by Sophia Walters
From San Juan to Rincon, post Maria Puerto Rico is booming with culture, love, and warmth, even after the worst natural disaster in its history.
Prior traveling to Puerto Rico, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I was determined to do was immerse myself with the local people, culture, and food to get a grasp on how the island is recovering from Hurricane Maria. I had three days to explore this magical place, and I hit the ground running as soon as I touched down.
The first stop was Old San Juan, where I would stay at the treasured Villa Herenica. It felt like a cross between an enchanted forest and a jungle tree house. With its overgrown plant life,and the sound of trickling water, I immediately escaped the outside world and was engulfed in this little piece of history. As I only had one night in OSJ, I didn’t waste much time hitting the cobblestone streets. As I walked out, I was greeted by newlyweds celebrating their vows and lovers hand in hand, their skin glistening from the humidity. I made my way to the 2nd story of a corner building to The Mezzanine for tapas and cocktails. I sat on a balcony made for two, people watching, and enjoying conversation with my gracious waiter who indulged all my questions. After our conversation the game plan was set; I would bar hop a bit more through OSJ, hit La FactorÍa, and finish off the night at the infamous La Plactia. I said my good-byes, and was off to explore more of OSJ.
La Factoría, was exactly what I pictured when I thought of Puerto Rican nightlife. Humid and sexy, with multiple rooms of people majestically moving from salsa to merengue. The talent was incredible (So You Think You Can Dance Who?). After I finished another Bariilito on the rocks I jumped in an Uber and was off to La Plactia. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Multiple bars, clubs, and restaurants occupied a large promenade with thousands of people chanting for fútbol, dancing, drinking, eating, and thoroughly enjoying life at midnight. After dancing for hours, eating more delectable Puerto Rican bites, and drinking too much rum, I called it a night, and made my way back to my serene home away from home.
I woke up to birds singing, and the warm sun beaming through my skylight. After a quick breakfast provided by my hotel hosts in their charming dinning room, I packed up my rental car and was headed to the west side of the island to Rincon. Taking in my last few moments in OSJ I drove through the narrow streets, admired the pastel buildings where generations of families lived, and paid my humble respects.
Rincon is the romantic solitude that we all need to remind ourselves of how much we are loved. A town painted in its own organic paradise, nestled on the west coast of the island, I instantly felt that I could stay here in gratitude for months. My accommodation of choice was at the Villas at the Horned Dorset. Here, the aftermath of Maria was more noticeable because of the hotel’s low occupancy. The Horned Dorset Hotel, adjacent to the villas underwent much damage that is still noticeable, but what wasn’t damaged, was the spirits of all that worked there. As my significant other and I were some of the only visitors, we defiantly felt like Jay-Z, and Beyoncé, as our every desire required no effort. We made friends with a local couple that was occupying the villa adjacent to ours and decided to indulge in their recommendations.
On our last full day in Rincon, we took the streets. Brunch at the La Rosa Inglesa, followed by beach exploration, and a meditative day at our private plunge pool was precisely what was needed to start winding down our get-a-way. Dinner at La Cambija, where the seafood tasted as if it had been caught to order, was proceeded by Villa Confessi to experience what the locals call the most magical sunset in the world.
The next morning, the time had come to pack our things, and head back to San Juan to catch our flight back home. I swam in the ocean one last time, and picked up coral that had washed up from Hurricane Maria. I thanked the majestic island for sharing her culture, showing me an abundance of love, and embracing me into her warm arms. I paid homage to her strength. and resilience for being able to overcome, and asked graciously for her to bless me with these same qualities.
Till we met again Queen Island!
***One of Puerto Rico’s main sources of fiscal income is tourism. Don’t wait to visit this glorious place; it will bless you 10-fold.