We landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico at about 5 am after a 5-hour layover in MCO International. The night air was warm, clean and refreshing. We hopped in a taxi and headed to our hotel to sleep off the previous day’s travel and prepare for the next. The first thing on our agenda was a tour and rum tasting at the Bacardi factory. We gulped down our delicious complimentary cocktails as we awaited our shuttle to the main manufacturing building. Once there, we were told the tale of the birth of Bacardi rum and given insight into the process from sugar cane to bottling, topped off with a sampling of Bacardi’s most popular batches.
The next day we headed off on a wilder adventure, hiking to El Yunque’s famed waterfall. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US’ National Park System. Tropical Storm Erika had just past through about a week prior to our arrival so the rainforest was lush and the rivers were almost overflowing. The hike was completely downhill thanks to the foresight of our tour driver who drove us to a trail above the waterfall and then drove back downhill to pick us up at the other end. Bug bracelets helped keep mosquitos and other critters at bay as we traversed the naturally worn path to the waterfall. The waterfall’s surrounding pool was filled with locals taking in the fresh crisp water. We spent about an hour and a half wading in the pool, swimming through the water as it cascaded down from above.
Feeling a bit sore from the previous day’s hike, we decided to spend the day relaxing. We lounged on Isla Verde beach, taking in the sun’s rays, drinking deliciously potent drinks from coconuts, made by a Brazilian expat, and had lunch in a beachside restaurant. For dinner we went into Old San Juan to a beautiful restaurant called Raíces and had a local favourite, chuletas de can can (gigantic pork chops) with mofongo (mashed plantains).
We ended the night by heading to La Placita, a block of restaurants and bars that comes alive on Thursday and Friday nights. The streets are cordoned off from cars so the party can spill out into them creating a unique experience where tourists and locals mix with celebrities for a grand fiesta that lasts well into the next morning. In fact, we stayed so late that we only had time to go back to the hotel for a quick shower and our bags before heading to the airport