Friday morning Michal and I woke up early to take a walk along the beach and watch the sunrise. The air was balmy and the water was surprisingly warm as it washed over our toes. The colors of the sunrise reflected on the wet sand and the beach was peaceful and almost empty except for a few joggers, a “sandman”, and a sea turtle catching the early morning rays. We spent our last few hours in Puerto Rico soaking up as much sunshine and vitamin D as possible before returning to what has been a brutal winter (and it’s only January!) in upstate, New York.
It was 84 in San Juan when our plane departed. It was -10 when we pulled in our driveway. Yes, you read that right. -10. Not 10. -10. And there’s an awful lot of snow here. Needless to say the past couple days I have spent bundled up, readjusting to winter, and dreaming of being back on the beach.
Anyway back to Puerto Rico. Michal and I learned a lot on our trip there. The most popular time to go to Puerto Rico is during the holidays! Puerto Rico loves holidays. Christmas decorations go up the day after Halloween and remain until February. Since this is a popular time of year, it means that finding a place to stay during this time is more difficult and pricy. San Juan was expensive. The cost of groceries was more there than here and it seems the cost of living is higher despite lower salaries. Also, we learned the hard way that we should have been more organized on our trip. This is a funny statement to me because Puerto Rico seemed unorganized. No bus schedules (we waited 45 minutes for a bus one day), craziness at the airport, no menus or prices at some restaurants, no online reservations for ferry systems, etc. Taking off my watch helped me semi-adjust to this way of life.
When we travel, Michal and I generally just have our plane tickets and a place to stay. We may look into what there is to do in the place we’re going, but we have never reserved anything ahead of time. We learned in Puerto Rico, you need to rent a car. Taxis are expensive and there aren’t very many organized trips or vans to provide transportation to spots outside of San Juan. If you’re going to rent a car, especially at Christmas, rent it ahead of time. We checked several places and they were out of cars. We luckily were able to rent one because someone did not show up on time for their reservation; it was the last car this rental place had available for the next 3 days.
If you want to go and visit the beautiful islands of Culebra and Vieques plan ahead of time. To take the ferry you have to be in line for tickets several hours before the departure time. To fly, you need to book your tickets in advance. There are lots of kayaking, snorkeling, and bioluminescent bay tours available on the islands. They sell out quickly during this time of year, so you need to reserve ahead of time and make sure you have a way to get to the island!
The people of Puerto Rico are very friendly and welcoming. While Puerto Rico is a US Territory, it is a completely different world from the “main land”. The Spanish language and salsa music flow through the air, there are an awful lot of ways to eat plantain, and there are incredibly poor housing areas right next door to wealthy areas and even right in the heart of Old San Juan. The culture seemed more Latino than American. We also learned that Puerto Ricans cannot vote for the President but they serve in the US Military.
All in all I loved our vacation there. Getting out of the snow and going someplace warm and tropical was heavenly. We did not get to see everything we wanted to while we were there so Puerto Rico remains on my (long) list of places I want to go.