A Travellerspoint blog

What I Learned in Puerto Rico

1. You are never more than five minutes from a Burger King. Unless of course you are looking for Burger King. Then they mysteriously disappear.

2. People with cat allergies need not apply. Old San Juan is filled with felines.

3. That speed bump you just hit? Yeah, that was a giant lizard.

4. Proper driving skills are not necessary. Just get in your car and hope for the best.

5. And on second thought walking is often faster than driving. Probably safer too.

6. There really is no reason to call anyone in Puerto Rico. Phone calls go unanswered and messages unreturned.

7. Be everywhere five hours early. Better yet camp out the night before. Unexpected early closures are common.

8. Wear bug spray. All day long. Even when you sleep. If you wake up to go to the bathroom, put more on. There is no such thing as too much bug spray.

9. Drink rum. It’s cheaper and tastier than water.

10. Do I even have to tell you? Wear sunscreen people! I swear the moon can burn you by night, so wear it when you sleep!



A quick thank you to our excellent hosts Neal and Noyda at the Coqui Del Mar. Spacious lodging complete with a full kitchen for under $100/night in the Caribbean, yes people, it can be done!


Farewell Puerto Rico, you will be missed.

Posted by Jennylynn 19:51 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged tips_and_tricks Comments (3)

It's My Head in a Box

Photo Friday

For all you doubters out there...


If you are thinking I have suddenly lost my mind, refer to this.

Posted by Jennylynn 09:12 Comments (1)

Rio Camuy Caves

I'm not generally a fan of the dark. In fact, don't tell anyone, but growing up I would often sleep with my head inside a box because obviously the creatures of the night couldn't find me this way. The dark brought on all sorts of anxieties from monsters, aliens, and ghosts, but mainly aliens. I was deathly afraid of aliens. It's actually all my dads fault because when I was really little he made me watch a documentary on UFOs and creatures from outer space. From then on, he was obliged to sit beside my bed until I fell asleep. He laughs about it now, but it was quite traumatizing. Now I'm not so much afraid of the dark, or at least I thought I wasn't.


The Rio Camuy Caves in Puerto Rico reminded me that my fear of the dark still haunts me now and again. It wasn't aliens I was afraid of this time (Common - you thought I still slept with my head inside a box didn't you?!), but rather the multitude of bats and spiders were quite frightening. Or maybe it was the large boulders we conveniently skirted around as our guide explained that they had fallen from the ceiling above us, but not to worry, we had hard hats. Right. Once I got over my fear of a bat flying up my shorts or a two ton boulder falling from above, I ended up quite enjoying the place.


To get to the entrance of the caves we boarded a trolley which took us down a spiraling road to a sinkhole 200 feet below. As we descended the temperature cooled and the tree coverage darkened the sky above. Once at the entrance we donned our hard hats and headed in.


There are sixteen entrances to the caves and only seven miles of the passages have been explored so far. We were led into the 170 foot high Cueva Clara, a spectacular cavern complete with hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites (don't ask which is which, I always mix them up).


We learned as much as we could, considering our tour was in Spanish. By the end the guide had figured out that 75 percent of the people on her tour couldn't understand a word she was saying, so then she easily switched to fluent English. Go figure.

The tour was actually quite brief, as rains and flooding had closed off areas of the cave. We learned that the caves often close without warning in case there is any threat of a rock slide or caving in of the caverns. Lucky for us, we made it out alive.


Now that the caves had been crossed off our list, we made a brief visit to the Arecibo Observatory, the world's largest radio telescope. On the map, the observatory looked mere minutes away. In reality, like all things in Puerto Rico, it took forever to get there. The road was a roller coaster drive into the middle of nowhere, through towns where horses led passengers down the dusty roads and cattle wandered through green pastures. I thought for sure we had taken a wrong turn, for truly this had to be Texas. Eventually we made it and after parking we climbed a grueling steep slope to the entrance of the observatory. Tickets in hand we were led to a brief museum and video presentation, but we skipped over all that and went straight for the real deal. It was... a giant saucer in the ground. Not really much to look at, but quirky nonetheless. What is this giant radio telescope for you ask? Well, it was featured in the James Bond GoldenEye film, so obviously it serves as a giant movie prop. Truthfully, as one who is slightly rusty at astronomy, I'll let Wikipedia tell you all about it. But, my seven year old self will tell you they are definitely spying on aliens, that's what. Time to dust off my box.


Posted by Jennylynn 18:23 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Escape to El Yunque


Getting around in Puerto Rico is not as easy as one may think. On a map, Puerto Rico looks like this smallish island with a network of intersecting highways, and one would assume being an unincorporated U.S. Territory and all, that driving should be a cinch, right? Quite the opposite. There are no rules when driving in Puerto Rico. You just hope for the best. Having said that, we were quite lucky (except for that part where our rental car was rear ended, but that's another story). Yes, there are stop signs. Although, no one uses them. Sure, cars have turn signals, but I don't think locals have quite figured out what they are for. And those nice little highways on the map? Well, they are more like parking lots with a lot of angry, honking drivers. All my grand plans for circumnavigating the island were dashed when we realized that just getting out of San Juan required navigating through an hour of gridlock traffic. Despite these small obstacles, we put plenty a mile on our rental car. We didn't quite make it around the island, but through a series of short excursions we put over 600 miles of wear and tear on our vehicle.


On our first full day in Puerto Rico we discovered El Yunque National Forest. Nestled just about an hour east of San Juan, we felt as though we were truly miles away from the congestion and pollution of the city. El Yunque was luscious, green, and tropical, and getting there was just half the fun. When our guidebook suggested we keep a lookout for a certain building because the sign "is not always visible and heavy winds sometimes knock it down" we should have known. As luck would have it, the sign was very visible and finding El Yunque was not the difficult part. Rather, navigating the winding, narrow roads deep into the middle of nowhere was the exciting part. The climb was tedious at times, and oncoming cars were often difficult to see until they hurdled over a hill or sped around a tight curve. With white knuckles gripping the steering wheel we somehow made it.


Now before you start imagining El Yunque as a tropical oasis of colorful birds and brightly blossoming flowers, think again. It was a tropical jungle alright, but more of the vines hanging from trees and endless stretches of green variety. We had only one bird sighting. The Puerto Rican Tody briefly graced us with his appearance, but again, he was green and not like the colorful Amazon Rain Forest type I was expecting to see. Our liveliest encounters would turn out to be insect related, as Natalie's legs could attest to for days to come.


As we made our way further into the jungle there were lots of scenic spots to stop and take in the view or a trickling waterfall, some places had look out towers you could climb up or little paved pathways to hike through the trees. In the beginning we stopped at them all, but then we discovered they were sort of a waste of time. As tour buses lined up and hoards of (most likely cruise) tourists emptied out, we found the experiences of each spot to be sort of artificial and suffocating. Instead we drove as far as the road took us, away from the old ladies wearing St. Thomas t-shirts and carrying Bahamas emblazoned beach bags. At the dead end we parked. And then we hiked.


We took the Mt. Britton trail to a lookout just below the El Yunque peak (3,496 ft). The hike was easy and we were just one of several exploring it. Feeling worlds away from the Spring Breakers and Cruise tourists below, we took our time and enjoyed the scenery. The 90 degree weather was unnoticeable under the thick cover of trees, but once at the top, the heat was intense. The view from the top was spectacular as we had a nearly 360 degree view of the beaches in the north and the jungle all around.


Having gone as far as we could without wielding a machete and utilizing our bushwhacking skills, we headed back for our car and braced ourselves for the treacherous drive back to the the city. El Yunque wasn't quite the Amazon I had imagined it to be, but between the white haired tourists, the roller coaster drive, and our brief encounter with a Puerto Rican Tody, it turned out to be decent day. Considering our sightseeing success in the days to come, looking back we accomplished quite a lot.

Posted by Jennylynn 17:27 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

This Town Has Gone to the Cats

Photo Friday from Old San Juan Puerto Rico

My life revolves around the feeding cycles of my obese cats. Recently I took them to the vet and learned that 20 pounds is a not a healthy weight for a feline. Self control is not something they possess (I'm guessing they inherited that trait from me), and as a result this whole cat diet thing has taken over my life. My cats act so starved during the day that they have taken to eating inanimate objects. Paper, string, garbage, it's all food to them. I carefully guard my own meals because if I so much as glance away, my food will disappear. Every morning I awake to a cat pouncing on my forehead, howling for food. Twice a day I carefully portion out little dishes of diet formula cat food only to have them devour it in seconds. The diet began four months ago and the big weigh in was yesterday. Neither shed so much as an ounce of fat off their chubby thighs. Sigh.

Cat lovers, this one is for you. On my recent trip to Puerto Rico, I was delighted to discover that I am not the only one who allows felines to run my life. Old San Juan is practically teeming with cats and they have worked there way into the hearts of all who live there. The cats are considered sacred and are regularly blessed by priests, random food dishes throughout the city ensure the cats are properly fed, and an assortment of litter boxes keep the city clean. This town really has gone to the cats.



Dog lovers - I didn't forget about you. Look at little Fido here sleeping in the window. (Do you think maybe he's been influenced by the behavior of his feline friends?)


And lastly, for your viewing pleasure:

For more Photo Friday fun visit Delicious Baby!

Posted by Jennylynn 07:08 Archived in Puerto Rico Tagged animal Comments (2)

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