Category Archives: Sea

8 Tips For Traveling to Rincon/West Coast Puerto Rico -Post Maria


Posted by Cassie

Most travel guides to Puerto Rico focus on the immediate San Juan area. And for good reason. San Juan is huge and has a lot to offer from the Morro in Old San Juan to the Bacardi Rum factory and El Yunque rainforest is just down the road. However, anyone who plans to make the west coast of Puerto Rico part of their journey might need a few tips. Since we have recently been renting out our cabana to guests, more and more questions have arisen. I thought I would take the opportunity to answer some of them here.

Rincon from the airRincon peninsula from the air in a Cape Air flight

1) How should I get to Rincon?
Air tickets.  
When you check the airfare, you will almost undoubtedly find that flights to San Juan are the cheapest and most plentiful. But how are you going to get from San Juan to the west coast? There are a couple of options. You can get a rental car in San Juan and drive the distance. Or you could hire a shuttle or taxi ($$). The trip could take anywhere from an 1 1/2 to 3 hour drive plus toll roads and some gnarly traffic.

AirplaneSmall plane of Cape Air’s 

Or you could skip San Juan and just come to west coast directly. If that is your plan there are basically two options. BQN (Aguadilla airport) or MAZ Mayaguez. BQN  is about $100 more per ticket and you usually fly straight from the states in. The biggest drawback to BQN is that nearly all of the flights are horrible red eyes landing and leaving somewhere between mid-night and 3am. Our preferred arrangement and the one I always recommend is Cape Air that lands and leaves from the tiny airport in Mayaguez. You will first arrive in San Juan and then take this little puddle jumper small (8 seater) plane to Mayaguez. Not only is it about the same price ($100 round trip) you will arrive at a reasonable time of day. And the added bonus is that you will fly low to the island and see some amazing views!

2) How do I get around in Puerto Rico?
Getting around. All of Puerto Rico is sorely lacking in public transportation, but it is even more so on the west coast. There are basically no trolleys, trains or buses at all. Sure there are taxi services and Uber has even been branching out, but anywhere outside of San Juan is euphemistically called “la isla” by locals for a reason. That means it is just much more rural and with fewer amenities than the big city. Therefore, it is HIGHLY recommended that you have some form of transportation while here. There are a lot of fabulous things to see on this island with decent distances between, so a rental car would be the best option. Walking of course is always an option, and hitch-hiking is not unheard of, but it is much more limiting. So get a rental car if at all possible!

rincon-curvy-sign

3) Will I get lost?
Directions
You may get lost when driving in Puerto Rico. There are many unmarked roads and not everything is found on the Tom Tom/Google Maps systems. Many houses have the same address as their neighbors (ours included), so you will have to go old school and often use visual landmarks as clues. Many time directions will include old things that locals will know about (the old cockfighting rink) but don’t exist anymore, especially after Maria took down some huge trees and even buildings. They will also almost always be given in Spanish unless you luck out with a bilingual person. Also keep in mind, that kilometer markers are often used to give directions. For example, Km 4.8 on the 413 is the EcoMaxx gas station.

Cassie Rincon Beach Resort
Rincon Beach Resort

Horned DorsetAt the Horned Dorset

4) Where should I stay?
Places to stay.

There are many places to stay from mid and high-end hotels like Rincon Beach Resort, Rincon of the Seas or even the elegant Horned Dorset. There are also very low-budget options including sleeping in a hammock at the beach (no, really!). Most people want something in-between and there are lots of options available on Craigslist, HomeAway, VRBO and AirBnB. I would suggest looking for one of these types of places if you want to have a local perspective and a “homey” feel. If you want a more hands off approach and a lot more amenities like room service, check out the wide variety in hotels and professional guesthouses.

Remember that power and water outages still affect all locations due to the ripple effects of Maria, aging infrastructure and lack of funds. Most of the time they are resolved in a day or so, but if this is a big concern, check with the establishment to see what kind of back up services they have (generators, water cisterns, etc).

Steps always beautiful beachSteps Beach (great snorkeling!)

5) What should I do while I am there?
Things to do.
Puerto Rico is a jewel of wonderful things to do and the west coast is brimming with them. Many people are beach connoisseurs and love the spectacular beaches of the area. There are beaches for all kinds of beach-y people as well. Beachcomber beaches (for sea glass, shells and other treasures), social beaches, private deserted beaches, white sand beaches, golden sand beaches, hidden beaches, rocky cove beaches, snorkeling beaches, surfing beaches, walking/jogging beaches, beaches near restaurants/bars/shops, etc.

GozalandiaGozalandia waterfalls, a must see on the west side!

But there is so much else to do on the west side of Puerto Rico including visiting amazing waterfalls, rivers and lakes, caves, museums, lighthouses, uninhabited tiny islands/mangroves and agrotouring coffee and other types of tropical farms. You can read about some of our many adventures to various places throughout this blog. Nearly all of the sites in Puerto Rico are back up and running after the hurricane.

Hatillo Mask Festival Parade in Puerto RicoFestival de las mascaras in Hatillo

Weekly/ seasonal events.
In Rincon there are two main weekly events: Art Walk every Thursday night from about 6-10 (then the party extends to the local bars afterward) in the plaza and the Sunday Farmer’s Market also in the plaza. Seasonally there are many festivals including the Festival de los Bueyes in Rincon in December as well as the Fiestas Patronales in September normally held in the Plaza Amistad. There are many other festivals all around celebrating various things like the bees in Lares, the Chinas (oranges) in Las Marias, the coffee in Maricao, the pineapple in La Parguera and many others. Ask around if there is a festival going on while you’re visiting.

Pepes Pizza StellaPepe’s Pizza in Stella is waterfront and only $1.50 for a slice of pizza or a cold beer

6) What’s there to eat? Where should I eat?
Where/what to eat.
There are so many great places to eat in Puerto Rico, especially in Rincon. I personally love eating at places that have some sort of ambiance/view and this would be extra special when just visiting for a short time. Some of my favorites include Casa Islena, Tamboo, Calypso, Pepe’s Pizza in Stella, Harbor, Villa Cofresi, Picoteo (Anasco), Olajas (Aguada). Drive up into the steep hills and you can have a meal overlooking the entire peninsula such as at the English Rose.  A good money-saving technique is to eat/get some of your food at the grocery store as well. It’s kind of fun to visit grocery stores of different parts of the world too.

pasteles

While you’re in Puerto Rico, to get a taste of authentic Puerto Rican food you should definitely try locations that offer “Comida Criolla”. This simply means traditional cuisine. Try mofongo relleno de camarones, empanadillas, pasteles, arroz con gandules o habichuelas, cuajito, pinchos also try  limbers (like an icee) and Malta (a non-alcoholic drink). For alcohol, chichaito is a favorite shot (anise flavored rum), rum is the favorite liquor, and Medalla is the beer of Puerto Rico. Pitorro (ron de cana) (moonshine) is also much beloved a favorite and everyone will have a way to make it/get it

BarLittle bars like this are found all over the island

Where to drink.
Let’s face it, travelling to the tropics is often better with a cold drink in your hand. Puerto Rico is well-known for the little hole-in-the-wall bars called chinchorros or barritas. You will often find a pool table, a jukebox (bellonera) and sometimes even live music. You will nearly always find cold beer and basic tragos but probably not a full bar to make you a mojito or pina colada. For those, you’ll need to go to a larger restaurant/bar. Also, drinking straight from your cooler (neverita) is a welcome passtime at the beach or just in the parking lot. Just don’t get caught bringing in an outside drink from your car into a bar; finish it before you enter. 

Postcard palm trees

7) How do I prepare for Puerto Rico?
Mindset.
This is probably the most important thing when preparing for Puerto Rico! Traveling in general takes an adventurous mindset. This includes traveling to Puerto Rico. There are very few all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Rico, and for me, that was part of the appeal. You can really start to feel a part of the culture and the vibe of the island right away when you aren’t sequestered away behind a concierge desk, security guards and all your meals and drinks at a hotel.  Puerto Rico has a pretty laid-back mindset and that means that, especially when traveling for the first couple of times, you should just go with the flow and keep your mind open and interested in the differences instead of judgmental. Out in the west coast on “la isla” (the countryside) there is an even more distinct feel than San Juan.

That is why traveling is so important and fun! You get to see how diverse the planet and the people who inhabit it really is! Be ready for things that will be uncomfortable and even a little scary. There are bugs including cockroaches and spiders, loud noises especially speaker trucks and reggaeton music, people speaking quickly and slurredly in Spanish, power and water outages and foods you may not enjoy at first. Go with it! Laugh at the absurdity of the situation and take a look at yourself. You will not only learn something from this place, but also about you and how you handle stress. I think the best advice I ever received was that before you make a commitment to be with another person (like getting married), travel with them first. You will get to see their true essence.

UV-Scale

8) What’s the weather like?
Weather.

Well, this is a tropical island! The weather is almost always nice and sunny. You certainly won’t need a winter coat, though a jacket might be good in some ultra air conditioned places. When outside please wear sunscreen or stay in the shade. I have seen so many tourists come here and become red lobsters after their first day of sun bathing. The UV index is often in the 9-11 range midday which means YOU WILL BURN! Be careful.

There are “seasons” of dry and rain, and there are even microclimates on the island from the dryland forest of Guanica near Cabo Rojo to the rainier areas in the mountains to the in-between of the Rincon peninsula. Make sure that you have some back-up plans in case of aguaceros (downpours) like maybe seeing a movie or going to a museum. And of course, there are occasionally hurricanes and tropical storms. Prices generally go down during the hurricane season/summer months but just keep this in mind.

Beach

Well, that’s a lot of information in just a few tips, and there is always more. I hope it helps! Feel free to ask questions to make this guide even more useful! Bienvenidos a Puerto Rico, enjoy your time!

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The Landing is No More


Posted by Cassie

An iconic location in Rincon is no more. The Landing used to be a happening bar/restaurant in its heyday but since we’ve lived here it has been nothing but an abandoned property in Puntas with lots of graffiti and broken glass. It had been listed for sale in the $2 million range for quite a while and someone apparently finally bought it. It is bittersweet because it really was an eyesore, but at the same time, something of nostalgia for the community. From what we gather, a private single residence will be built in its place. Goodbye to the Landing.

LandingThe Landing from the back

The Landing
Inside of the Landing

Landing
Everyone could see the great potential of this ocean front acreage!

Cassie landing
Some cool graffiti art

Landing drive
The Landing before from the top of the hill

No Landing
The Landing after (this week) being demolished (and MANY trees removed, WOW!)

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Puerto Rico Scenes: Post Cards and Preposterousness


Posted by Cassie

Sometimes I look through my photos and think they look like postcards. Other times they make me laugh out loud at their absurdity. Such is life in Puerto Rico. Here are a few glimpses.

Tropical paradise
Palms and waves

Restart Puerto Rico
Beer and a slice of pizza at Pepe’s in Stella 

Coqui flower
This coqui and a friend hitchhiked a ride with us to the farmer’s market one Sunday morning

Wave
We had a swell swell the other day

Clown
You never know who might be clowning around

Fila Larga Line
Sometimes the lines (filas) here are insane, but somehow most people are completely ok with them

Cassie in a tree
Beachy days plus tree climbing = Happy Cassie

Drink specials at the gas station
No, Puerto Rico doesn’t have a drinking problem or anything (cheap beer advertised at the gas station pumps)

PR scene
Hammocks are for hanging out!

Palm Scenes
Tres Palmas Reserve Majesty 

Cassie underwaterWe can do underwater photoshoots in winter even if it’s a little chilly for us! (photo credit Laura and Frankie)
Anasco church
Añasco Plaza church

Shucking
A street vendor shucking habichuelas (beans)

Salcedo
This statue celebrating a murder seemed weird to me -the drowning of Diego Salcedo

Spanglish
Spanglish is everywhere in Puerto Rico -Happy Cumpleaños

Britton and Cassie
Poolside brunch by the sea at Casa Isleña

Cassie beach
More fun at the beach

Steps always beautiful beach
Steps

Steps Beach
More steps

Cassie hammock street small
And more hammocks! :-)

Que vivan la belleza y locura de Puerto Rico!

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Our First Cruise: Curacao’s Blue Bay Beach


Posted by Cassie

C B Curacao
B and Me in Curacao

Our day in Curacao also started with no set plans. We checked out the view of the city from atop the ship and wore our swimsuits and brought our snorkels in hope of walking or taking a taxi down to a nearby beach. We are so spoiled because we have beaches all around us here in Puerto Rico, but every beach is different and we wanted to see how Curacao compared. If you go on a Caribbean vacation, it is sort of a mandate that you spend at least one day at the beach, right?!

Bridge over city
Britton with Williamstad, Curacao in the background with its futuristic looking skybridge

As we were collecting ourselves off the ship, we ran into our tablemates Tiffany and Keno and asked what their plans were for the day. They said they just wanted to go to a nice, not-too-crowded beach, just like us! So we decided to share a taxi. There was a closer man-made beach called Mambo, but the taxi driver persuaded us to go a little further to Blue Bay. As we drove along, I again remarked about how very dry everything was in Curacao and we did spot a flamingo quickly out the window.

Blue Bay golf course
Blue Bay Beach  and golf course was very well maintained and obviously watered by some outside/municipal? source

Unfortunately, we didn’t bring much money because we were anticipating staying near the ship. We quickly found out that unlike in Puerto Rico, there are private beaches in Curacao and they can charge you to use them!! It was $8 per person to access the Blue Bay Beach which was located inside a golf course resort. Thankfully, Tiffany and Keno helped us to cover the shortage we had so that we could stay and not turn around and take the taxi right back! It was a stunningly beautiful beach, but I am so thankful that in Puerto Rico there are no private beaches.

Curacao colors
The beautiful waters of Blue Bay Beach. It’s easy to see how it got its name and why curacao liquor is this shade of blue

Date palm
Date palm and playground area

Golf course
The golf course attempted to keep things lush, but it is obviously still a desert

Lizard
The lizards were a little different from what I’m used to as well. Keeping with the blue theme, this one had blue feet!

Keno and Tiff 2
With friends Keno and Tiffany at Blue Bay

We swam around and snorkeled for a bit. Where the dark blue waters touched the turquoise there were some incredible things to see that I haven’t seen while snorkeling in Puerto Rico such as the amazing purple tube coral (organ pipe coral) that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss story. The way the dark waters blended with the light also had a faint quality of oil mixing with water. As I dove deep to touch the white sands and stir up the schools of blue tang, rainbow parrot, needlenosed eels and other fish I felt as if I were swimming in an aquarium. It was so fantastically wonderful.

C snorkeling
Peeking my head up for a moment while snorkeling

Britton swimming
Britton relaxing in the warm Caribbean waters

When we went back to meet up with Keno and Tiffany we asked how their snorkeling was going. They said it was fun, but they hadn’t seen anything really. I said they needed to go over by the piers and the little huts where the waters turned dark. Tiffany had a fear of deep water, but I told her there was nothing to worry about. You won’t sink! She worked through her fear and after a good long time, she slid from the pier into the water and was so excited to see some of what I had seen, though she didn’t go out as far or as deep.

Cassie and Tiffany
Talking her into it!


Showing her how simply it’s done

I scrambled up and down the rocks near the pier for a while until a Dutchman warned me of stonefish! I snorkeled with him for some time and he showed me three of them in a small vicinity. They are very good at camouflaging to their environment and I could have easy grabbed one or stepped on one had they been hiding out on the rocks.  These are fish you don’t want to encounter physically, or our stay in Curacao could have included a trip to the hospital!

Keno and blue waters
Snorkeling with Tiffany on the dark and light side of the water while Keno watched and snapped photos

C Happy Cassie
Hanging out under the palm frond palapa huts

Cassie on pier
While the water was gorgeous, the raw landscape was harsh and dry!

Cassie under
Checking out the little restaurant area

Something else we learned was that topless swimming was completely allowed. To our American eyes this started out as a little shocking, but slowly became normal as mothers and daughters walked and lazed around just as the men without anything on top!

Through the window
Through the looking glass of a gorgeous view

It was a wonderful day, but we came back sunburnt, salty and hungry! There also wasn’t time to explore much else in Curacao before heading back onboard. I am sure that the rest of Curacao is very different from this resort, but it was just the perfectly picturesque vision many people have of a Caribbean vacation and I was ok with that too.

Beach
A postcard perfect day

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