Author: Robert Carr (---.hlrn.qwest.net)
Date: 02-26-07 10:33
After 25+ trips to the BVI and USVI since 1981 we decided to spend some time in San Juan and Culebra this go around. Participants on this adventure included my wife Julie our 10 month old son Jacob and my mother who is a veteran of over 30 BVI trips.
We left Denver on AA to Miami. Departed on time arrived early. Departed Miami on time and arrived in SJU early. Did I mention this was on AA? We received great service from AA throughout our trip and since I have complained about AA in the past I feel obligated to report that this trip was nothing but great in regards to American.
Arrived in San Juan around 6:30pm and took a cab to Hotel Milano on Calle Forteleza in the heart of Old San Juan. Cab ride was $22.50. Hotel Milano was a very good experience. The room was small for 3 adults and a baby with a pack and play but we expected that and it worked just fine. Took a night walk through San Juan Gate (site of the party with Angeline and Rosco in Captain Ron) and back along the Princessa to the cruise ship docks. I believe “Despoiler Of The Seas” and 3 other large ships were in port that night. Soon the horns on the ship began to sound and it was like turning on the can opener for my cat. The cruisers started pouring out of the shops and restaurants and began flowing back to the ships. We had a light dinner that evening at Nadine’s, a small bar and taco shop on Calle Sol I believe. This bar is distinguished by it’s numerous posters of Marilyn Monroe. The total for three of us including a couple of beers was $15.00. This was not haute cuisine but tasty none the less.
Our first full day in San Juan started with continental breakfast on the rooftop terrace at Hotel Milano. This was a nice way to start the day and get a lay of the land. We ventured into the city and headed to Plaza Colon and on to Fuerte San Cristobal. We explored the old fortress and enjoyed the views of San Juan and the Atlantic. While the baby napped I walked along the walking path beneath the city wall all the way to the base of El Morro. This was a very pleasant walk with the water on one side and the historic wall on the other. We had lunch at Café Mirabueno on Calle Luna near the Plaza Salvador Brau. Arroz con Pollo and a Presidente for $8.95. Everyone enjoyed their food and the atmosphere was very nice. After lunch we walked to Casa Blanca. This was a home built for Ponce de Leon who never ended up living there as he died in Florida (no doubt lost in the terminal connecting tunnels at MIA) His family however did occupy the house for 200 years. The grounds and gardens are quite interesting and worth a stop. Next we headed to El Morro. To honest, by this time we were somewhat done with looking at forts but the views were excellent and the history is very interesting. We also checked out the Parque de Quinto Centenario and the Cemetario before hopping on the free trolley that dropped us off near the hotel. After nap number 2 for the little guy we had dinner at Café Puerto Rico near Plaza de Colon. This was another good experience. I had Mofongo con Camorones and it was very tasty. My wife had the Mahi Mahi and also enjoyed it. Jacob has a jar of strained peas and applesauce.
Early the next morning were picked up at the hotel and driven to Fajardo to catch the ferry to Culebra. Another TTOL’er put us in contact with Zoraida Banks who something of a taxi service between San Juan and Fajardo. Her daughter, Linsing (sp?) picked us up right on time and he had a very enjoyable ride to Fajardo. The cost for 3 adults and the baby was $75+tip. We made the 9:00am ferry in plenty of time and enjoyed the hour and a half ride to Isla Culebra. After arriving in Dewey I went out in search of our accommodations at Villa Boheme. It turned out to be about a 10 minute walk from the ferry dock. Kate at Villa Boheme was very nice and helpful. We stayed in room #10 on the 3rd floor with a large private terrace and full kitchen. This was $135/night +9% tax. The room was basic but plenty big enough for the 4 of us and very clean. Villa Boheme sits right on the water in Ensenada Honda. We enjoyed eating on the patio and relaxing in the hammock and chairs by the water. The first night there we ate a Dinghy Dock which is two doors down and appears to be the local cruisers hangout. I think everyone had a cheeseburger in paradise that night. The karaoke was “entertaining.” Luckily there were no Simon Cowell’s in the audience to spoil the fun.
We hit Playa Flamenco the next day and were not disappointed. We took the publico each time at a cost of $2/person each way. The beach was gorgeous and weather perfect. We set the baby up with an umbrella and his inflatable bathtub from home. He loved to sit in there and splash and play with his toys. It sure felt good to feel the sand between the toes again.
We did much of our own cooking and shopped at Mayra and Comlmado Milka. We found better produce at Milka and a bit better selection. I would imagine that this may not be true all the time but it was our experience.
We had excellent sandwiches from El Eden. Yummy!
We went to Mamacita’s for a drumming session one night. We had a great time but were thankful we were not staying at Mamacita’s that night. We also ate at Mamacita’s one evening and all had very good meals. I had the fresh snapper with tostones and it was excellent.
We had some nice conversations with “Island Woman” and bought some of her homemade hot sauce that has turned out to be excellent. She was nursing a very small kitten back to health on our first days on the island.
After only a few days on the island we began to recognize people and they began to recognize us. Of course we did stick out a bit with a baby in a backpack, an extremely adorable baby I might ad. I think this is what I liked most about Culebra. I don’t think that we had a single negative interaction during our time on the island. Now we are pretty easy going folks and don’t stir up trouble as a rule, but we found the Culebrenses and the ex-pats we met to be very nice and proud of their home. I was impressed with the sense of community and concern for the island that was evident everywhere we went. It is great to see the people of Culebra standing up for beach access rights and working together to maintain their rights. We referred to our son as our “2ft Ambassador” as he seemed to make friends everywhere we went. My wife has fairly good Spanish skills and I do my best. Although it certainly not necessary to speak Spanish we made the effort to use as much of our Spanish as possible. We look forward to returning to Culebra again, hopefully for a little longer next time.
We left Culebra on the 6:30 ferry just as the sun was coming up. Once we arrived in Fajardo we rented a car and drove to El Yunque. The visitor’s center was excellent. We spent quite a bit of time there learning about the forest and conservation efforts. We hiked to La Mina Falls from the Big Tree parking area. This was a fairly easy 1 mile hike to the falls. The falls were very refreshing and we enjoyed playing in the water. Our next stop was the Mt. Britton Trail. This is a short trail but it does gain some significant elevation. The view from the tower was awesome. We happened to be there on a very clear day and the view was magnificent. After el Yunque we went to the kiosks along the highway near Luquillo for lunch. Kiosk #56 had been recommended so picked up our lunch there. We had rice and beans, tostones and chicken. We took route 187 into San Juan. This was a rather picturesque if somewhat more intense route do to the dump truck traffic. We spent our last night at the Best Western at the airport. The hotel was fine but next time I will go back to Hotel Milano or the Condado area for our last night.