2 weeks in Puerto Rico, Rincon, Puerto Rico Photography


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Published: June 4th 2006EDIT THIS ENTRY

El Moro, Old San JuanEl Moro, Old San JuanEl Moro, Old San Juan

Cannon ramp down to the lower decks in the oldest Spanish fortification in the New World
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Stephen Hayden Photography

Local business' that made the trip happen:
Aventuras: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Taino Divers: Rincon, Puerto Rico
Lemontree Inn

What drew me to Puerto Rico? Looking back on it, I'm not quite sure. It could have been the first time I heard about the bio-luminescent oceans, great diving, El Yunque(the only tropical rainforest in the US Forest Service)or gigantic caves. Ahh yes, an article on Mona Island, "The Galapagos of the Carribean". While I didn't go on a multi-day excursion to Mona Island, I did find out why Puerto Rico license plates say "La Isla de Encantada"...



My plan was simple, rent a car and see as much of the island as possible. This method sacrifices quality, but gives a great quantity of experience. To me my precious 2 weeks of paid vacation needs to be spent well, and the best way to start the trip was to make reservations for adventure trips. The first and most anticipated was the all day excursion through the Camuy Caves. The Camuy river is among the top three for longest underground rivers in the world. The cave system is massive, and I signed up for an 8 hour excursion with http://www.aventuraspr.com.
Directions?Directions?Directions?

Directions? Puerto Rico feels like a US state in Latin America, but it is closer to Venezuela and Columbia than Florida!
They also offered an all day Canyoning trip in El Yunque, which I signed up for as well. Scheduling one tour for the third day of my trip and one tour for the end of my trip gave me 10 days to circumnavigate the island.

DAY 1- Despite Puerto Ricans being US citizens, using US dollars and not passing through customs, arriving in San Juan definitely felt foreign! Puerto Ricans are unique; they are both diverse, attractive, cultured and friendly. I picked up my rental car and took off . I studied maps of PR for many months prior to my arrival, and it was easy to head east along the shore passing through Loiza and the sprawl of San Juan to Fajardo. I must admit, the first few days were very unpleasant... The heat was getting to me, as were the endless bugs, reggaeton music, my asthma acting up and nobody would speak to a gringo in Spanish! I spent the night in a small motel on the very Northeast tip of the island, going grocery shopping, swimming in the ocean and arranging a dive trip near Isla Palominos in 2 days. I fell asleep to the chirps
El Moro CemetaryEl Moro CemetaryEl Moro Cemetary

Huge Cemeteries surround the north end of El Morro. The history here was incredibly rich, from Christopher Columbus to Ponce De Leon to Pirates.
of Coqui's, small frogs that coat Puerto Rico like icing. Their incessant chirping is surreal, a constant reminder that millions of lives and entire communities exist apart from Human Experience. Tomorrow I will go to the rainforest of El Yunque!

DAY 2- El Yunque is spectacular. The whole north slope of PR is coated in forest, but higher into the hills brings you deeper into the forest. Going higher proved to be the only relief from the heat, even then it was moist and sweaty. The Coqui's increased substantially in number, I stopped my car as wild iguanas crossed the road. Palms and ferns appear in every imaginable color and shape. Im a bit suprised at how small El Yunque(and by extension Puerto Rico) is. The mountains remind me of the Transverse Range in Santa Barbara. Seemingly imposing, once you get on the top you see it is just one large sloping crest. I stop at some turnouts and hike up creeks along with the other tourits. I go for a swim, and the cool water is the most refreshing thing I think I could have imagined given the heat. Most of the day is spent in these pools,
El Moro LookoutEl Moro LookoutEl Moro Lookout

Lookouts made for great viewpoints over the ocean and cliffs while the winds howled into the windows. Unfortunately, the foul smelling urine and trash inside ruined the moment.
and I go for a small hike through the forest. I need to find a play to stay that night, as the broken air conditioner and broken mosquitos screens of my previous night's accomodations didn't sound appetizing for a second night. I found a 4 star hotel in downtown Fajardo near the harbor, made a reservation for 2 nights, had some comida tipica and fell soundly asleep.

DAY 3- I was very ready for my first dive trip after certification one month prior in Monterey! We met at 8am, the operators were friendly although a bit unorganized. No matter, we had a good crew of 2 divemasters and 6 divers. The boat was big and new. The diving was out of this world. The water was so crystal clear, at 30 feet it felt like I was standing in the sunshine. Coral and songes of all shapes and forms, schools of brightly colored fish and cool water that chilled the Puerto Rican heat. I realized after the first dive that SCUBA diving while on vacation is like icing on a cake! After a lunch of juice, water and sandwiches we went on the second dive a ways away from
El Moro LighthouseEl Moro LighthouseEl Moro Lighthouse

A new Lighthouse was constructed recently, but the old foundation still remains. The architechture is incredible considering this was a 16th century Spainish colony.
the first. It was scenery I had only witnessed in pictures, shallow turquoise ocean waters giving way to deserted islands of sand and palm trees. I saw a pair of lobsters that were at least 3 feet long, a baby sea turtle, and an eel. We returned and I was completely refreshed and glowing with excitement about Puerto Rico. I was exhausted after the diving trip in the sunshine and heat, but my caving tour departed the following day at 5am and I needed to find a room in San Juan to make the early morning drive easier. I made my reservations at the Holiday Inn in the trendy beachside Condado district. Just like in Chile, I found driving in a different country challenging and fun. I took a nap and went shopping. I retired at 8 pm as I had to get up at 4am and locate an obscure parking lot on the outskirts of San Juan.

DAY 4- Finding the Aventuras crew was a bit tricky! It was so early it felt like it was in the middle of the night, being completely dark and calm. No cars were out, and this helped me avoid an accident
El Moro GreensEl Moro GreensEl Moro Greens

No country could conquer the Colonial Spanish in Puerto Rico. The Dutch came the closest, taking Old San Juan and holding out on this grass for weeks. The relentless firepower and vigilance from the soldiers inside El moro, and a valiant unexpected attack from a Spanish general drove them back to their boats and back out of PR.
as I both drove through the maze of Puerto Rican freeways and looked at my roadmaps. I had no idea what I was in for until I met Rossano, the lead guide and owner of aventuraspr.com. His optimism was infectious. We had a crew of about 10 people, and the photo-painted van had a dvd player and comfortable chairs. It also had a PA system, which Roassano made good use of. It became apparent this was no ordinary tour, as Rossano began a one man show that was nothing short of completely entertaining! It was both comedic and informational. You could tell Aventuraspr.com was team building and motivational activities as much as Adventure Guiding. The drive to the caves was about 1.5 hours and half of that time was being entertained by Rossano. Aventuraspr has a facility outside of Arecibo for Team Building, including a ropes course, tribal music on a ghetto blaster and mini ampitheatre set in the rainforest. Its no wonder MTV's "road rules" and "Real World" came here to film, the operation is top notch and totally enjoyable every step of the way. After putting on our gear, we began the abseiling into the giant gorge encrusted
El Moro Mega CannonEl Moro Mega CannonEl Moro Mega Cannon

Foundations from one of the large cannons on the very top of El Moro.
with rainforest. Huge snails with shells like a nautilus cling to the trunks of the branches, the afternoon thunderstorm clouds start to build and you start to sweat from the combination of wetsuit and harness. Once inside the cave and the river, a feeling of being in an netherworld paradise sets in. The river is cool, I find myself dipping in it as often as possible. The formations are both intricate and grandiose, the chambers large enough to fit a small skyscraper. Some Sections of the caves were narrow slot canyons where we slowly float down the cold river past huge blades of rock. Other sections entail scrambling over 20 foot tall formations slick with muddy water trickling in from above. The trip runs through a giant 2 mile loop, it didn't take long before all of us were completely disoriented and in complete submission to our guides. They point out features of the caves that are unique, like the fossilized oysters complete with fossilized pearls. The mountains of Puerto Rico used the be the seabed, a revelation that never looses its impact for me. How special it is to experience this place. We stopped for lunch in the caves
El Moro ComplexEl Moro ComplexEl Moro Complex

Built from local stone 400 years ago into a 200 foot high cliff.
center. As we keep going and going through the cave, the guides point out that we have just made a giant loop and are in the same spot we had been previously. The difference is the water level, having already risen 4 feet since we entered! Now we all understand why it was necessary to leave so early in the morning, the daily(yes, everyday) thunderstorms are unpredictable- leaving late in the day with drastically changing water levels would be dangerous. We returned to San Juan at around 3pm glowing from the experience, although a bit tired. For me, there was more adventure ahead, as I was to drive back west to the surfing mecca of Rincon for more diving the following day.

I followed the coastline towards Areceibo, and what a beautiful coastline it was. I was finally away from the sprawl of San Juan. I passed through a small town where school was just let out, and it confirmed my belief that the best way to see what the people of a far off place is like is to see the children! When I got to Areceibo I headed south, into the flat topped limestone mountains and valleys.
Old San JuanOld San JuanOld San Juan

All of Old San Juan was surrounded by a great wall to keep out pirates and invaders. The city itself is very unqiue, colorful and well preserved.
This limestone landscape known as karst is home to the caves I just visited, and near Areceibo its also home to the famous radio telescope featured in the movie "Contact". Once I got to Dos Bocas Reservior, I was in awe of the landscapes that kept unfolding. Huge limestone cliffs covered in forest gave way to milky brown rivers. I saw few people, rare for an island of 5 million with one of the highest population densities on Earth. Following the Cordillera Central, I drove west towards Rincon. By this time my body was aching and my mind was craving sleep! I arrived in Rincon an hour before sunset, secured accomodations and had dinner. The west facing coast was perfect for sunset pictures, so I grabbed my camera and headed to Steps Beach. Christopher Columbus landed not 5 miles from here! As the sun set and the flashes from distant thunderstorms competed with the colors of the setting sun, i couldn't help but feel the timelessness of this special island.

DAY 5-


Additional photos below
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Old San JuanOld San Juan
Old San Juan

Alleyway to a residence
El YunqueEl Yunque
El Yunque

Swimming in either the ocean or the waterfalls was the only way for me to cool off in PR! It was very hot and very humid.
El YunqueEl Yunque
El Yunque

Waterfalls are everywhere in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest system.
El Yunque dipEl Yunque dip
El Yunque dip

Locals giving some perspective to the falls. The only way to cool off!
Cordillera CentralCordillera Central
Cordillera Central

Mountaintop home. Puerto Rico is the most densely populated islands on the planet. Car ownership per capita is among the top 10 in the world. After the daily rains, sunset brings the forest mist which cools and calms..
El SolEl Sol
El Sol

Even on top of the mountains in the middle of nowhere, a brightly colored cafe reflects the lively Puerto Rican spirit!
Toro Negro ReserveToro Negro Reserve
Toro Negro Reserve

Brugmansia bush, palm trees and river. Brugmansia is a relative of Datura, poisonous and sacred to native Taino people.
Toro Negro ReserveToro Negro Reserve
Toro Negro Reserve

Toro Negro Forest Reserve at 3500 feet. It was so gorgeous, so cool compared to the lower elevations- and devoid of people. However, Coqui's were EVERYWHERE. Coqui's are frogs, there are over 30 species native to PR. They chirp constantly at night, and all day long in the mountain forests. ("Co-Qui!, Co-Qui" is the sound they make)
Ponce, SunsetPonce, Sunset
Ponce, Sunset

Sunset over Ponce. Coqui Frogs were so loud you couldnt hear yourself talk. Instead of hot and humid, the air turned chilly at 4000 feet. this was taken 1km from the highest peak in PR, Certro de Punta.
Coffee FarmCoffee Farm
Coffee Farm

Coffee bushes and Bananas on a Farm along the Cordillera Central. Puerto Rico grows a lot of Sugar, Bananas and Coffee.
Desecheo Island off RinconDesecheo Island off Rincon
Desecheo Island off Rincon

Columbus landed 3 miles from here! Desecheo Island is a fantastic Diving location.
Rincon, West Coast PRRincon, West Coast PR
Rincon, West Coast PR

Sunset over Steps Beach.


6th March 2006

Amazing pictures
Great Pictures! I will be following your blog! good luck
15th September 2006

Great Pictures
This is the Puerto Rico I love, the part that sometimes we puertorricans forget about. Amazing pictures! Cheers for la isla del encanto, mi isla del encanto!!!
16th September 2006

Extraordinario!!
Te felicito son unas fotos preciosas y provocativas. Definitivamente tienes sensibilidad para captar a travez del lente . Bendiciones para ti!
16th September 2006

Muchos Gracias Cristina and Golee!
yo disfrute Puerto Rico mucho, y estoy allegre que puedo parte mis fotos... y quisiera regresar a Puerto Rico- habian muhcos cosas que no podrian ver!!
20th November 2006

rincon
I'm going to Rincon for a week in April and I really enjoyed reading your blog. The photos are fantastic!!
27th November 2006

Lindo Puerto Rico
Your pictures of my island are beautiful, thank you for sharing it with the world.
8th February 2007

Beautiful pictures
They captured a lot of what Puerto Rico truly is looking at these pictures reminded me of home. Afterall I am puertorican and I'd like to thank you for taking me back by your pictures.
22nd February 2007

sand
why is cuerto recos sand dark?
14th March 2007

awesome
your pictures are truly beautiful..you've seen more of puerto rico then some of us who actually live here...wow .what camera did you use??
15th March 2007

maybe...
That might be true, but then again most people living in Puerto Rico who get two weeks off dont want to spend it driving around the entire island! Its the same here for me in California, there are many spectacular places I havnt seen just 3 hours drive away... I used a Nikon 5700 for this trip. I really liked that camera, buit recently upgraded to a Nikon D80. thanks for the compliments!!
30th April 2007

puerto rico
Amazing photographic safari. I came across your site looking for puertoricans in california. I was there at the same time you were and was able to see most of the sites you photographed. I'm going back the 17th and I shall take my husband to the Camuy caves which I've never seen.
25th May 2007

Giving thanks..
Absolutely enjoyed the beautiful collection of your pictures during your vacation. Thanks a lot I enjoyed them, thank God for giving us the spectacular beauty and that you were able to enjoy it in person. I plan on going in November, late in the year to avoid the humidity:). Fabulous job with the pics. Hope you can go again.
26th May 2007

Coquis aree not frogs
Just to clear thing up the coqui is not a Frog.Is a hole different animal and is not from the famaly of thr frogs.
26th May 2007

Wrong Answer!
[url=http://invasions.bio.utk.edu/invaders/coqui.html]http://invasions.bio.utk.edu/invaders/coqui.html[/url] Im sorry Edward but you are mistaken. Every source I have ever read says Coqui's are frogs of the family of Eleutherodactylus: [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleutherodactylus]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleutherodactylus[/url]
8th August 2007

Mi isla
i have been in most of this places and i have to say that Puerto Rico DOES IT BEST (lo hace mejo) the photos are really preatty and it makes me praud of the place that i came from.
11th February 2008

GO P.R!!
wow that is a great thing to experience El Moro. That is a great museum. Great sites, great information, great events.
14th May 2008

felicidades tienes un lente que cacta fotos maravillosas te felicito por un exelente trabago...
7th June 2008

awesome!
neat pixs! i love my island!
5th August 2008

A couple corrections...
Puerto Rico is not a different country. Also, the people there are not any more friendly than your typical American. It's just a myth.
5th August 2008

Another correction...
Puerto Rico is not the most densely populated island on the planet. Probably not even in the top 10. Not even half of what is found in Java... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Java Anyhow, awesome pics. Ain't life grand!
6th August 2008

corrections
Historically, linguistically, socially, anthropologically- Puerto Rico is another "country", even though legally and politically it is a "self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States". And I didn't say Puertorriqueños are more friendly, just that they are unique in combining all the aspects of their personalities. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_independence_movement Furthermore Mr. "me", talking about "Americans" during a discussion of Latin America is a bit of a misnomer. Everyone in North, South and Latin America is an American in every sense of the word. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americas Finally I totally agree with your comment about population density! Sometimes travel writing gets a bit caught up in the "biggest, largest, longest, oldest, deepest" superlative race! I should always default to the term to make it sound high, like "one of the..." Thanks to everyone for the compliments!! This is my most viewed blog and I definitely feel priveledged to have shared the things I saw in puerto Rico with so many thousands of people!
6th August 2008

Puerto Rico is #5!
Most Densely Populated Islands of the World: - - - - -- - - -Population density, persons per square kilometer: 52,845,528 Salsette (Mumbai, India) - - 2039 Long Island, NY, USA - - 940 Java (Indonesia) - - 628 Taiwan - - 438 Puerto Rico - - 415 Honshu (Japan) - 364 Kyushu (Japan) - - 363 Luzon (Philippines) - - 347 Panay (Philippines) - - 306 Sri Lanka - - 278 Great Britain - - 232 Hainan - - 227 Hispaniola - - 212 Shikoku (Japan) - - 194 Sicily - - 194 Mindanao (Philippines) - - 101 Cuba - - 91 Sulawesi - - 89 Sumatra - - 79 Ireland - - 71 Hokkaido (Japan) - - 32 Madagascar - - 21 Borneo - - 8 New Guinea - -
29th August 2008

Que Isla tan Hermosa
Thank for shearing these beautifull pictures. One day I will go back home to the land that I love. Keep posting more. This will make me want to go back more.
27th November 2008

PR
Your post is awesome - I was in PR a few weeks ago - - check it out ! http://alefspies.blogspot.com/2008/11/puerto-rico-diaries.html
11th October 2009

Greatful of your photos
Thank you for showing such fantastic pictures of our beloved Island "Puerto Rico", I am helping a friend with a web page and would like your permission to link you to that page. Her page is about promoting the typical Puerto Rican foods she cooks in the Baltimore area. Please let me know, I will proceed with the design but hold from publication until I hear from you. Thanks again for displaying our culture so elegantly
26th February 2010

great pictures
what a beautiful country,mi Puerto Rico.
3rd July 2010
Coffee Farm

We should have never stopped
what a gorgeous picture. To think that my little Island could be standing on her own right now if we would have taught our children to till the land and use our resources. How different things would be today. Amazing that these farms still exist. Someone should put together a tour of still existing coffee farms and sugar cane farms (if they still exist). That would be awesome. Gorgeous Picture!
13th November 2010
El Yunque

Nice
Sabes q ella es mi puerto rico
4th December 2010
Camuy Caves

Camuy
We are traveling to camuy And was wondering how the crime rate might be if there's any. We are traveling with little ones and didn't know if the caves were a safe venture for them. Do you have any info on camuy? And would you choose it for a place to purchase a home? Thanks Donna

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