Rum, Rainforests, Vanilla Cigars and Mofongo

After not traveling since returning from my last binge trip, I had an itch to scratch. I chose a last minute trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as I have not been there in over 20 years, and was able to find a killer last minute deal. It was an incredible long weekend of various great tasting rum drinks, a hike in a rainforest, smoking vanilla cigars and eating mofongo.

I found a great hotel, the AC Marriott, which is walking distance to bars, restaurants, beaches, and a short drive to La Placita de Santurce, and Old San Juan. We ventured down the street, at the recommendation of our hotel staff to a local favorite restaurant, Cayo Caribe. Excellent service, the best mojitos I have ever had, and where I tasted mofongo stuffed with seafood for the first time… I was hooked! So much so, that we went back later that night for dinner, this time trying mofongo stuffed with creole shrimp.

 

Saturday we drove to the El Yunque Tropical Rainforest. A beautiful lush canopy, sounds of singing birds and the most interesting large leaves covering much of the forest floor. The leaves can be used to create hats, which this woman was so kind to pose for a picture wearing one.

I do recommend renting a car if you are venturing out of San Juan. The rental car agencies are very fair when it comes to using their toll service. They charge $3.95 only on the days you use it, plus the cost of tolls. As for the drivers in San Juan, they can be interesting. They are not much for turn signals, or giving way, yet, they are nothing like the drivers in LA, Boston, France or Italy, so be on your guard, but if you know this going in, you will be fine. The roads in the national park are not in good condition, so take it slow, especially if you are in a car low to the ground.

I highly recommend headed to the park early to beat the crowds to the La Mina trail, waterfall and swimming hole. If you are like us, and splurged on rum drinks the night before, I suggest walking past the bridge and hoards of people, and climb down a small path to the top of the falls. Take it slow on the rocks, as they are slippery. This is a much quieter area, with fewer people and more welcome after a fun time the night before. Afterward, continue up the path chasing even more smaller waterfalls.

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Saturday night we once again took the recommendation from our hotel staff and headed to La Placita de Santruce, which is a $5 Uber ride from the hotel. It is a local hangout, where you can get Puerto Rican cigars, and walk around with beverages in hand, while listening to local bands. One of the highlights was dinner at Jose Enrique restaurant. We sat at the bar, and became fast friends with the bartenders, who wound up pouring some delicious rum and fruit drink shots. Their sangria and every dish was beyond superb!

One thing we learned about is that in early 2017, Puerto Rico fell into a debt crises. The outstanding bond debt climbed to $70 billion, with a 12.4% rate of unemployment. The debt had been increasing during a decade long recession, and is the second major financial crisis to affect the island after the Great Depression in 1935. However, you would not know it unless you read the news. San Juan, P.R. is an amazing city, filled with genuinely beautiful people, the most delicious food and drinks, gorgeous beaches, tons of history, and great hiking in their rainforest.  If you have not yet been, or have not been in a while, I highly recommend a trip. It is a quick flight from the east coast, and a bit longer from the west coast, but totally doable for a longer weekend, if you focus on a few things to do and see. I will definitely be going again to help boost their economy.

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