PUERTO RICO: Small Island with Big Heart
Puerto Rico is my go-to-get-out-of-the-city spot. I was first introduced to the island by shooting a destination wedding there. We all stayed in Isabela, which is on the North West side of the island and about an hour and a half from San Juan. I fell in love. So when I started to get the itch to leave New York City and have a bestfriendcation with my BFF I knew exactly where we needed to go.
My BFF, Emily, lives in Orlando so I met her in the airport on the way down and a short 2hrs later- we were there. We stayed in our own tiny villa right on the beach. It really, really, doesn't get any better than that. We landed in the early morning and promptly arriving on the Villas property we befriended a few of the stray dogs that ended up following us for the entire stay. Since we flew in the middle of the night we slept in a bit until the sound of the waves and the heat of the sun woke us up. We decided that for our entire stay we were going to see as much of the island as we could, which is exactly what we did.
Our first stop was obviously to grab a few of the BEST DANG piña coladas I have ever had for breakfast at the Villas restaurant while staring at the ocean and playing with the feral cats. (Seriously guys, they are THE BEST COLADAS. They are extra creamy, coconutty, and sweet. They also do the trick). After taking in the ocean breeze and sounds of the tumbling waves, we headed out to Los Jobos beach. This beach makes you feel like you are walking on the moon with the unique textures of the rocks. (TIP: If you ever visit make sure you wear proper shoes or else these rocks will tear up your feet and no one likes that). There's one spot that has a giant hole in middle of the rock that leads about 25ft down into the ocean. The waves are so forceful there that they explode out of this opening about 20ft high making the most intimidating sound.
We are both complete coffee nerds so we researched and found a coffee farm that we wanted to visit. We drove into the mountains and into the middle of the island in order to get there. The drive was a few hours and a ton of fun. The tropical landscape was phenomenal. It was changing and getting more dense with greenery the further away from the coast we went while the roads got more narrow and almost non-existent in parts. You could feel the air getting colder and damper the deeper into the mountains we went. After many. many windy and crazy roads we turned onto this steep hill and at the top found ourselves at Cafe Hacienda Tres Angeles. This farm is making history in the coffee world.
We sat at the top of the Hacienda where there is a Cafe. We both got cups of coffee grown, processed, and roasted right there. We also decided on a little treat and got the carrot cake which was made from ingredients grown at the Hacienda and baked by the owner. While sitting on the patio a woman came up to us and asked if she could sit with us, and of course we said yes. She ended up being the co-owner (with her husband) of the farm! She filled us in on the history of the farm and the contributions it makes to the Puerto Rico. Cafe Hacienda Tres Angeles is the first certified Eco farm in the Caribbean and uses the rainwater to process the cherries through a machine that uses the husk of the berry to fuel it. Any product waste from the farm gets composted back into the soil. They also grow many other fruits such as citruses and plantains to partially cover the coffee trees. They properly pay their workers, giving many of them a place to live, and grows cacao in the coffee off-season to give workers year-round work. The farm also gets grants from the government to pay the workers bonuses. If you know anything about the coffee world and how harsh it can be for the workers of the farm, you will know that this is VERY awesome to hear. We left the farm after taking a tour of the processing room and watching her husband, Juan, roast a fresh batch and give us a cup of those beans to go. I was pretty sure my blood was nothing but coffee at that point. And, I am OK with that.
The next few days I must admit I did not take very many photos because we were either swimming in the ocean, swimming in a swimming hole in middle of the rain forest, jumping off of waterfalls in middle of the rain forest, driving to the southern shore, or playing with the dogs. We even managed to wake up at dawn the day we left to watch the sunrise and swim in the ocean. It was a trip that was jam packed with adventure, sunshine, swimming, drinking island drinks, trying to figure out how to light our gas oven and not burn our arms off, and girl talk. Puerto Rico's people are so welcoming and kind, just like the island itself. If you ever get the chance to go, go. And drive. Everywhere you can. Take in all of the tropical beauty that is there.
*AUTHORS NOTE: Photos of yours truly are credit to Emily. And this ugly face one is just tradition. This won't be the last one you see.