I need to look into that.

Of course it was fitting that when our trip came literally full circle, the last AirBnB we stayed at had two lively cats for us to play with, just like the cats in San Juan on our first day.

I didn't really know what to expect going into this trip. A week driving around Puerto Rico was way better than I could have ever imagined. I definitely want to go back, I think I could spend several months there doing something new or exploring a different place every day and never once get bored.  


Carrie and Tyson at: June 21, 2015 at 12:00 AM said...

That was an awesome blog post! I loved your pictures and the descriptions made me realize there is so much more to do and see in PR than I imagined. What a fun trip/adventure!

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