Old & New San Juan: Semi Drive & Walking Tour Monday through Sunday Approximate duration 4 to 5hrs
I must stress my accompanying guest is limited to Castillo San Cristobal (fort), Presidents Walk and the Capital building when parking is available.. (current construction in parking lot of the fort has made it even more difficult)
If this is your first time in PR and your solely interest in Old San Juan and time is limited I would recommend to take in Forts, (Castillo San Cristobal is my favorite). If you’re in good shape Old San Juan is actually walkable, get a map, comfortable walking shoe's and your good to go. You can find maps in this magazine with lots of great INFO. http://caribbeanbusinesspr.com/magman/QuePasa/index.html
Enjoy a trip back in time to present in the comforts of Charlie (van), Old San Juan the third oldest settlement in the western hemisphere. Visit Puerto Rico's Capitol Building, Fort San Cristóbal and or El Moro. Drive through Old San Juan to our next stop Cathedral San Juan Baustista, hop out for and walk down cobble stone street Calle Cristo for a little window shopping then drive down Paseo La Princesa to Raíces water fountain. Pass by Cruise Ship Piers, Convention Center, Financial District (Golden Mile) and cross over Teodoro Moscoso bridge final scene of movie Fast and Furious Five (Fast Five movie trailer). Next stop Piñones for a taste of Puertorican version of fast foods, refreshment and brew. Cruise down Isla Verde Avenue, Mcleary street in Ocean Park, and Ashford Avenue in Condado. If you have anything else in mind just say the word... Nada above is written in stone...
Guavate Roast Pork Highway Pig-Out: Eat, Drink and Dance Saturday & Sunday Lechonera (roasted pig eateries)
We're headed for the Sierra Cordillera mountain range of Cayey. Approximate duration 4 to 5hrs.
Literally that’s what this is, mouth watering lechon asado (roasted pig). Not a pork lover relax the menu has plenty to choose from. Make sure your stomach is ready to growl because you will need the space. There will be no shortage of food, spirits, music and dancing. Travel Channel Samantha Brown, Anthony Bourdain No Reservation and Andrew Zimmern Bizarre Foods are no strangers to this area. We'll sit down at which I feel is one of the best establishments in the area so our river side table will be waiting for us. No easy task, you'll see what I mean once we get there. After we're done everyone can scatter and roam the area.
Every week end there's a festival like atmosphere with live music to dance your heart away and the few ounces you may have gained. The area is inundated with lechoneras whose specialty is seasoned slow roasted whole pig.
Traditionally the pig is roasted over locally made charcoal which has a distinct crackling popping sound or have opted to use open flame mounted on a wooden spit called a varita, but now must use a steel spit. The pig is usually roasted for about 6 - 8 hours which ensures that the pork is pact with flavor, moist and tender. The roasted pig is not the only delicacy on the menu: as you will find roast chicken, turkey, morcillas (blood sausage) and numerous side dishes, including: rice and beans, rice with pigeon peas, tostones, mofongo, sweet potato and much more.
Hacienda Gran Batey is a small family run coffee plantation. Lotty (owner) is so sure you'll love its aroma and flavor you can't but buy to take home. She provides free tours and taste with absolutely no obligation whatsoever to buy. I can never resist and Lotty knows one sale guaranteed. Needles to say if my wife knows I'm here I best not return without one in hand... (LOL)
Cueva Ventana under new management charging $10.00 for local residence and $19.00 if you cannot provide proof of residence for admission, I feel its a bit much but you'll experience a Indiana Jones type of movie scene.. A certain degree of fitness is required but if my Mom can do it so can you. We'll be on our own and when I ask to turn off the lights its total black out. The effort required to reach the window will disappear when the view engulfs any expectations you may have had.
Cueva del Indio (cave) located on the coast of Arecibo. Terrain is tricky, sneakers are highly recommended. Richard Smith Owner/Host of the property gives easy access to this natural attraction. Its just breath taking and I can't find the words to express the feeling one gets to just stand, see and wonder. We'll gaze at three of seven natural arches along this beach.
Loiza, Piñones & OSJ: History, Culture, Arts & Old San Juan. Approximate duration 5 to 6hrs.
We'll be making three stops in Loiza just 20mintues east of San Juan and visit renowned artists Samuel Lind oil painter/sculpture and Raul Ayala Vejigante mask maker. Our second stop is a quick visit to a small cultural center in the middle if town and see artifacts unearthed by archaeologist that predates Christ. Third stop is a small cave where human remains where also found. This cave was used by the Archaic, Taino Indians and African slaves as shelter from hurricanes, burial grounds, ceremonies and a hiding place from the Spanish Conquistadors.
Our trip back to San Juan will be a coastal scenic route along Piñones famous for its beaches and one version of Puerto Rican fast food for a taste and maybe some cold milk straight from the coconut. Final leg is Old San Juan, Capital Building, Presidents walk (bronze statues) picture ops, Castillo San Cristobal (fort), cruise along cobble stone streets and squeeze anything else in mind.
Have a hefty breakfast not much to eat up here except for creepy crawly things. Don't worry Puerto Rico does not have any poisonous reptiles, poison Ivy yes. Just stay on the trials and you'll be OK. There’s an 85% chance we will get wet. Over 200 inches of rain fall for an estimated billion gallons yearly. Disposable ponchos are on the house. I have enough binoculars for all with just a promise to return them. If we’re lucky keeping dry but you still want to get wet, water falls and natural swimming holes are abundant. We’ll keep to the most visited ones. El Yunque rain forest encompasses 28 thousand acres and you don’t want to get lost in here. CHUPACABRA might get you. Relax it’s just a mythical but legendary little beast.
Home to the Puerto Rican Parrot and unfortunately on the endangered species list. Already endangered (any species less than one thousand) after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 less than three dozen survived. These birds numbered one million and darkened the skies as they flew around the forest. Park Rangers and other organizations are trying to bring them back. Current population numbers is less than two hundred. This only due to the fact most are bred in captivity. It’s estimated that if we continue having success in breeding them in captivity by the year 2020 they may come off the list.
We’ll make a quick stop at the visitors pavilion to check in and see exhibits and a 20 minute movie clip about El Yunque rain forest narrated by Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Torro. I find it’s most enjoyable driving straight up to Baño Grande from the visitors center and work our way back down. Next Camitillo trails approximately 15 or 30 minute hike. Then drive down to Yokahu Tower. Hop back in Charlie and continue down to la Coca Falls for some great pictures.
If we’re still dry but you’re determined not to leave without getting wet there's a swimming hole just 5 minutes from road side at the base of the mountain. I never tire of El Yunque. Puerto Rico can also boast of having Toro Negro, Toro Verde, Carite and Tanama just to name a few. These rain forests aren’t advertised as much but are just as beautiful.
Ponce City the Pearl of the South: Full Day Excursion Thursday through Sunday Approximate duration 6 to7 hours
This enchanting city is filled with things to see and experience. Our sightseeing adventure will start via highway 52 Luis A. Ferré a major highway that cuts through the heart of San Juan and carves a route due south up and over La Cordillera Mountain range reaching ear popping altitude of 2,200 feet above sea level. As we start down hill of the southern face of these mountains you’ll notice the difference in terrain of the region and the beautiful Caribbean ocean coast line, rolling hill sides and mushroom clouds above. Passing by fields still cultivated with plantains, corn and other agricultural produce.
Ponce also known as La Perla del Sur (the pearl of the south) and is the fourth most populated city in Puerto Rico. About 1 ½ hr drive from San Juan. Cruise in style and in the comfort of a limousine van that will make this commute seem effortless. Rafael Cordero Santiago (Churumba) passionate mayor of Ponce from 1989 thru 2004. During one of his speeches to the public actually stated and I quote:
“Ponce is Ponce the rest of Puerto Rico is parking”. Of the many accomplishments one of his last as mayor was erecting the welcome signature sign of PONCE under much controversy to date still stands. The letters PONCE cross over this highway and is really something to witness.
Plaza de Ponce, Church, Fire House and Market Place all within walking distance.
Castillo Serallés (reservation required) open Thursday thru Sunday
Museo de Arte de Ponce (optional)
La Guancha Board Walk to take in the sites and feed sea gulls and protected fish.
Time permitting additional stop request always welcomed.