The last time we were in Puerto Rico was 10 years ago and, though we did get to see some parts of the island (one of the most magical including the bioluminescent bay “Mosquito Bay” in Vieques! There are only 5 in the world, 3 of those are in Puerto Rico; Vieques is the most protected–and therefore, brightest–one in the world. Hurricane Maria caused a lot of destruction on the island as we know and it disrupted the delicate balance of the bay and the beloved Mosquito Bay went dark. But, to everyone’s surprise, the bio bay not only recovered, but they say it is brighter than it ever was in the past.) thanks to my sister and brother-in-law and their rental car, we spent most of the time at our resort. This time around, we had our own rental car and a few things we wanted to do in our free time that we hadn’t seen or done last time. We flew in on Thursday, arriving in the late afternoon. With an engagement session Friday afternoon, the wedding on Sunday, and a day after session on Monday afternoon, we planned out our pockets of free time to include what we missed before, starting with El Yunque bright and early on Friday.
El Yunque is the national rain forest that takes up a large chunk of land on the eastern side of Puerto Rico and it was probably a 45 minute drive from where we were staying in Ocean Park. This day of hiking and random rainstorms served a dual purpose since we were doing part of the engagement session that afternoon in the rain forest and I wanted to make sure I had specific spots scouted out beforehand. There were a few ideas I had in mind for photos based on internet research beforehand, but some areas, we found out, were still not accessible due to closed trails still under maintenance from Hurricane Maria. (Thankfully, the USDA government website was helpful with updated maps showing closed trails.) Unfortunately, one of the places I had really been looking forward to–La Mina Falls–was closed, but we found so many other really gorgeous spots that I wasn’t even sad about it.
Since we spent about six hours there prior to the session starting, we got to see so much of El Yunque! We started at Yokahu Tower and then went to Mt. Britton Trail, heading all the way up to Mt. Britton Tower. It was during this time that we got hit with our first torrential rainstorm. For a while, we tried to find shelter under some trees. With the rain blowing almost horizontally, it worked for a bit until the weather amped up and we decided to run back to a little camping shelter we had spotted earlier. We ended up staying there, waiting it out and within 15 minutes, the rain stopped, the sun came back out, and the humidity was back to 98%.
We stayed in an AirBNB in Ocean Park with an easy little walk to the beach. We were also walking distance to some delicious restaurants, notably La B de Burro (we ate there on Thursday night after getting settled in and it was hands-down the most delicious Mexican food I’ve ever eaten), Kasalta (famous for serving Barack Obama in 2011 and also, dishing up amazing quesitos, which are a Puerto Rican pastry stuffed with a cream-cheese or chocolate mixture–both equally amazing– coated in a sugary caramelized syrup and baked), and Pirilo Pizza Rustica (where we ordered a carry out pizza one evening and devoured the entire thing back at our house). Since we had a kitchen, we also loaded up on some basics at a nearby grocery store to make breakfasts and backpack lunches.