From my Favorite Place on Earth — Fajardo, Puerto Rico
By: Bianca Sanchez
I may be a bit bias but I think Fajardo, Puerto Rico is a place everyone should visit before they die. It’s only a 45-minute drive from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, which is only a two and a half hour plane ride from South Florida. From nature hikes through the rainforest to horseback riding, sailing trips and a magical bioluminescent bay, this nautical town on the northeast corner of the mainland is sure to have something for everyone. So, pack your bikini and your flip-flops and come enjoy the beautiful adventures that my hometown has to offer.
No matter whom you ask, if you’re looking for top of the line accommodations they will recommend Waldorf Astoria’s majestic, El Conquistador Resort. Draped over the side of a mountain facing east toward all of Figaro’s uninhabited coral islands, including Icacos and Palominito, this resort is home to five unique villages including the exclusive and intimate tropical hideaway, Las Casitas Village. Take a quick ferry ride to El Conquistador’s very own Palomino Island for exhilarating water sports, snorkeling and horseback riding. You can revel in a day on the golf course with unique elevation changes or one filled with tranquility and beauty at the Waldorf Astoria Spa. Not your style? Get in touch with your inner child at the Coquí Water Park, which features a myriad of exhilarating slides and rapids that will thrill the whole family.
One of my favorite jobs was onboard East Island Excursions’ 72ft. Catamaran East Wind. As a crewmember, I got to witness tourists from all over the world experience a day of sailing, snorkeling and sun bathing on the beautiful Icacos shore. The day charter includes round-trip transportation from your hotel to the illustrious Puerto Del Rey Marina, breakfast pastries, a lunch buffet and all of the piña colada, rum punch and Cuba Libre your vacation should include. For a more romantic environment with a special someone, ask them about their Sunset Sail and let the crew pamper you as you take in the beauty of the Caribbean sunset while enjoying snacks, drinks and the therapeutic sea breeze.
Nature enthusiasts should use this opportunity to take a twenty-minute journey to the neighboring town of Luquillo, home of El Yunque tropical rainforest. Discover serene waterfalls at the end of un-manicured trails, with refreshing water ponds and natural music composed by the native wildlife that will leave you renewed and invigorated. It’s the perfect way to detoxify your mind from your daily responsibilities or recover from too many days of fun in the sun.
If you’re looking to witness one of the world’s most amazing natural phenomenons, the bioluminescent bay is a must! Once the sun sets and the stars fill the sky, join my friends at Kayaking PR to paddle your way through the mystical mangrove channels of luminescent water. On a moonless night you will be amazed when you discover the abundance of the unique microscopic organisms that live in it and keep it glowing. Enjoy a guided tour full of interesting facts about star constellations and the preservation of this fragile ecology as you are mesmerized when each stroke of your paddle leaves behind a glowing swirl of blue light and fish light up their path like shooting stars in the water.
Puerto Rico is an extraordinary travel destination all year round, but the holiday season is the most enchanting time to visit the island with one of the longest Christmas’ in the world — beginning right after Thanksgiving and ending in mid-January after the San Sebastian Festival in Old San Juan, the festival is celebrated with live music and one of a kind artisanal art pieces. If you happen to make it to the town of the Cariduros around mid-December, take a drive down to La Ola Tapas Bar & Restaurant, located five minutes away from the resort in Villa Marina, to indulge in a delicious meal as you watch the annual Fantasy Lights Boat Parade pass by.
As you venture through town, you will see huge family gatherings and Parrandas, traditional Christmas music, playing everywhere you go. Our time-honored culinary masterpieces are another reason to plan your trip during the holidays. Lechón asa’o (roast pork), arróz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice), pasteles (yucca or banana tamales filled with chicken or pork) and morcilla (blood sausage) are important words to practice before your arrival. Trust me, your stomach will thank you. You can also stay close by at the seafood paradise in Las Croabas and savor the catch of the day at one of the local restaurants. Keywords here will be arepa (fried bread) and alcapurría de jueyes (crab stuffed yucca fritter) and pastelillo de chapín (fish empanada).
Remember to leave your daily rush and stress at home… We run on island time here!”
Nostalgic as writing this article has been, I’m glad I got to share with you all of the glorious activities that embody my most cherished memories in the Capital del Éste. I hereby extend you and your family a very enthusiastic invitation to my tropical oasis from THINK’s resident Fajardeña, Bianca Sanchez.