“Are you guys ready for Puerto Rico?”
“Hell yeah! I’m so excited!”
“Be careful though, cause it’s really hot. It’s like 80 degrees over there.”
“Oh yeah don’t worry. In Indonesia it’s nearly 90 degrees every day.”
“…oh yeah alright.”
Puerto Rico was fun. It was really fun. Although I remember coming back from my Spring break vacation feeling like I needed a vacation from it. Vacation-ception, I suppose?
I went to Puerto Rico with four of my friends at Brown—Nomin, Tiffany and Filip—for our Spring break, which took place in late March. We flew in on Monday evening, and left on Sunday evening (we had a 13 hour layover in Philly on Monday, and only got back to Providence on Monday afternoon). It was genuinely an amazing Spring break, in terms of location, activities, length, and of course, company. 10/10 would recommend.
The day after we got to Puerto Rico, we rented a car and drove two hours south from San Juan to Guánica. We got there at around 2pm, checked in to our hotel, and then went out in search of food. We had only had an empenada each for breakfast, and hadn’t eaten anything since, so needless to say we were pretty famished.
While driving in town, we noticed something rather odd. The town was literally deserted, and none of the restaurants—except for the fast food ones—were open. Our friend Natalia, who is from Puerto Rico, later told us that restaurants were mostly only open from Thursday to Sunday, which is when most people go out for food. Am I the only one who found this strange? But anyways. We ended up getting take out at Wendy’s, which turned out to be harder than we thought, because none of the employees spoke any English! As the only person among the four of us who knew any Spanish, I tried my best to sound like I understood what the Wendy’s employee was saying but to no avail. They kept talking so fast, and my broken Spanish can only take me so far. Towards the end of our conversation, the Wendy’s employee asked me whether I wanted something with my burger, and I was like, “¿Qué?” cause I didn’t understand what she said. The Wendy’s employee tried to restate the question multiple times but I still couldn’t understand what she was saying. This went on for quite a bit until Tiffany said, “Just say whatever!” and I thought she meant I should literally just say “Whatever!” so I did, and my friends starting laughing because what Tiffany actually meant was for me to just pick something, not say “whatever.” Haha!
Guánica is known mainly for their beaches, and so that’s what we did. I don’t quite remember the name of the beach we went to, but it was pretty nice. There weren’t a lot of people there either, which made it even better.
We then had dinner in Ponce, about a half hour drive east from Guánica. It’s actually the town Natalia grew up in. We got dinner at this Asian restaurant, which, looking back on it, was weird. I was basically an Asian who goes to an American university, who was eating at an Asian restaurant while vacation-ing in Puerto Rico.
The next day, we felt very ambitious and planned on going to three different attractions in one day. I know, it was quite a stretch. We made it though! The thing is, we only had the car for 48 hours, so we wanted to maximize our opportunities. Trying to find a company that rents cars to people under 21 years old is already tough, and they make it so expensive for us underage people, so we decided that we’ll only rent for two days. We figured we could do less car-oriented activities for the rest of our time there. Moreover, we were hanging out with Natalia for the rest of our time there anyways, and she’s from Puerto Rico and has a car.
So, our three destinations for that day were: Cueva Ventana, Arecibo Observatory, and Río Camuy Cave Park. It was quite a lot of driving for me, but I really enjoyed it. We had to go through winding mountain roads, which was kind of scary at first, but I got used to it. Heck, it was actually fun driving on those roads. I don’t really drive much in Indonesia, and I’m pretty sure that my parents wouldn’t trust me driving on Puerto Rican winding roads, so I didn’t tell them I was driving in Puerto Rico until after I got back from Spring break. When I finally told my dad about it, he was really surprised. I think he was actually impressed, might I say. He was like, “Wow, your friends trust you more than I do!”
Sooo…apparently, the Arecibo Observatory is the largest single-aperture observatory in the entire world, which is pretty damn cool. I couldn’t really focus much on admiring the observatory though, since I was too preoccupied with the thought of possibly not getting to Río Camuy on time (they close their parking lots really early). And to be honest, we probably wouldn’t have visited the observatory had we not been traveling with Filip, who’s a really big NASA nerd. He was even like, “Ah, I should’ve worn my NASA shirt today!” Alright Filip, chillax. We know you’re excited.
Parque de Las Cavernas del Río Camuy
The Rio Camuy is the third-largest network of underground rivers in the world. For such a small country (or should I say US territory?), Puerto Rico has so many cool attractions!
We actually had a really funny experience while trying to navigate to Río Camuy. Tiffany and/or Filip were using Google Maps to find directions to the actual river instead of the tourist attraction. We only started noticing we were probably going the wrong way when we passed by a big entrance that said “Río Camuy”, and the roads slowly started getting smaller and into less city-like areas. In the end, we got there though!
El Yunque National Forest
No offense, but to be honest, I didn’t think El Yunque was that special. This is coming from someone who grew up in a country abundant of rainforests though. I grew up surrounded by tropical trees and fruits. Speaking of fruits, my two favorite fruits—mango and papaya—happen to be tropical fruits, which sucks considering that I now live in the US (not a tropical country in case you didn’t know). Most of the mangoes and papaya that I’ve tried in the US are pretty tasteless. Heck, most of the food here are pretty flavorless. But then again, I’m very biased. Indonesian cuisine in general uses a variety of spices, in contrast to American food. Sometimes I feel bad for my friends who didn’t grow up with the luxury of eating really sweet and delicious mangoes. I even have a mango tree in my front yard in Indonesia. I remember how some of my American friends in Costa Rica were pretty amazed at seeing a banana tree for the first time in their lives, and I was just like, “Yeah, I actually have banana trees next to my house.”
Playa Flamenco, Culebra
The next day, we took the ferry in the morning headed to Isla Culebra, an island located to the east of Puerto Rico. Speaking of islands, I just realized that I don’t actually know the name of the island of mainland Puerto Rico. I wonder if it’s just named Puerto Rico?
But anyway, Playa Flamenco was beautiful. The guy that drove us to the beach said that the sand there is “the whitest sand that you’ll ever see.” It was indeed beautiful, although coming from Indonesia, which is essentially a group of 17,000 islands, I wasn’t as awed by the white sand as some other people. But yes, it was of course very pretty. We also got there pretty early, so we were one of the first people to enjoy frolicking in the water.
That was pretty much our whole day. We spent the day hanging out on the beach, and I got really sunburnt. I wear short sleeved rash guards when I go to the beach, or swimming in general, and after such a long day under the sun, I developed very visible tan lines on my arms and thighs. I guess I just didn’t put enough sun screen!
Apparently though, being tan is a really cool thing here in the US, and when I came back from Puerto Rico, I got several compliments from friends, saying that, “Omg I’m so jealous of your tan!” In Indonesia, it’s the exact opposite! Having dark skin is not such a kool factor, and people scramble to stay in the shade.
Viejo San Juan
I thought Viejo San Juan was really pretty, with its colorful houses and whatnot. We spent the last two days exploring the city as well as the fortresses (Castillo San Felipe del Morro y Castillo San Cristóbal), and it felt really good to be walking around under the sun, as opposed to sitting in a library all day, writing papers and working on projects. We also went to a restaurant called Barrachina, which apparently is the birthplace of the piña colada! I tried one myself, but unfortunately didn’t like it so much- I’m just not that into pineapples I guess. I got a non-alcoholic one while my friends got the actual piña colada, and according to Tiffany mine was actually better than theirs though!
All in all, it was a very exciting trip. Traveling is definitely one of the things I always look forward to, and this trip has ignited my itch to travel even more. Sayonara!