August 2012, Puerto Rico

We visited Puerto Rico in mid-August of 2012.  The trip was taken to celebrate our 25th anniversary, allow us to survey PR for retirement potential and have fun at a beach.  The trip started with a US Airways red-eye set of flights that had us leaving Denver at 1:00 AM, changing planes in Charlotte at around sunrise and getting into San Juan, PR at around 11:00 AM.  We had scheduled the San Juan Doubletree hotel for that first night (Sunday).  The only "bad" part of the trip was finding our way from the airport to the hotel.  What should have been a 10 or 15 minute drive took us about 1 1/2 hours.  We could not get our GPS to locate the hotel's name or address so we were stuck with following the hotel's directions - which did not work well. Anyway once we finally found it, the Doubletree was very nice.  Nice place and convenient to Old San Juan which was our goal for our first day in PR (Sunday).  Instead of driving and having to deal with parking we simply took a taxi back and forth to Old San Juan.  Very cool place.  Two awesome old Spanish forts - one at each end of the old city with neat shops, restaurants, hotels and old gov buildings in between.  A lot of Spanish history here.  We visited the older fort, El Morro.  This is the older of the two and was built to defend the city from the sea - which it had to do many times over 400 years or so.  The fort was very impressive with its massive walls and little guard houses.  We left visiting the other fort, which was built to protect the city from land attack, for our next trip to PR - it also looked very impressive.  Anyway, we did a little shopping and had a great Puerto Rican dinner in the old city.  Tried mofongo with shrimp which was very tasty.  

The next morning we headed to the east end of the island and visited El Yunque National Forest (part of the U S's national park system).  We checked out the viewing tower and took a nice hike to La Mina Falls and swimming hole.  This was cool.  It is a tropical rain forest with similarities to those in Costa Rica but with many more palms of various types.   But, without the monkeys.  After leaving the national forest we continued east as far as Fajardo and then turned around and headed west.  There are toll highways as well as free ones on PR and we used a few of both to get to the NW corner of the island where the Villas are.  Having a toll transponder in the rental car worked very well since we zipped right through the toll stations.  Our TomTom GPS worked just fine getting us from town to town and later back to the airport - it just had problems with street addresses.  People in PR drive either really slow (commonly in the fast lane) or aggressively.  But, my driving style fit in pretty well with the later and we made good time driving back to and through San Juan and then along the mountains to to our beach villa NW of Isabela.  

We stayed 5 nights at the Villa Tropical on Shacks Beach.  This was a great place to stay and it met its top in the island TripAdvisor rating (here).  We stayed in the M4 Villa which gave us the whole third floor of a beach front building.  It had a nice balcony overlooking the beach, full kitchen, living room, etc.  Shacks Beach is known for surfing, snorkeling and diving.  Coral reefs are all over off shore which was great for snorkeling.  There was a good swimming area at the villas but had to be careful crossing reefs barefoot in other areas due to sea urchins.  The water was exceptionally clear and colorful coral and fish were everywhere.  The "blue hole", a sink hole not far off the beach, was great to check out.  Wednesday we took a side trip down the east coast to Mayaquez and visited a nice zoo.  On the way back to Isabela we drove along the coast through Rincon, went up into a mountainous area and then dropped back down into the Isabela area.  We enjoyed very nice dinners at restaurants in the general area of the Villas but had our breakfasts and lunches in the villa.  Our trip back to the airport was pretty non-eventful.  Just hated to have to leave the island.

Trip Images - Click on them to see larger versions

Old San Juan







El Yunque National Forest



Villa Tropical
A Few More Misc Images

Back to Family Adventures Page