Que Bonita Bandera
When my friend Laura suggested we go somewhere for her birthday in the middle of a dreadfully long winter in New York, I couldn’t say no. With relatively cheap round trip flights from JFK to San Juan, we didn’t mind going back to Puerto Rico after having such a blast back in June.
We pretty much only had one big mission: get a loading dose of Vitamin D soaking up the sun all day at the beach – ¡que chevere!
In the past, Puerto Rico was never one of those Caribbean places I have yearned to visit. Places like Curaçao, Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, and more recently Cuba, have always been more enticing to me. However, after an immensely fun introduction to the island by an ex boyfriend years ago and an equally amazing time last year with a couple of girlfriends, I didn’t mind coming back for a third time. Sunbathing all day, swimming in the sea, and exploring the island, how can I ever refuse?
Old San Juan
I don’t know about you guys but I can never get enough of these old, colorful Spanish colonial towns all over Latin America. Old San Juan is no exception: a small section within Puerto Rico’s capital filled with narrow, steep cobblestone streets lined with colonial-style buildings painted in the most vivid colors under the Caribbean sun.
For Laura’s birthday dinner, we opted to dine al fresco at the open-air part art gallery part restaurant, Ostra Cosa, where you can pick out your own lobster from the tank, and have it grilled or boiled. ¡Que súper rico! Of course, no night should end in Old San Juan without dropping by La Factoría, a non-descript speakeasy bar at a corner, with four different rooms with different music and vibe in each.
We did end the night at another bar with several pool tables and those cute colonial-style balconies where I discovered I haven’t fully lost my impressive billiard skills from when I was a teenager.
Culebra is one of those tiny Caribbean islands I’ll never get sick of. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to make it my island; so much so that my friend and I have been looking for a small property to buy as a vacation house. Located right off the east coast of the Puerto Rican main island, I can’t help but adore its picture-perfect postcard emblem: Flamenco Beach.
You won’t find fancy big-name resorts, fast food, or restaurant chains in this island (and I truly hope it remains this way), but what you’ll discover is an authentic small-island simplicity you can’t help embrace.
Exploring the entire island by jeep or golf cart rentals, or even chartering a boat, you’ll come across different beaches for swimming, surfing, or snorkeling.
Flamenco and Zoni Beaches remain my absolute favorite for sunbathing and swimming. Think white sand, clear turquoise waters, palm trees, and never too big of a crowd to spoil the beach paradise. Since Flamenco Beach is an immensely popular beach-day destination for locals and tourists alike from the main island, it’s always best enjoyed in the early morning or late afternoon hours – before the ferry crowd arrives, and after the same crowd leaves to catch the ferry back.
Before & after headstands at Zoni Beach
I cannot believe it took me three times visiting Puerto Rico to finally make it to Rincón! Although we arrived in the early evening from a 3.5hour drive from the Fajardo Ferry Terminal, I immediately picked up a different yet exciting vibe in this place. Located on the northwest corner of the island, Rincón is best known as a great surf town filled with narrow winding roads on the famous route 413 “The Road to Happiness“.
Rincón feels a little removed from the usual Puerto Rican culture and fare we’ve encountered throughout the rest of the island. Instead, we came across the stereotypical surfer guys with their long, matted hair, food trucks up and down route 413, burgers and fries on menus, EDM and a live country music band in the bars and restaurants, and a super laid-back vibe we fully embraced.
Laura and I got the chance to go paddleboarding while Jenn watched us from the beach taking photos. Possibly the best $10 spent for more than an hour out in the water with Rincon Paddleboard!
The other best thing in Rincón: the banana bread at The Beachhouse, a restaurant perched high on Route 413 with sea and sunset views to die for. As a matter of fact, we loved their overall breakfast selection so much we went for two consecutive days.
However, the one thing that truly stood out for us in Rincon was our Airbnb stay. We couldn’t believe our luck when our host Lunesh greeted us as we pulled up in front of the house and showed us our humble abode for the weekend. It was spotlessly clean, tastefully decorated, attention to the finest detail, and a small balcony with, once again, a breathtaking sea view. An added bonus: a hammock downstairs in the courtyard! Lunesh’s place, no doubt, has been saved into my favorites as I foresee another trip to Rincòn in the near future.