San Juan Marriott. Great pool and nice beach. I saw a large dark object swimming within about 10 feet of me on the beach which scared the shit out of me!
I have to give my friend Chrissy most of the credit for the trip. She planned it and I was basically a hanger-on. I'm really glad that it worked out that I was able to go with her. She had originally made all of the arrangements to go by herself around thanksgiving but she postponed it. Luckily when she rescheduled I was able to go.
We stayed at the San Juan Marriott. Great hotel. They had a casino in the lobby area and fun bands playing there. They also have a great pool area. We didn't stay in the hotel much but instead went out into Old San Juan a lot. We'd hop on the bus and make the trip in.
Since it's been 2 years, a lot of the details have faded but I do have a number of terrific memories. One was a little bar in Old San Juan called Hijos de Borinquen (I think that's spelled right).
It was barely bigger than a closet, but they packed people in there. Chrissy and I are both well on the backside of 30 and we were surrounded by people 10 or more years younger. But everyone was so friendly that it was a blast. We had a bartender, can't remember his name, who was awesome and really friendly. He bought us so many drinks and made us feel at home. We went back there a few nights, every time dancing and packed shoulder to shoulder and sweating.
The festival of San Sebastian was going on while we were there and there were parades and people all over the place partying. The day that we left there were vendors set up selling crafts, bands playing, and all kinds of fun.
Probably my favorite part of the trip was going to Vieques.
Vieques, right in front of Bananas, where we stayed
Vieques is a small island off of PR that is absolutely gorgeous. This is the place where the US Navy used to have a bombing range before protests finally got them to stop. Vieques is not a bustling metropolis. Dirt roads and sparse houses are the norm. We stayed at Bananas, a small hotel, I guess you'd call it. Neat place. Every thing was very laid back, the people were awesome. The trip over was as much part of the excitement as getting there. They have a ferry that goes to vieques regularly and we rode that back to the mainland, but we decided to book a small flight to take us over there. We sat in a 8-10 person plane and were lucky enough to be the only ones on board. It was like our private air taxi. You know the part of the flight when the flight attendants do the safety procedures? (There are four emergency exits on this plane, one at the back of the plane, two on the sides, etc - with appropriate hand motions).
Our pilot turned around and was like "Hey I'm Dave, I'll be your pilot today. There's an emergency exit back there and your seats float. Ready to go?" We were cracking up. We got to see some great scenery on the flight over, so it wasn't like an airline flight, it was more like taking a tour. Highly recommended. I don't remember exactly how much the tickets were, but it wasn't much and it was a great experience, especially if you haven't been in a small plane before. I had been in one a few times skydiving and because my friend Shawn is a pilot and he took me up once on my birthday when he lived in Ogden. We flew over Great Salt Lake and through the mountains. Amazing. But even though I had been in a small plane it was still a terrific experience and a great memory.
Part of the room in bananas. It was small, but clean (ok, not marriott clean but really nice)
Vieques has two places that I think are a must see. One is Sun Bay. This is the beach that you see on postcards. There are palm trees growing a few feet from the water and it's absolutely beautiful. I couldn't find any pictures of it though. I'm not sure if we forgot our cameras or if we just forgot to take pictures because it was such an amazing, relaxing day. We were able to walk there from Bananas. It wasn't more than a 20-30 minute walk.
The other don't-miss is the bioluminescent bay. At dusk we piled into vans with probably 50-60 other people and drove to this bay. This bioluminescent bay is the worlds largest and brightest. We each had a kayak and we followed the guides out to the middle of the bay. There wasn't much moonlight so it was a good night to be out there.
Bananas. Would definitely recommend it. Small bar out front and a Sun Bay was a 15 minute or so walk.
This was one of those experiences that creep up on you. I started paddling out and was just looking at the people around me, up at the sky, etc. At one point I looked at my paddle going into the water and noticed that I could see the bubbles trailing behind it. This was strange given that it was dark out... Those were actually the micro-organisms that cause the bioluminescence. It wasn't overwhelming at first, sort of a pale glow that you weren't sure was there, but as we got out farther into the bay, they got brighter. It isn't a constant glow, they only light up when disturbed. So as the paddle whooshed through the water, it would glow. We all stopped in the middle of the bay and the guides said it was ok to get out of the kayaks if we wanted to.
So I spent the next few minutes moving my hands through the water and watching the trail of glow that it left behind. It was so very cool. Even at it's best it isn't overly bright and it fades quickly, but it's something that I've never seen before and really awe-inspiring.
When we got back to the main island we rented a jeep and toured the country. We went into the rainforest and hiked a little bit. This is where I saw the end of my camera. We climbed up a waterfall (see pics) just for fun. It was slippery. Very slippery. At one point Chrissy said, ok that's far enough. Of course I disagreed and wanted to go higher. I am a guy after all. So I "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing." I got up a little bit higher and realized it was a lot slicker than it had been.
A friendly stray dog.
We had taken our shoes off so that they wouldn't get wet, and I think because we thought we'd get better traction. Not so sure about that move. When I'd gotten up as high as I dared, and I might have even been coming back down, I hit a spot that was slick and flat. I stood there for a minute to catch my balance and felt my feet start to slide. Couldn't do anything about it. Soon my feet went out from under me and I was on my back, sliding towards the water. I went down into probably 2 or 3 feet of water. Fairly cold water too, thank you very much. It was enough water to soak my phone, keys, wallet and camera. Thankfully the phone was fine and nothing in the wallet was too badly damaged. Same with the keys. The camera however, died very soon after it's bath.
I posted the last picture it ever took. Needless to say I learned my lesson. Not. It was fun and it's a pretty good story. I didn't lose any pictures thankfully and it was about time to get a new camera anyway.
So that's most of what I remember about PR. I'd never really thought much about PR as a travel destination. Sure, it's in the carribean, but when I think of caribbean islands, I think the virgin islands, jamaica, the bahamas (I'm not sure if all of those are considered caribbean islands, but you get what I mean). But PR really surprised me at how beautiful it is and how much fun it is, and all of the people that we met or came into contact with were terrific. Awesome trip.