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Puerto Rico: Trip report with pictures (March 2008)

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Mar 9th, 2009, 05:22 PM
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Puerto Rico: Trip report with pictures (March 2008)

I know that this is long long overdue but I am so excited to be finally posting our Puerto Rico trip report. You can see the whole trip report with pictures located on our travel website here: http://www.feetontheglobe.com/trips/puertorico2008

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you here for your wonderful advice and thoughts about the best places to travel in Puerto Rico. My husband (Patrick), my brother (Shiva), and I spent two days in San Juan, two days in Fajardo, and three days in Vieques. By far, our favorite place was Vieques, but we had a wonderful time overall. I know that this is a slightly unusual format for a trip report but, hopefully, it will make more sense if you look at the website with the pictures.

---------------------------------------------
San Juan (days 1 and 2) - http://www.feetontheglobe.com/trips/...co2008/SanJuan

See

Puerto Rico is foreign --- and I mean in a very foreign way. We didn't need a passport to enter, there were Walgreens and Walmarts everywhere, and the U.S. dollar was the only form of currency. So, we expected to speak English, hear alternative and top 40 stations, eat hamburgers and pizza. But, instead, we struggled with our long-forgotten college Spanish, swayed to salsa and hurriedly changed the channel when Marc Anthony came on, and ate amarillos and mofongo. Puerto Rico is sometimes like the United States, but usually not, and rather a mix of Spanish, African, Taino, and American influences.
Old San Juan was built by the Spanish and retains much Spanish architecture, but was used by the Americans as recently as World War II. Brightly colored homes with abundant flora line the cobblestone streets, and hundreds of kites float above the green grass of El Morro.

Eat

On our first night, we had dinner at Uvva’s, a beach-front restaurant, within walking distance of the Andalucia Inn. Dinner was expensive for mediocre food.
Appetizers:

* Plaintain chips with a goat cheese and mango spread --- creamy, fruity, and tasty
* Puff pastry wraps with spinach and feta --- also very good and the puff pastry was a little unique, since this is usually made with phyllo dough
* Patrick had the mahi-mahi with tostones --- overcooked fish and flavorless tostones
* Shiva and I had the penne with garlic sauce and tofu --- good reasonable pasta dish – nothing exceptional but not bad either
* Shiva had a strawberry cake and Patrick and I had the tres leches --- all were only okay desserts --- too sweet and not cakey enough
* Mojitos: Way too sweet, not enough lime or mint

We had breakfast at the Aminca Restaurant in Ocean Park. Fried eggs with cheese and ham, toast, and fried potatoes was about $4 each.

Lunch was at Cafe Berlin in Old San Juan. This restaurant has excellent vegetarian options and was a great choice:

* Patrick had a very good tuna salad with french fries.
* I had an excellent tofu burger. The tofu was marinated in a lemon herb dressing, and it was accompanied with amarillos.
* Shiva had a vegetarian Texas burger, a homemade veggie burger.

We had dinner at Kasaltas, a 60-year old bakery with tapas and sandwiches for dinner, in Ocean Park. The seafood and vegetarian tapas were, in general, excellent and we had a great dinner. In particular, we enjoyed the tuna on toast, the roasted mushrooms, and the canneloni with spinach and mushrooms.

On the following morning, we had breakfast at Kasaltas, and I enjoyed a tortilla espanola that was authentic and just like the ones I had in Spain so long ago. The donuts were fluffy, oversized, and packed with cream. Yum!

Sleep

We stayed at the Andalucia Inn in Ocean Park. Rooms were $105/night, clean, though small. It was a two minute walk to the beach, near the bus station, and within walking distance to a number of restaurants and a Walgreens. Recommended.
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Mar 9th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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Fajardo (days 3 and 4)- http://www.feetontheglobe.com/trips/...co2008/Fajardo

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You know how, once in a rare while, you see something you just can't believe? Something that seems unreal --- or something you would see on an alien planet --- but it turns out that you're still here, on Earth, trying to figure out how this is possible. And, I'm not talking about the whims of crazy people, like the girls who go on Flava Flav's Flavor of Love . . . but something unimaginably incredible.

The bioluminescent bay is just that sort of thing. We saw the majesty of the mangrove trees in the daylight, but in the night, they created caves and arches around us, as we moved quietly through them in our kayaks. Under the mangrove trees, the waters in Fajardo glistened when ours oars moved gently through them. And our arms twinkled fluorescent blue and green when we pulled them through the waters. The luminescence of the moon was outshadowed by that in the bay because microorganisms used light to repel their predators and those survival instincts brought us beauty.

Eat

Because we wound up in Fajardo on voting day and a Monday, very few restaurants were open. Unfortunately, we ate greasy, uninteresting food: two nights of Dominos Pizza, one lunch at Burger King, and two lunches at a small seafood shack with no vegetarian options across from the bioluminescent bay.
Our only good meal was at the food stand in El Yunque rainforest, but we may have only found that so tasty because we were famished from our one-mile hike to the waterfall. Sorry, no suggestions for Fajardo.

Sleep

We stayed at the lovely Passion Fruit Bed and Breakfast, $154/night for a two bedroom suite, that we shared with my brother, Shiva. The bed and breakfast was beautiful and spacious with many public areas, including a large pool and a bar. The bar made wonderful passion fruit pina coladas and breakfast was fantastic, with oatmeal, eggs, and fruit, every morning. Recommended.
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Mar 9th, 2009, 05:27 PM
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Vieques (days 5 to 7) - http://www.feetontheglobe.com/trips/...co2008/Vieques

See

On I-85 near our house, there is an enormous billboard with a picture of a smiling shiny-faced middle-aged woman. Above her face reads, "CURED! Jesus cured my wife and will cure yours too!" I have been thinking about that billboard for a while because Patrick has been feeling lousy for months due to mononucleosis. On our third day in Vieques, I asked him, as I usually do, how he was feeling. And he said "good." For months, I have heard responses ranging from death's door to "okay," but "good" was good.

Vieques made us feel that way. In this twenty-five square mile island, turquoise oceans lapped up to pristine white sands, and fish swam within inches of the practically empty coast. The open-air bars let in afternoon breezes and time quickly passed as we plied ourselves with pina coladas and mojitos. We floated through tunnels of mangroves, watching the herons fly, and the black crabs scuttle through the trees. At night, the stars in the sky mirrored the pixie lights in the bioluminescent bay.

Vieques just feels good. So, if you are in Vieques in the future and see Patrick's face on a billboard, you'll know why.

Eat

Lunch - A small Puerto Rican restaurant in Isabel Segunda, near the Town Hall. Patrick had pork and rice with amarillos, and I had rice and bean with amarillos and a side salad. The food was good and cheap.

Bili's - Bad food at expensive prices. Patrick had undercooked fish (which is never a good thing) and my "island-style" pasta, though innovative with plaintains and mango, was fairly tasteless.

Belly Button's - Breakfast was fairly standard greasy diner food. I had eggs, sunny side up, with toast and hash bowns, and Patrick had the same with bacon. Nothing special, but not bad either.

Banana's - Lunch at Banana's was very good. Patrick had a beef burger and I had a veggie burger. Food was good and hearty at reasonable prices.

We spent the afternoon on Abe's All in One Biobay Tour. At $100 per person, it was a steal for a day and night of relaxing fun. We began by kayaking through the mangrove forests, winding up on a secluded beach accessible only by kayak. Then we snorkeled near the beach and ate a picnic lunch while the sun set, finally wrapping up our day in the gleaming bioluminescent waters. Very highly recommended --- this is a must do activity.

Tradewinds - If I told you that you must, absolutely must, go to this restaurant for breakfast, would you listen to me? Or would you need me to tell you about the blueberry pancakes, so fluffy that they barely fit in my mouth, filled with berries bursting with juice? Or the eggs benedict with creamy dripping hollandaise slightly melding into the crispy potato hash browns? Oh wait . . . can't type now . . . drooling slightly.

La Campesina - This was the best meal of the trip. The restaurant is built in a cave and sparkling white lights run around the carved tables. The food is, in a word, fantastic. Patrick had a steak with island spices and mashed plaintain tostones. I had a tofu steak encrusted with nuts and topped with a plaintain and mango salsa. The only disappointment in our dinner was dessert, a slightly too-chewy brownie.

Sleep

We stayed at Casa de Amistad for $85 per night. The guesthouse was clean with small bedrooms in a residential area, where the roosters woke us every morning with their screaming voices. The guesthouse was in the city of Isabel Segunda, the "capital" of Vieques, so there were a number of restaurants and stores. However, the best beaches were in Esperanza, on the other side of the island, so, if we go back, we would stay near Esperanza.
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Mar 11th, 2009, 06:43 AM
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What a wonderful trip report. Thanks for posting.
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Mar 13th, 2009, 08:18 AM
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Thanks mnag!
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Mar 13th, 2009, 12:36 PM
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Great trip report! If you only had time to do one bio bay would you recommend Vieques or Farjardo, thanks!
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Mar 13th, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Nice trip report!
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Mar 13th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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Very nice! Thanks!
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Mar 17th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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Thanks for all the kind comments. Patty, on the biobays, I would do the Vieques All-In-One Tour with Abe because it is a simply wonderful trip spent lazily floating through the mangroves, snorkeling, and winding up at the biobay. And, you get to swim in the Vieques biobay, which is incredibly cool --- kind of like swimming in a bright fluorescent blue pool with the lights all around you --- except that you know that you are in the middle of a bay.

BUT, if I didn't have the time to do the whole trip on Vieques, I would do the Fajardo biobay because you get to actually spend more time in the biobay. In Vieques, they drop you off at the biobay, and you just kayak out to the middle (which is a lot easier on kids or people with poor mobility). In Fajardo, you have to navigate through a long mangrove-filled channel to actually get to the biobay, and you start seeing the luminescence well before you actually get to the biobay.

We heard a lot of people say that the Vieques biobay had better luminescence, but we didn't feel like there was much of a difference between the two.
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Mar 17th, 2009, 02:33 PM
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Thanks, akila! I'd also read that the Vieques luminescence was better and was pretty convinced of doing that one. Now I'm back to being thoroughly confused!
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