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Karthik Raja | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> Puerto Rico, The All Star Island - 2014 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Puerto Rico, The All Star Island - 2014

Dates: August 30, 2014 - September 4, 2014
Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico during his second voyage on November 19, 1493 and named the island San Juan Bautista, in honor of the Catholic saint, John the Baptist. In 1508, Juan Ponce de Leon founded the first Spanish settlement and then later continued to serve as its Governor. For the explorers and the colonists of the New World who came from the east, Puerto Rico was an obligatory stopping-place in the Caribbean. Through the years Spain fought off invaders to Puerto Rico, long considered a strategic entry point to the Caribbean region, and finally ceded ownership to the US at the end of the 19th century. The Spanish colonization, the forts and castles built to protect it, the European influence, the natural beauty of the mountains covered in rainforests, the natural location bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea in the south and the protection and facilities offered by the US all make Puerto Rico one of the most interesting places to visit.

Day 1: We landed in Luis Munoz Marin airport, the international airport in San Juan. Luis Muñoz was the first popularly elected governor of Puerto Rico. We rented a car and drove to the Wyndham Rio Mar Resort and Spa, 45 minutes to the east in the Rio Grande area. The hotel offered everything we needed; 20 minutes from the ferry port in Fajardo, 10 minutes from the El Yunque National Forest, an entrance right on to the beach, daily iguana feedings and a pool just for babies and toddlers. Perfect! We unpacked and spent the evening strolling on the beach followed by dinner at Shimas, the resort Asian and Latin fusion restaurant.

Day 2: El Yunque National Forest was only 10 minutes from the resort. The road exiting from the hotel turns into PR 191 and leads in to the heart of the forest. The forest is the only rainforest in the US park system. The forest is filled with waterfalls and streams and offers people of all ages, plenty of ways to explore. Driving through the forest by car is the easiest, making all the recommended stops while combining it with hikes further into the forest only enhances the experience. Pack swimming clothes as there is water everywhere. Being a rainforest, it is only natural that it would rain, but rain is usually just passing clouds and didn't bother us enough to make us drive away. Plan for an entire day, as the hikes are lush and challenging and once you get your feet wet in the streams, the waterfalls are just a dip away. Once in, it isn't easy to come out. We returned after sunset but still found enough time to go for a late evening swim. Dinner was at the hotel lobby bar.

Day 3: Following the instructions of the hotel concierge, we packed breakfast and left early for the ferry station in Fajardo. However, the definition of early is relative, and arriving an hour before the ferry wasn't enough to secure us seats. The morning ferry to Culebra was all sold out. Disappointed, we returned but true to the adage of the silver lining, a day spent on the beach and pool, sipping Puerto Rican rum was exactly what we needed to unplug from everything, including our phones and Facebook.

Day 4: Determined to find our way to Playa Flamenco, in Culebra, we reached the ferry station even earlier. This time, we made it, and after an hour journey on the ocean, we reached the island of Culebra. Since we had no intention of staying the night, we took a $5 ride to Flamenco beach instead of the preferred jeep rental. Playa Flamenco is paradise. White sand, blue waters, green hills, more sea gulls than people, more fish than sea gulls, and corals to hide them, this has to be one of the best beaches in the world. All this solitude comes
Old (Viejo) San Juan
[ Old (Viejo) San Juan ]
Culebra, Rio Grande, Fajardo
[ Culebra, Rio Grande, Fajardo ]
El Yunque National Forest
[ El Yunque National Forest ]