Welcome to Puerto Rico, an island defined by its miles of sandy beaches, mountains and valleys, and other wonders of nature. Although the scenery on this tropical island is absolutely beautiful, its colorful culture is what most reached out and grabbed me and will compel me to return.
The people of Puerto Rico are extremely warm and friendly; their way of life full of energy. And don't even get me started on the food...I've never known a simple dish of chicken, rice and beans to taste so incredible.
Early in my visit I explored El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. The large amount of rainfall this area experiences contributes to its lush foliage and flora, waterfalls, and rivers that can be seen from a number of trails.
My family and I began our hike climbing about 100 steps to the top of the Yokahu Observation Tower for a stunning 360-degree view of El Yunque's canopy.
After descending the tower, we traversed through endless greenery in search of La Mina Falls . The hike itself took no longer than an hour and was relatively easy terrain to navigate. The instant I saw La Mina Falls I untied my Doc Martens, shed my shirt and pants, and joined the dozens of other hikers in the water. It was cold...ice cold. Once my upper body was submerged I lost my breath, but in an exhilarating rather than frightening way as I swam in the water beneath the falls.
From our home base in Dorado, we also took an excursion to Old San Juan, which is accessible by ferry from Dorado. The city is definitely tailored to tourists and there were at least two cruise lines docked along shore. Once in Old San Juan, the appeal is obvious. Originally, Old San Juan was eradicated as a military stronghold; however, today it is a charming 7-square block residential area with a commercial district. There are many restoration projects underway to maintain the island's architectural history. Getting lost in the winding cobblestone streets of Old San Juan is a good kind of problem to have when the roads are lined by vibrant pastel-colored buildings with ornate balconies.
Strolling through the streets led us to Castillo de San Cristobal. In 1783, the fort rose 150 feet and covered 27 acres of land, essentially wrapping around the city of San Juan...a strategic masterpiece. It was literally and figuratively a great capstone to our visit.
As many of us have experienced in our travels, it felt like there simply wasn’t enough time to see, explore and absorb as much of Puerto Rico as I had hoped. Of course, the big question is: how much time would be enough? How many moments captured through my eyes and through my lens would adequately tell the story of the place and the people, much less satisfy my own curiosity? With so much history and culture and natural wonder, it might take me several more visits to the island to answer those questions.