Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Was on vacation last week and I went to Puerto Rico for a week for my 40th Birthday. I had an amazing time and a couple of adventures. I left on July 5 and the plane ride was around 3 1/2 hours so not too bad they made us watch the Incredible Brent Wonderstone which really didn't start the vacation off in a great way. We landed in the airport around 3:15 and finally got our luggage about 3:45, when I went out to look for the car rental shuttle I couldn't find it. I saw buses for other car rental places but not for mine. I booked it with Orbitz and when I called the number of the place they said that I had put down we would be arriving at 3:00 and when I didn't show up they labeled it a no show and went home and I'd have to wait until tomorrow morning to call to get a car. That was unacceptable so I booked another car with Dollar, I wasn't sure if the other place was going to charge me, luckily they didn't. They have toll roads so for 2.45 a day I opted for the pre-paid toll so I wouldn't have to mess wit it but a notice stated that if you went through a toll under the R banner it would be $150 fine.

We finally got the car and headed out, all of our phone functions worked with no data roaming so I had full Internet and GPS access while I was there which was nice. I did buy a couple of different insurance plans because I heard that driving down there was crazy and my auto insurance didn't cover anything which seemed odd to me. The people of Puerto Rico do not know how to drive, even the cops, they vaguely followed the lights and signs so you almost always had to go slow and drive very defensively. Just about every car we passed had some dents or other damage so I was just waiting for them to crash into me. My dad went on a trip 2 weeks ago to Washington state and hit a deer and he got the bill yesterday for $11,000 not sure how much the insurance is going to pay but that seems very expensive.

I had us staying at 3 different hotels, for each one there were always more bad reviews than good so it made each stay seem like a gamble. The first resort was great and it had it's own mile and a half beach along with 3 different pools and restaurants. I had this placed booked for one night since it was close to the airport and I was hoping the others would at least come close to this experience. Every hotel that you stay at has a 9% fee attached to each nights stay that wasn't included on the room price so it is kind of a tourist trap.

The checkout time was 11 am and we couldn't check into the next place until 4 so we decided to kill some time around the beach and we went for about a 30 minute walk on the beach then sat under a palm tree for about an hour. We had our bags at the bellman's office so I didn't put on any sunscreen and that was a mistake. Later that night both my ankles were blood red and burnt on the insides so it was a painful rest of the trip, I did get some aloe and used that but it took until yesterday for it to quit hurting. It looked much like the last time I went on the Spring River, those pics still hurt.

We drove about 15 miles to the next hotel and this place was nicer than the first, it was on 500 acres and had over 1000 rooms, it was massive. It wasn't on the beach but it had it's own island that you took a ferry to visit. I unloaded our stuff and went to check in but they couldn't find our reservation. I was worried because I used my Best Buy Rewardzone card to make most of the reservations and they are bad(good) about suspending my card for a fraud checking. I use the card for everything and since most of my purchases are online it gets flagged often and some charges don't go through so I was worried about this one although I never got an email saying there was a problem. I had made it with travelocity and for some reason the confirmation code I had wasn't one of the hotels. We had to call travelocity and let the hotel use my phone for about 30 minutes before they fixed the issue and they upgraded our room to an ocean view for the trouble and after looking at the view it was worth it. The room did have one issue and that is frogs. They weren't inside the room but it sounded like they were, our door faced a little forest section and the frogs at night were so loud it was a little difficult to sleep.

In order to get to the island you had to take a tram down to the ocean and it was steep, it kind of felt like you were on the incline of a roller coaster, it took about a minute to get down to the docks. The ferry left every 30 minutes and we timed it perfectly so we only had to wait about 5 minutes and then we were sailing away. The island was nice and had a lot of activities, I thought I was going to do some horseback riding but it looked too guided so we decided to snorkel instead. They had quite a bit of coral close to the beach so we got to see a ton of cool fish. I was by myself for a bit and I'm pretty sure I saw a small shark about 20 yards away, I quickly jumped and when I looked under the water again it was gone, from then on I could only hear the Jaws theme. The island wasn't very crowded maybe 100 people so we got to choose a nice seat and got to relax without much noise. This is the off season for Puerto Rico, it was 88 degrees everyday with a nice breeze so it was close to perfect.

The last night there we went on a kayak bio-luminescent bay tour that was awesome. There are only 5 bays that have this feature in the world and 3 of them are in Puerto Rico. The trip was about 30 minutes each way in the kayak and some of the group had never paddled before so that was an adventure. I did most of the paddling and tried to get as close to the leader as possible to make it easy. The path there was pretty curvy and cramped so you did need to have some paddling skills, there were quite a few kayaks getting caught in the trees, we did see a big iguana in a trees above us. Once we made it to the bay we had to wait about 20 minutes for it to get dark enough to see the luminescent effect. Once it got dark you could put your hand or paddle in the water and move it around and then it would start to glow a cool blue color, it was basically some organism in the water that would put out the blue glow as a defense mechanism. It was cool to see but you couldn't swim or get in the water other than your hand, it didn't last that long and now we had to make the return trip in pitch black. If you ever go you want to take the earlier tour so you can at least see how you got there so you had some idea how to make it back. I wasn't able to get close to the leader this time and had to follow someone who didn't know how to paddle. All you could see was there glow stick that was attached to the back of their kayak, they were hitting just about every bank so I was trying my best to get around them and eventually did. It was a cool experience and worth the price.

On our way to our final hotel we wanted to see the only Rain Forest in America and we drove about 30 minutes and got up to the gate and saw about 4 other cars waiting outside and then we found out the Rain Forest was closed due to rain. Imagine that. There was supposedly a storm coming through and they closed down and evacuated all the employees and wasn't sure when they would reopen. We did get to see a brief glimpse of it on the ride back down another road, I tried to talk my girlfriend into parking the car and trying to hike into the forest ourselves but she quickly declined. We got to see 2 small waterfalls and the 4 dumpsters full of trash, the rain forest is a dirty place evidently.

Our final stay was at a small B&B that was right on the beach and it actually had a restaurant that was on the Food network, Pamela's Restaurant. The room was small but nice and clean, we were about 15 steps away from the beach. The wind was blowing pretty hard because of the supposed storm that went around us, so it was making some pretty big waves that I was having some Jumpchair fun, not sure why but that was a lot of fun trying to ride the waves. I did see some guys doing some kite surfing that looked awesome, I didn't get to try this time because of my burns but hopefully will get to try sometime soon. The beach had about 10 leatherback sea turtle nests that were supposed to hatch while we where there but it never happened that would have been great to see. I had some Pork loin at the restaurant which was awesome, they did ask how I wanted it cooked which I thought was a little strange and the waiter mentioned that for pork now you didn't have to cook it well done anymore, I wasn't so sure about that, but ordered it medium and it was great. We spent the last day of vacation just relaxing at the beach and getting some awesome Pizza.

Our flight was at 11:51 but we wanted to make sure we made it in time so we left the hotel at 9. The car rental return was about 4 miles away and it only took us about an hour. It wasn't traffic though that caused the problem, the Mapquest app we had didn't have the exact location so we went down all kinds of wrong roads and even crossed a mile long bridge. We went all over and made a couple of complete loops around one part of the city, eventually we called the rental car company and they gave us good directions. I turned the car over and the attendant was asking questions to one guy about the car in Spanish that I couldn't make out, I thought they were going to try and pull something over on me but he didn't say anything to me and let us go.

On the plane as we were going to take off the plane started making some really strange noises. I sounded like someone had a hacksaw and was sawing off part of the plane. Others thought it was a dog barking from underneath, this went on for about 3 minutes until the steward said it was a hydraulic pump that was making the noise and that it would stop once we were in the air, that wasn't what I wanted to hear. The sound did go away once we were in the air and did come back once we landed.

The trip was great and I do recommend going to Puerto Rico, you don't need a passport and our summer is their off season so it really wasn't crowded. The only thing is if you stay at the resort the food prices are quite high. I think I spent about $600 just on food for the week. Parking at 2 of the hotels was $15/night and with the extra tax for each night it can be a little expensive.

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