Family of 6 trip report to Culebra/PR, part 2...

Aug 4th, 2007, 02:35 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 61
Family of 6 trip report to Culebra/PR, part 2...

As promised, here is the 2nd part of our Culebra/Puerto Rico trip

Day 5—Last day on Culebra (sigh). Though we had to check out of our house by 11 a.m., we decided to spend this last day back on Flamenco Beach, until our flight at 5 p.m. I made sure everyone put a change of clothes for travel in their backpacks. On our way to Flamenco, we decided to take a detour out to Tamarindo. While on the road to Flamenco, we turned left right after the first tree in the road—or right before the road to the landfill—and drove out to the beach. All the kids had fun crab hunting, looking at tide pools. My 15 yr old has always been interested in Geology, and always seem to find different fossils wherever we go. And this time was no different. He found several inbedded in different rocks. Including a really cool trilobite. At Flamenco, it was a beautiful, calm day at the beach. Not crowded, and the water was absolutely perfect. My oldest son and I took our snorkel gear out to the far east end of the beach, just past the old shark pens. Not as great as the reef at Rosario, but still fun. Everyone had a snack from the beach vendors before we left--one son even tried some shark--and we used the public showers there to wash a little of the sand off. Returned our car to Jerry, and checked in at Vieques Airlink for our flight back to San Juan. Unfortunately, our flight was over an hour late so we ended up stuck at the airport. However, my children became amused by the antics of an incredibly drunk American woman who needed help both walking, talking, and standing up. She kept making loud moans, and when trying to eat—would spill food all over the floor. Seriously wasted. It was extremely embarrassing and sad, but I guess I was a little grateful that it kept everyone somewhat entertained. Not to mention a great learning lesson on the consequences of drinking…
We finally boarded our flight and as we headed back to the mainland, my older sons noticed that we kept changing course. (It was probably good that I was sitting in the very back and couldn’t see anything.) Turns out, a massive thunderstorm was sitting over the center of Puerto Rico, and the pilot was trying to fly around the outside of it. Anyway, we couldn’t land in San Juan because of the weather and ended up turning around and landing back at Fajardo. Better safe than sorry, but I was bummed that my children didn’t get to see El Morro from the air--That is the really neat thing about flying into San Juan on the small plane. The plane circles around El Morro before it lands at Isla Grande airport. At the beginning, Vieques Airlink wasn’t going to help us in anyway. But after some negotiating, they did spring for a taxi-van to take us to San Juan. However, due to the massive storm, what normally would have been a 45 minute taxi ride, ended up taking almost two hours. I must admit, I admired my children for handling the situation so well, and relatively quietly. The driver was nice enough to drop us off at our car rental (Thrifty) instead of the airport. After getting our minivan, we went to check in at the San Juan Marriott Courtyard. Not on the beach, but I didn’t think we would need one at this point in our trip. Plus, our rooms were only $99/night (great deal). The hotel was very nice, and the staff was very helpful. We walked down the street a few blocks to a great little diner for some dinner, then came back to our rooms and crashed from exhaustion.
Day 6—Went back to the diner for breakfast. Funny annecdote #1: my 7yr old daughter kept asking for a pina colada (w/o alcohol, of course) everywhere she saw it on a menu. But of course, they were too expensive and we said no. Well, at the diner, they were only 3 bucks so we said sure. She took one sip and I wished I had had a camera to capture the combined look of sheer disappointment and disgust. I guess it didn’t taste like the pina colada slurpees she loves so much back home…
Spent the whole day in Old San Juan. Parked in the underground parking near the old cemetery next to El Morro. Really enjoyed exploring the fort, the old city wall, the entrance gate, and then walking around the city, doing a little window shopping. Ben & Jerry’s was a great place to get a snack and cool off in the afternoon. Found the store I was looking for, Spicy Caribbee, bought some more banana ketchup (great on burgers!), vanilla and some new sauces that I thought would be good. Just to the right of the old Capilla del Cristo, is the Parque de las Palomas, the home to, what seems like, all the pigeons in Old San Juan. It was a riot watching the kids feed the pigeons, having them land on their shoulders, etc…Opted to not go to La Forteleza or into any of the museums, due to time constraints and everyone’s attention span. Had dinner down by the cruise ship docks, then made the trek back to the car. Funny annectdote #2: Our 17 yr old boy started out the day complaining about walking all over the town, saying it reminded of him of having to walk all over Boston (which he hated, if you can believe it); but then by the end of the day, he was saying it would be really fun to come back to Old San Juan with some of his buddies on a senior trip. (I won’t burst his bubble with the price tag for a while.) It was romantic walking along the cobble-stoned streets in evening. Well, as romantic as you can get with 4 kids around. As we made our way back to our car, we noticed all the traffic leaving the city. That is one drawback about Old San Juan. It seems there is only one way out, and the cars are backed up for blocks. However, we decided that there has to be a way to avoid all the traffic and get out using some sidestreets. Sure enough, we managed to follow a car with government plates down some quiet streets and we were out of there in under 10 minutes! I must say, we felt quite proud of ourselves. Got back to the hotel and ordered some dessert from room service from the French bistro in the lobby.
Day 7—Got up, got dressed and headed out for El Yunque (the anvil), the national park/rainforest. We stopped at Burger King along I-3 for breakfast. I was hoping to avoid American franchises, but oh well—at least I made everyone order in Spanish. After a short stop at the visitor’s center, we headed up to the Big Tree Trail head, to hike to Las Minas Falls. It was awesome! Really neat winding trail, sometimes a little steep, but completely doable and completely worth it at the end. You can hear the birds, the coqui, kids saw small lizards everywhere. We all had our swimsuits under our clothes, so we got in at the waterfall swam in the pools and under the falls. We must have been there for over an hour. Made the hike back, and the 3 boys entertained us all the way with different walks, speaking in different accents, frankly, keeping us in stitches. Drove to the “the tower,” and climbed up to see the view of the park. Awesome. I kept being amazed at all the huge impatiens plants growing everywhere, since I have to plant them every year in my yard. Driving out of the park, we stopped on the side of the road for a vendor, for more pinchos y tostones. And everyone decided that these were the best they had tasted. Went back for seconds and thirds. On our way home, we stopped at Luquillo Beach. Very nice and family oriented. After a couple of hours, drove back to the hotel to clean up. Decided that this was our only chance at a “date night,” so we ordered pizza for the kids, rented a movie, and my husband and I went out to dinner. We went back to Yerba Buena, in the Condado area. I literally crave their casaba mofongo for months after every time I have eaten it. Had a delicious dinner while sitting outside. Though warm, there was a nice breeze as we sat and reminisced over all we did the past week.
Day 8—We all walked down the street to the diner for breakfast for the last time. We all loved their pancakes and omelets. Plus, they made their orange juice right on the spot and these great-tasting papaya shakes. Decided that we could go over to the Condado beach for a brief time in the morning. The older boys wished they still had their boogey boards to use after seeing the waves. It really is a lovely beach. Came back to the hotel, hurried and cleaned up, got somewhat of a later check-out and then headed back to Thrifty, to return our car. Jet Blue check-in went on without a hitch and our layover in JFK gave my 15 yr old sometime to read—and frequently moan about--“Great Expectations.” Got home around 2 a.m., just in time for our oldest to start “two-a-days” for H.S. football at 6:30 a.m.
We asked everyone what their favorite part of the trip was and they all said something different. Well, first they all said “everything,” but when I pressed further, then I got different responses. 17yr old—flying the small plane into Culebra; 15yr old—Biobay/lagoon; 11yr old—El Morro; 7yr old—waterfall; my husband—reef off Carlos Rosario; me—beaches. Though it may seem like we packed a lot in a week, it really didn’t feel like it. It still felt like a great laid-back vacation with plenty to do still. And the best part, everyone is still getting along!
burnsie is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Sounds like you have a great, fun family. Thanks again for posting a great report. I am going to look into your rental house. Owa
Aug 4th, 2007, 03:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 4,870
I really enjoyed reading the followup to your trip report! The story about your youngest and the pina colada is too funny--I'm sure your family won't let her forget that any time soon.

I never knew that El Yunque meant the anvil. Why is it named that? I've never visited the rain forest--I"ve only seen it from the air, but it didn't look anvil shaped...

Don't you love ending a trip in Old San Juan as a good way of transitioning back to real life?

For posterity, and for future Fodorites who might be interested in Culebra, I'd suggest that you copy and paste this post into your first post so that all of the information is available on the same thread. That way when people do a search in the future it will be all together.
ejcrowe is offline  
Aug 4th, 2007, 09:45 PM
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Burnsie, your family sounds wonderful! I always think travel is the best way to educate kids. Those memories can never be taken away from any of you. Bet they'll pass on your love of travel to their kids too.

I just booked a flight today with Vieques AirLink. What was your impression of them?
Maggi is offline  
Aug 5th, 2007, 05:47 PM
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I thought they were fine. This is my 2nd time flying with them. Frankly, I can't say I've experienced much difference between the small carriers. They're all about the same price, the planes are definitely the same size, so I tend to just book the one that fits my schedule the best. So far, I've flown Air Sunshine, Isla Nena, Air Flamenco, and Vieques Air Link. Regarding our recent exeperience, VAL felt like they honored our purchase by getting us to San Juan, even though we had to ride in a taxi. We would have preferred to be refunded the difference of the ticket that wasn't used (as in the fare from Fajardo to San Juan) but oh well. Not enough for me to make it my hill to die on!
ejcrowe-I was informed that El Yunque looks like an anvil when viewed at from the south. Couldn't really tell you if that's true, since I never saw it from that vantage point. But it sure was a neat park.
burnsie is offline  
Aug 5th, 2007, 08:27 PM
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Thanks burnsie.
Maggi is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 03:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Great trip report Burnsie...I have not been on in a few I started with part 2 and will now go to look for part one!
How long was the hike into the waterfall? My DH and I drove up through there on Easter, but were not up to hiking at that point!
I too, marveled at the impatients growing all over the ground and bottoms of trees up in the hills. My summer job is in a greenhouse/garden shop, so I notice things like that too.
Maggie: your trip must be days away...We have not found much difference between the small airlines. We choose VAL as a first choice to support the island business, but often have to choose the airline who's schedule matches ours. Also prefer to fly into/out of Isla Grande...the tix are half the cost.
Have a great trip
mahobaygirl is offline  
Aug 6th, 2007, 05:58 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Mahobaygirl, in fact, we are just putting the finishing touches on our luggage and will be leaving in a few hours. Thanks so much for your help and that of others on this forum.
Maggi is offline  
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