Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Puerto Rico

Wordless Wednesday: Old San Juan

San Juan National Historic Site

One Day in Old San Juan

Castillo San Cristobal

After a whirlwind seven days on the Explorer of the Seas, we disembarked in San Juan. When planning this trip, I had a hard time figuring out where we wanted to stay on this day, especially once American moved our flight the next day from 1 pm to 5 am. Since Old San Juan is only a 20-minute drive from the airport, we decided to stay at the El Colonial, a boutique, adults-only hotel located in the heart of Old San Juan.

We disembarked the ship early and got a taxi to drop our bags off at the hotel, but the taxi driver couldn’t find it, even though he had Google Maps pulled up on his phone. I am not making it up when I tell you that he literally got out of the van and asked someone for directions. Eventually, we made it to the hotel where they offered us a cocktail (before 8 am, I might add) and held our bags so we could explore the city.

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

We first headed to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, part of the San Juan National Historic Site. With the construction of the Castillo having begun in 1589, it is the oldest building in the United States. I’ll never forget, back when I was recapping our St. Augustine trip on this blog, someone commented that they were glad I noted that the Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest building in the continental U.S. because Castillo San Felipe is older.

While under Spanish control, the fort was attacked by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, and the Americans. The fort and the territory of Puerto Rico were transferred to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American war. In 1915, a shot from the Castillo is thought to be the first American shot fired in World War I. During World War II, the military added a Harbor Defense Fire Control Station to the Castillo to keep watch for German submarines in the Caribbean. At 180 feet above sea level, the lighthouse (above) is the tallest point of the Castillo.

From the Castillo, we explored the city a bit. The colorful buildings are very inviting and make the city fun to explore! We enjoyed delicious, homemade popsicles, before setting on a traditional Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch. This was the first time in my life that I had to tell a server I was allergic to bananas and ask what they had that did not contain bananas. If you do not like bananas, you should probably avoid Puerto Rican food. The food was good, but bananas and plantains are a staple of island cuisine and not being able to eat them really diminished my experience. Everyone else loved their mofongo, though!

Castillo San Cristobal

After lunch, we headed to the other section of the historic site, Castillo San Cristóbal (above). Completed in 1783, Castillo San Cristóbal took up 27 acres and featured the gates to the walled city of San Juan. The fortress was built to protect Castillo San Felippe del Moro from a land attack. The walls of the Castillo remained until 1897 until some of them were destroyed to allow the harbor to expand. In 1898 Puerto Rico joined the Spanish-American war when a cannon from the Castillo fired on the USS Yale. During World War II, the Spanish colonial water cisterns were used as fallout shelters. In 1949, together, both Castillos became the San Juan National Historic Site. In 1983, the Castillos and the walled city were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

Iguanas on the Castillo Wall

With a 5 am flight, we didn’t stay out too late, although people were still at the hotel bar having a good time when our taxi arrived at 3 to take us to the airport. One day was not enough time for this beautiful city! You can bet that I have Detroit to San Juan flight alerts set up on my phone! You know the song, I left my Heart in San Fransisco? I left mine in San Juan.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

One Day in Luquillo

La Pared BeachWe chose to stay in Luquillo, Puerto Rico before our cruise because of its proximity to El Yunque National Forest. It is only about a 40-minute drive from San Juan airport to Luquillo. We chose to stay in an Airbnb as opposed to a beachside resort and I am really glad we did. Later in the trip, we spent a little bit of time in the Isla Verde area. While we enjoyed our time there, most people in the area were from the mainland, and the shops and restaurants catered to mainlanders. By staying in Luquillo, I feel like we got to experience real Puerto Rico.

Luquillo is known for its beautiful beaches and the most popular one is known as Luquillo beach. More than a mile long and shaded with coconut trees, Luquillo beach is a beautiful place to sunbathe and enjoy the ocean.

Luquillo Beach

Luquillo Beach

If you get hungry while at the beach, step over to the Kiosks where 60 local food vendors serve all kinds of food and drink from local Puerto Rican food to Mexican and Italian food as well as your favorite tropical drinks. Before visiting Puerto Rico I read everything I could find about the Kiosks (honestly there’s not much out there) and I had no idea what to expect. Some of the kiosks serve grab-and-go fried food or pizza, but some of them are full sit-down restaurants with a view of the beach. We chose to get dinner from Kiosk number 2, La Parilla. It is one of the full-service, sit-down restaurants serving Caribbean and Puerto Rican food. We tried the Pastelillos (Puerto Rican meat pies), arepas (dumplings), Queso Frito (fried cheese), Bolitas de Queso (breaded fried cheese), Sorullitos de Maiz (fried corn sticks), and Nuggets de Pescado (fish nuggets). Everything we had was wonderful and we finished with flan for dessert!

It is only about a 40-minute drive from San Juan to Luquillo so it is a doable day trip. Or, stop on your way back from El Yunque, enjoy the beach and get some food from the kiosks before you head back to San Juan!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: El Yunque

El Yunque Mountains

Hiking El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque Vista

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. El Yunque is located near Rio Grande and is a 35-minute drive from the San Juan area. El Yunque is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Just like many of the national parks we visited last summer, a $2 reservation is required to drive into the National Forest. Reservations can be made up to a month in advance at Recreation.gov.

Posing at La Coca Falls

Once you get into the national forest, there are several places to get out and explore. The first is La Coca Falls (left), which is a large waterfall right at the side of the road. With an 85 foot drop, La Coca Falls is a great introduction to the rainforest and a wonderful photo opportunity.

The next stop is Yokahu tower (right). Built in the 1960s, Yokahu tower offers a 360-degree view of the rainforest and the coastline. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Virgin Islands. The forest service offers a concession stand in the tower and if you have a National Park passport, they have a stamp here.

Yokahu TowerWhen planning this trip, the La Mina Falls trail looked like one of the best, easier hikes in El Yunque, but unfortunately, it has not reopened after hurricane Maria. So, we decided to hike the Mt. Britton trail. When we visited, the road through the forest was closed at the picnic area, so that added an extra mile to this hike. According to the forest service’s Facebook page, the road should be closed farther down than it actually was when we visited. The roads through the forest are steep and winding and hiking on the road felt more difficult than the trail itself. If you are planning to hike the El Yunque or Mt. Britton trails, just be aware that the road closure adds additional mileage.

Mt. Britton TowerOnce on the trail, it was a beautiful trek through lush, tropical greenery. The trail is a 1.3 mile hike (0.8 miles each way) with 650 foot elevation gain. The forest service says this hike takes 45 minutes each way, but we went down much quicker than that! This is a steep hike so it can be tough on the knees. Make sure you have shoes with good traction as rain is frequent in the rainforest. The Mt. Britton tower (left) at the end of the trail, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and offers beautiful views of Puerto Rico, The Caribbean, and the Atlantic. The view from the top (top) makes the climb worth it!

Mt. Britton Tower from Below

We climbed all the way to that tower!

If you are staying in Puerto Rico for any length of time, you definitely have to check out El Yunque! With the current road construction, the forest service is limiting reservations even more. If you are unable to get a reservation, there are many tour companies that take visitors to El Yunque.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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