If there weren’t pictures of me in Puerto Rico 14 years ago, I would never believe that I lived there for 4 years. My parents moved there in 1990 and opened up a Chinese take out restaurant (I know it’s such a cliché). Right before moving back to New York City, I actually went to kindergarten in PR for half a year and knew more Spanish than English at that point in my life. 14 years later… 2018… my fiancé at the time (married now) asked if I wanted to go to Puerto Rico. I was excited since I have no memories of being there.
There were a few things we planned to see/do during this trip:
- Snorkel with fishes and turtles at Tamarindo Beach in Culebra – The ferry ticket window opened at 6:30 AM so we decided to get there at 5:30 AM (straight from the airport). However, there was a line by the time we got there and found out there were no more tickets to Culebra for that day. We decided to go to Vieques. We ended up at Playa Caracas which has the turquoise water with white sand but snorkeling in Culebra remains on our list.
- Bioluminescence Kayak Tour – Bioluminescence happens because of a chemical reaction that produces light energy within an organism’s body. There are three different bays in Puerto Rico that you can witness this phenomenal experience. We chose Laguna Grande due to location but there’s also Mosquito Bay and La Parguera. Our tour started at 8 PM and each kayak follows one another in single file through the red mangrove channel in the dark until you reach Laguna Grande. It truly was an unforgettable experience to see the water light up with every stroke of the paddle and splash of my hand.
- Cueva Ventana – We joined a guided tour that leads us through the cave and ends at the opening overlooking the Río Grande de Arecibo valley.
- Angelito Trail – A trip to Puerto Rico is incomplete without going to El Yunque National Park. This is an easy trail that leads to a clear creek with lots of fishes. It’s a popular swimming spot.
- Barcadi Factory tour – I love rum so this was a must for me. For $15 + tax, you get a cocktail drink, a souvenir cup plus a guided tour of the factory.
As much we did in a couple of days, we also ate every chance we got. Here’s what you have to eat/drink when you’re in PR:
- Arepas is normally a Venezuelan/Colombian dish. After going to Venezuela, I tried a few NYC restaurants that make arepas. Los Chamos Arepas is the first place that makes them comparable to the ones I had there. We went for a pre-dinner snack and the parking lot was full of locals. That’s when you know you hit jackpot.
- Mofongos is a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantain. We tried to go to Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant for dinner but they said we would have to wait 1 hour and a half so we decided to come back during lunch. We were the first table to be seated for lunch and I was so happy we ended up going back. This was my favorite dish of the whole trip. That sauce was incredible. My picture doesn’t do it justice.
- Piña Colada is a drink made with coconut, pineapple, and rum. I grew up loving this drink and it all makes sense now. This drink originated from Puerto Rico so I must had a lot of non-alcoholic Piña Colada when I was living there as a kid. Barrachina states that they invented the drink in 1963 so we had to try theirs. Overall, I love all the Piña Colada I had during this trip.
- Empanada is a fried turnover with filling inside. We probably had empanada everywhere we went.
- Mojitos are normally made with white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint. We had a couple of these at different places. My husband’s favorite mojito was at Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant.
- Book your ticket to Culebra online in advance at PorFerry.
- Definitely rent a car if you plan to do day trips to El Yunque National Forest and one of the islands
- If you plan to do the same Bioluminescence tour, do the 6 PM one so you can see the red mangrove channel when you’re kayaking towards the Laguna Grande instead of kayaking in the dark there and back.
- Go to Punto de Vista Rooftop Restaurant when it opens for lunch to avoid the long wait for dinner
Overall, I can’t believe I lived in such a beautiful place with amazing food for four years when I was a kid. With the non-stop flight (JFK to SJU) being 3 hours and 50 minutes, I can definitely see myself coming back for a long weekend.