It’s been so long since I ran a travel piece on the blog that I’m getting withdrawal symptons, so I’m delighted to welcome my dear friend, Nora Vasconcelos to the blog today. Nora is a journalist in her home country of Mexico, and runs the hugely popular ‘The Travelling Book Club’s Blog‘ – a haven for travel junkies like me. If you have a passion for travel, I’d certainly recommend you taking a look. Nora has written a wonderful post about her recent travels to Puerto Rico to share with us today. Enjoy.
It took some years for me to get the chance to go to Puerto Rico, and when I finally made the arrangements, one thing kept coming to my mind, “may be it is a bit too far for a short trip”. This is because I was travelling from Mexico City to the island with a connection in Panama.
Although none of this is complicated, it adds some certain amount of tiredness to the trip, particularly when it’s just for a few days. Anyway, I was determined, and I booked it. In the end, I thought that it would be pretty much the same time I spent commuting around the city some days here in the Mexican capital. Some really long long days.
So, I went.
When the plane was approaching the airport, I saw Puerto Rico right there, laying exactly were the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea intersect.
Puerto Rico is an archipelago, and its main island contains some of the most amazing landscapes any traveller can see.
Still looking at it from the plane, the scenery changed from strong green to light white and grey conformed mainly for the buildings and houses that make up San Juan, the capital, which is a very unique city.
As soon as I left the airport, I felt the intense heat that is characteristic of this tropical place. Then I learned that the city has four main areas: the New San Juan where modern buildings can be seen; the metropolitan area where some nice older buildings are; the Condado area, where tourist go to relax on the beach, and the Old San Juan, a place to fall in love with narrow cobbled streets that go up and down, full of Spanish colonial architecture displayed in the form of colorful buildings with terraces decorated with plants and flowers.
This said, I realised very soon, that I was in the right place for a perfect holiday!
The Condado area is nice and quiet with tourists looking forward to spending a nice day on the beach where sandy beaches are very well accompanied by a clean blue warm sea that embraces swimmers who spend there a long time just relaxing.
In the same area typical restaurants feature many of the main specialties of Puerto Rico that often include spices, vegetables, fruits and fish or meat.
From there travelling to the Old San Juan takes around 15 to 20 minutes by public bus. The last stop is the Bus Terminal, from where two tours around the Old San Juan start. One, on an open trolley, goes all around the old city taking people to the Castles, which are the connecting points of the long wall that surrounds the town. From there the views show the Atlantic sea in all its magnificence.
It also shows the very long history that this island has, as it’s the second oldest city in the Caribbean and the American Continent, established by Europeans in 1521. The first one was Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic.
The other bus tour goes around the inner old city, taking its time to climb and descend the streets which are often crowded with cars and people.
Both of them are hop on and hop off tours. So this is the best way to get to know the place for the first time.
After that, walking and wandering around becomes a real pleasure.
The lively ambience comes from local people who offer visitors their products from the stores that sell a bit of everything from the famous island-made flavoured rum to delicious coconut and fruit candy and hand-made wooden replicas of these famous colourful facades.
There are also many stores full of souvenirs that are ready to welcome all those tourists who come from the cruise ships to visit the city just for a few hours and don’t have much time to shop around.
For the visitors who can take some more days to explore the town, open areas with benches and trees offer a nice refuge from the intense heat. When it’s a little fresher, the many cafes placed all around the old city make it difficult to decide what coffee shop to enter first and even more difficult, when to leave!
Then, when the day ends and it’s time to come back to the hotel, it’s wonderful to realise that everything is still perfect for you to take one more swim in the sea!
For people who want to explore a little bit more of the island, some tours go to the east part of it where the rainforest is located, and some other tours go to the south west where the beautiful Caribbean beaches are as well as beautiful Ponce, the second biggest city in the island.
So, after a few days in this heavenly place it was time for me to come back, which I did with a certain feeling that I could’ve been used some more days there, but totally happy about my decision of travelling there and amazingly relaxed, as if it had been a longer vacation.
Sounds like the perfect holiday destination. Thanks so much for your lovely post, Nora. That’s another addition for my bucket list!