Monday, June 6, 2016

Puerto Rico Travel Diary

Hey y'all!

I am so sorry that I have been a little MIA you may have known (and definitely would have if you follow my blog insta @klassicallykenzie *shameless plug*) I recently got back from being in Puerto Rico for about 8 days! I had a blast, and it was probably the greatest trip I have been on ever. I wanted to share with y'all a little bit about my travels and what I did there.

Where we stayed.

I went with my family, so we rented a three-bedroom, two-bath condo in a town called Luquillo. It was right on the beach, and really nice and well-kept. We were super close (less than 5 minute drive) from Luquillo Beach, which is one of Puerto Rico's most spectacular beaches. However, our favorite spot was right below our condo; the water was choppier, but there was never more than ten people as far we could see! The area we stayed in was about 45 minutes from San Juan, the largest city and where we flew into. However, Luquillo is not a touristy area, and was a little more off the beaten path which is typically what my family likes to do.

While where we were at was extremely nice and pretty, we learned that the town of Luquillo is facing some economic struggles. However, we were satisfied with the handful of restrauants, shops, things to do, etc. There were the necessities nearby (grocery stores, Walgreens, etc.)

What we did.

Day 1: We drove to the airport where we flew out of (Kansas City) and stayed the night there. We saved a ton of money flying from here instead of from Wichita.

Day 2: Today we traveled in to San Juan. We connected in Chicago, and the flight was a little over five hours. This was the worst part of the whole trip -- we had to travel around some storms so it took longer than we expected. Then it was a bit of a drive to our condo. However, once we saw our condo and the beach, all was well! We hung out on the beach and got settled into our condo.

Day 3: Today we had a beach day. We were bummed because it was pretty cloudy and overcast...but we still got major sunburns! It would be raining and I would still get a tan, so I was fine with the weather after I realized that. It was the end of the rainy season and the beginning of hurricane season, so there was some rain, but it didn't really stop us.

Day 4: Today we drove into San Juan and shopped at one of the biggest malls I had ever been in. It was great shopping, and I found a few really great items! The sales tax was 11.5% which was crazy, but it didn't stop me from shopping ;) However, one thing we quickly learned was that Google Maps does not really work here. The roads were very irregular it seemed, and we were always getting lost when we tried to use the Maps app. This day, my brothers and dad also went iguana hunting instead of shopping.

Day 5: Today our plan had been to try the natural water slides that are about 10 minutes from Luquillo. The natural flow of water down the mountains had created "slides" that you could go down into pools of water. However, a local told us that it was not a good time to be doing that, and advised us against it because it was very dangerous. So instea,d we went to Luquillo Beach; we swam, built sandcastles, and explored the shops and restaurants in the Kiosks there. The Kiosks were basically like a cross between an outdoor strip mall and a boardwalk. We found a really great smoothie stand and went there again later in the trip! There was a really adorable jewelry store in the kiosks as well.

Day 6: Today we hiked a trail in the El Yunque Rain Forest. The forest is run by the US National Parks Service, so it is well run and well kept. It poured rain the whole hike down, and some of the waterfalls were rushing over the trail. It was pretty intense, honestly! But really fun regardless. The trail we hiked was 7 miles round trip and we hiked to El Yunque peak. Since it was raining, we couldn't see the view because it was covered in clouds, but when its nice out, the view is stunning!

Day 7: Today we went horseback riding on the beach first! We went through Catch a Dream Stables, which is located 20 minutes or so from our condo. The guide was so wonderful, and we rode through the edge of the rain forest and on the beach as well. The stable rescues all of the horses and gives them a new and better home, which was really great to hear. After that, we drove to Fajardo Beach, which was probably 30 minutes from our condo. This beach is also very well known in Puerto Rico. The sand was a bit rockier and the water even clearer, and also very calm. It was a public beach so it was a bit more crowded and had a smaller beach area, but we were able to do some casual snorkeling along a coral reef and saw some cool fish!

Day 8: Today was the most exciting day of the whole trip. First, we went zip lining through the rain forest, which was incredible. It was so much fun and I highly recommend doing that! There were eight zip lines that we went down, and the longest one was close to a half mile long. After that, we went back to Fajardo and had a snorkeling boat tour. We stopped on some nearby islands (one being Vieques Island in the Caribbean) that are very remote and have the some of the most famous beaches in the world! The sand was white, and the water was the prettiest light teal-blue color. We swam, walked along the beaches, paddle boarded, and snorkeled along an abandoned pier. We saw some amazing fish as well as sea turtles!

Day 9: Our last official day in Puerto Rico -- we spent it packing up, eating at a local coffeeshop/bakery, and then driving into Old San Juan. We toured the fort that once surrounded and protected the city, did a bit more shopping, found some local restaurants and coffee shops and admired the architecture. It was definitely more of a touristy area, but wonderful nonetheless! We then boarded our plane to head home, only to get stuck in Houston for the night, but we were able to make it home the next morning.

Where we ate.

My absolute favorite meal I ate while in Puerto Rico was at a pizza shop in the kiosks on Luquillio Beach. Called Revolution Pizza, the owners were originally from New York, so the pizza was to die for. I had one that had pesto, garlic, mozzarella, and fresh tomatoes. I would highly recommend it!

One fun place we went was called El Rincon Del Sabor. The restaurant was in Luquillo. The waiters are a father/son duo, and the cook is the wife. It was really great service, and I had grilled chicken and some sweet potato fries that were to die for. It was pricier, but the owner makes sure that you have a wonderful experience!

We loved the smoothie stand at the Kiosks on Luquillo beach as well! You could pick up to five fruits to put in your drink, and with only fruit and ice, they weren't bad for you at all! My favorite combo was pineapple, guava, strawberry, and mango.

Right next door to our condo was a place called Boardriders. They had amazing food -- I had a salad that had dried cranberries, feta cheese, chicken, fresh veggies and a vinaigrette dressing that was amazing! However, with our big family, it took them literally two hours to get us our food so we weren't thrilled with that. Another night, we ordered it to go and it didn't take near as long.

One thing we found was that breakfast food and bakeries were really popular and really really affordable. We would stop at random bakeries in different towns and get a ton of baked goods for really cheap. One favorite in Luquillo was Aromas Coffee and Crepes!

Overall, it was such an amazing trip! I could easily get use to the beach was so wonderful. I have been a little slacking on the daily posts, but this week begins the daily ones again so be on the look out :)

"We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne." Hebrews 12:2

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