Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1815: San Juan, Puerto Rico with Cathy and Katelyn
By Linda Hagstrom from Pennsylvania, Spring 2010
Page 4 of 5: Friday - El Yunque Rain Forest
Katelyn with Hector at La Coca Falls in El Yunque
After a quick early swim, we went to the hotel lobby to meet our tour guide. We had booked a tour to El Yunque, the tropical rain forest about 20 miles from San Juan. Soon Hector, our guide and driver, appeared, and our group of eight plus Hector was off to El Yunque in a comfortable van.
I especially enjoyed our drive because we took the 'scenic route', along the beautiful coast, then turning away from the coast and driving through little towns. This whole drive brought back the Puerto Rico I remembered, with the roadside stands with palm-leaf roofs selling bananas and coconuts or prepared food, and the little towns unchanged.
Hector also gave us a good overview of Puerto Rico in general, the views on statehood (also a big issue 45 years ago), the food, the beaches of San Juan, etc. He also gave me a little more information on the area where I had lived in the 1960's.
The rain forest, El Yunque, is now a national park. Our first stop was the Visitors' Center, where we watched a 10-minute movie about the forest. When we were back in the parking lot, Hector pointed out a big black-and-white caterpillar ensconced on the leaf of a tree. It was maybe three or four inches long.
Our rain forest trip was to be a 'hiking' trip, and after one stop at the highest point we would reach on the mountain, we went to the start of the hike. The hike on Big Tree Trail was short, less than two miles, but it was very pleasant. Partway on the hike was La Mina Falls, a big waterfall with a pool of water to swim in. There were lots of people here. We had worn suits under our clothes, and we got in the water and went near the rushing waterfall. It was very rocky underfoot.
Hector met us at the end of the hike and took us to Yokahu tower. We climbed to the top for a great view all around. You could even see the sea far away.
After a last stop at La Coca Falls, another waterfall, we went to a restaurant that was actually in the park. It is privately owned and seemed so typical of what I remembered, especially when I saw the proprietor heat our chosen food on a old stove in the kitchen.
Hector took us back to San Juan, and since there was an international food fest set up in the streets near our hotel, blocking traffic, we got out a few blocks away and shopped our way back to the hotel.
After a swim, we had dinner in the restaurant at the hotel that is in the shape of a scallop shell. We went first class and had a special dinner. I was surprised when Katelyn ordered the octopus appetizer. It was really good, too. The restaurant sits above the sea and you can watch the water through large windows.
Later, Cathy and I went to the casino just to see it and we managed to lose a couple of dollars on the slots.
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