I saved up my money and went on a trip, to one of my favorite places in the world, no less – the Caribbean. Puerto Rico to be specific. My cousin Scott had a destination wedding, and I was happy to make the trip out there. I joined my parents, which was pretty much the only way I could afford to go on my non-budgeted personal savings, since Whit didn’t come along.
We had a mix of weather – rain and clouds the first couple days, then sun. The past three years I’ve lived in Pennsylvania I’ve managed to squeeze in a March “spring break” trip to get out of the dreary north and get some much-needed vitamin D. It seriously does wonders for my soul. Hopefully this mini-series will help you get excited about my favorite upcoming season: summer!
This first post is all about the beach – the next two weeks I’ll share the wedding and historic San Juan.
We stayed at the Gran Melia, about thirty minutes east of San Juan. It’s an expansive resort, with many buildings spread out over the grounds. There are golf carts to pick you up and take you to the pool, to breakfast, or to your car. We got lucky with a room on the ground floor steps away from the ocean, the pool, the parking lot, and the front desk. We considered changing rooms because it was handicapped so we didn’t have a tub, and my mom enjoys her nightly bath. We stuck it out, though, and were happy with the amenities we did have.
The Gran Melia boasts the largest lagoon-style pool in all of Puerto Rico. It was quite impressive, but I didn’t spend the time there it deserved, because I was at the beach every second I was awake and it wasn’t raining or nighttime.
The landscaping was beautiful. We were also gifted with the presence of several roaming cats. Strangely, they didn’t want any of the food I offered them, even though they were quite skinny.
Right across from our patio, we could walk out to a section of the beach complete with towering palms, swaying hammocks, and chairs for lounging.
I might like palm trees…
I didn’t get much lounging done because I had to photograph the entire beach, obviously. This was happily my first trip to the Caribbean with my amateur, non-point&shoot camera, so I
had to take advantage may have been a little obsessive. We also didn’t get to spend a ton of time at the beach, unfortunately. We were only there from Saturday to Wednesday morning. It was actually a really perfect amount of time. Though I could spend my whole life on a Caribbean island so what am I saying…. it’s always too short!!
My dad and I share a sense of adventure; when we’re in a new place, we want to see it – especially if “it” is a beach!! We’re also a little bit introverted, so on the way to our day trip to San Juan to spend time with our relatives, we spent the first half of the day lingering on the north side of the island. We took the scenic route. There’s a road that takes you along the coast, so we obviously went that way.
The tree-covered island road took us past all things local: houses, beaches, and any kind of small business you could imagine. It didn’t matter that there was already a barbecue restaurant a quarter of a mile down the road, you could set up shop on your strip of land next to your beach. Same goes with coffee shops, fruit stands, you name it. There was a really enticing local market-type of scene that we tried to make it to for dinner one night but never did. It was about a half-mile with hut after hut selling empanadas, roasted meat, hammocks, jewelry, and whatever else.
The first chance we could get we pulled over. From the road we saw a cut-out in the trees, through which we spied the turquoise glass beyond. We stepped out of the car onto a real, natural Puerto Rican beach (the one at the hotel was man-made, meh – though it exceeded my expectations and I was pleased with it during our stay) – the first thing we noticed: coconuts, everywhere! There were thousands. Naturally, we dubbed this “Coconut Beach.”
We didn’t stay at Coconut Beach for long, because like I said, we were trying to meet the rest of group, most of whom we hadn’t seen on the trip yet, as it was our first outing.
Mine and my dad’s itch to spend an actual afternoon on a local beach finally got scratched the day of the wedding. After befriending a few locals (it doesn’t take much when you’re an American girl in Puerto Rico…), I inquired what the best beach is in town. There was no question: Loquillo.
I can see why.
My aunt inauspiciously sprained her ankle within the first twenty-four hours of being on the island. Lucky for me, she let me borrow her snorkel gear. You can see in the above picture the darker blue area of coral reef, where me and my pop swam and discovered urchin after urchin and all kinds of fish.
The reef was tall, or the ocean was shallow (methinks the former), and with waves coming strongly, you didn’t want to let yourself “go with the flow” so to speak (and to speak literally). Hanging on to a piece of coral (without breaking it!!) without touching urchins, or floating in such a way that your body is horizontal and your legs didn’t brush against the rough bottom is how we viewed nature’s greatest underwater amusement. Slim long spotted or turquoise fish were abundant. Yellow, purple, and other neon fishies were visible with some determination and a bit of luck.
After we had our fun, the beach beckoned us to lay and read if you’re me, or take a quick snooze and make a work call if you’re my dad. While I was laying on the beach towel, a half-a-foot-long – I’m not even kidding – crab casually stood on my foot. I thought my water bottle had maybe fallen over? but I looked back and – eek! – there he was! I stood up and he didn’t even care, he just stood there. I had to RUN after him down the sand to chase him away!
Back to the beach at Gran Melia, where I spent a majority of my photographing time. I got to catch the scene in a variety of light settings – morning, afternoon, and night. I love how this next particular set of photographs captures the vivid color and bright energy of Puerto Rico. Couldn’t you stay for awhile?
Finally, the grand finale – the beach at sunset. There’s no better place to be!
Stay tuned for Part II!