The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States Park System. The area is roughly 30,000 acres and is the largest publicly owned area of land in Puerto Rico. This lizard is one of eight lizard species in the forest.
Wednesday night – roughly 10:00PM | Calling jetBlue customer support to book a flight to Puerto Rico for Friday… seem a bit last minute? Let me preface this statement.
Last summer, I won a free round trip flight courtesy of jetBlue and Streamline Events at the Nantucket Triathlon. The flight was valid for one year – from June 30st-June 30st. Me being me, I saved it to the very last minute – including the booking!
I had talked to Casey, one of my roommates from Rome, the night before asking if he’d like a visitor for the weekend. Casey, without hesitation, extended an invitation to stay at his apartment for the weekend – so I booked the flight! EWR à SJA for Friday morning through Sunday afternoon.
With last semester’s study abroad/fly everywhere mentality, I was still excited to travel to new places. I had only stepped on Puerto Rican soil when I transferred flights on my way to the British Virgin Islands in 2009. Essentially it was a completely new adventure waiting to happen!
The one downside to booking two days before a flight is the lack of selection (obviously). I had to select a flight at 7:30am from Newark Airport instead of Philly, which meant a nice 3:45am wake up time to hit the road. An hour and a half later, I made it to an extremely shanty looking parking lot I had made a reservation at.. thank God I had nothing valuable in my car (or the car being valuable at this point as well).
I made my way through security, settled in, and boarded my flight. On the flight south, I got the chance to watch Promised Lands, a movie staring Matt Damon as a gas company contractor. The company was attempting to lease land for fracking – a very prevalent source of natural gas recently. The movie was very interested, considering I am working in the utilities industry.
After landing, I stepped out into the warm, humid Caribbean air. Even though it’s hot, it was far better than the low-60’s I had felt leaving New Jersey. Casey picked me up a short while later, and we headed out to driver around the area.
As with any major city, there are the good parts and bad parts. This is evident when you drive through some of the areas towards the outskirts of town, or if you’re right on the water near the touristy areas. While it’s not the most common thing to see in the US, my experiences in the past six months have conditioned me to these areas.
Casey’s apartment was right on the beach with a beautiful view of the ocean. After dropping off my bags, we walked to a small restaurant near his house in the touristy area called Pinky’s. They had delicious sandwiches – I got a Panini style sandwich with turkey, salami, and swiss cheese. They have homemade sauces made from papaya and balsamic, delicious!
After lunch, we headed over to the ‘old town’ that is home to a few different structures that have been there since the island was first inhabited by the Spanish. The most commonly known is the Fuerte San Felipe del Morro. The fort sits on the tip of the San Agustin Bastion right at the entrance of the harbor. It was a fortification that protected the harbor for nearly 250 years. We walked around the area and even grabbed a snow cone (or piragua in Spanish) to help cool off.
The beach was the next stop. I remembered from my trip to BVI, the water is very warm (compared to anything in the northeast), and this was definitely the case here in Puerto Rico. It felt great to float around for a little while!
After a nice evening run, we met up with some of Casey’s friends. His group of friends has basically been together their whole lives – going to school together kindergarten through 12th grade. They were all extremely inviting, and it was great to see how close they all were!
Saturday, we planned to head out to El Yunque National Forest. The area is home to the one US National Park that is a tropical rainforest! This was my first experience heading to a rainforest, so I was undoubtedly excited. The trip was a little over a half hour away. On the way there, we stopped by his friend, JJ’s, house which was perched at the top of a small hill a few miles from the park. It was more of a ‘compound’ rather than a home, which made it even cooler. We got to enjoy some nice views of the area from his roof before heading to the park.
To get to the area of the park we were going to, we winded our way up the park road. At the base of the park it was roughly 83 degrees, but where we parked it was almost 10 degrees cooler! The effects of elevation and the rainforest! We walked down a trail to a small creek/waterfall area to go for a quick dip and hang out. The water was far cooler than the ocean!
We stopped by a small strip of restaurants on the way home for some dinner. Casey had me try out some of the local foods – one being a piece of cod flattened, breaded, and fried. I also had a breaded and fried pouch of chicken called an empanadas (many people have seen these in the US).
That night, we went to see the new Superman movie at a pretty big movie theatre near his apartment. Unfortunately we showed up pretty late, so we were stuck in the front row. May have effected my overall view of the movie, but I thought it was mediocre.
The next morning, I hung out on the beach for a little while Casey was with his father. Then it was back to the airport – work at 6am the next morning was going to come quick! HUGE HUGE thanks to Casey for being an awesome host for the weekend – it was great catching up!Tags: 2013, el yunque, jetblue, puerto rico, rainforest