Our travels, this time, took us to the enchanting island of Puerto Rico, where the sun is bright, the food is rich (some of the best coffee I've ever had), and the people are endearing. I really have nothing but great things to say about this place. It's full of history, culture, castles, forts, cats (sooo many cats), salsa clubs, rainforests, caves, beaches, bioluminescent bays, and more. For this reason, I deem it the best place in the Caribbean. There is just so much to look at and experience.
When people show you photos of Puerto Rico, it's usually just beaches and salsa bands. I'm not interested in showing you any of that. Instead, I'd like to take you on a visual journey about what is at the heart of capturing the world; the details. I want to show you the bits that lie beneath the folded-over pages of the ruffled travel guides.
For starters, I suggest staying either in Old San Juan or nearby, like the neighboring area of Condado. Old San Juan is where the charm left over by the settling Spaniards of old resounds on every turn. Walking through the streets, you get the feeling that you are somewhere in the south of Spain.. only that it's a quick flight away (if you're on the east coast of the US) and you don't need a passport, visa, or currency exchange (once again, if you're from the US). And for those of you who aren't familiar with the Spanish language, I found that 90% of the people in San Juan are bilingual!
From a photography standpoint, the place is a treasure trove of oddities and a pallette of colors and expression on every turn. Light changes and adapts to multicolored hallways, building faces, and cobbled stone roads, making shooting fantastic, whether it's in the harsh noon sun, or the aurate hue of a waning moon. It really doesn't matter when you head out of the hotel.. Just grab your gear and go!
I know there are a ton of cat lovers out there, and as I mentioned above, San Juan Puerto Rico is FULL of cats. This may sound like it could mean that there is filth, but in fact, it means the exact opposite. Besides the fact that the streets are the cleanest I've ever seen in the Caribbean, the people of San Juan absolutely love their cats. People are constantly feeding and tending to any cat they come across. Frankly, I hadn't come across a single mangy feline our entire stay! That, to me, was remarkable. There is a book sold in almost any gift shop in PR that is called "Cobblestone Cats: The Cats of Old San Juan", where photographer Alan Panattoni pays homage to the colors, grace, and leisure of the island's more aesthetic felines. That being said, as I saw the cats to my left and right, I couldn't resist.
Okay, Puerto Rico isn't all just cats.. There are also musicians on the streets!
Musicians in the cafe's (Cafeteria Mallorca has the BEST breakfast in town.. quick, cheap, and friendly.. don't forget to order a Mallorca with ham, egg, and cheese.. trust me!)..
And let's not forget the music in the restaurants! - Triana Restaurant has live flamenco every night, plus, the best Mofongo (typical island fare of mashed plantains stuffed with goodies) I've ever eaten.
GO TO THE CASTLES/FORTS!!
The views from the forts are magnificent, to say the least. On the east side of SJ they have the Castillo of San Cristobal, and on the far west, the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. Each has it's own uniqueness and personality, but the angles from the latter are the most striking.
When walking around the streets, say hello to our friends over at Ole Curiosidades! This is THE place to get a true handmade and fitted Panama Hat in the Caribbean. The staff is amazing and accommodating, and the hat selection is exquisite!
As a kicker, this store is a paradise for photographers!! There are beautiful things at every turn, and they don't mind at all that you walk about shooting the place up (with your camera! to clarify).
Sooo many awesome and charismatic antiques!
Goodies and more goodies!
Way outside of San Juan, lies the majestic El Yunque National Park Rainforest. This is a place of visual splendors with rolling mountains, green canopies of trees and vines, and if you look closely, sprawling life.
There are lizards all over the island of differing shapes and sizes that are just chilling on rocks, trees, houses, and anywhere else. All you have to do to spot them is keep a sharp eye!
The splendor of Puerto Rico is that there is beauty everywhere. Whether you're a searcher of detail of otherwise, just being there brings you to a land of simple pleasures and visual delights. Even what may seem like the most ordinary thing is a thing of beauty as long as you're willing to look.
As the ad says: Visit Puerto Rico.
No, really, you should.