Emily and I have embarked on an incredible journey through Puerto Rico. We’ve decided to plan as we go. One of my favorite aspects of Puerto Rico is its land mass. Combining PR’s size and the way we’re planning has led us to experience multiple surroundings: cities built centuries ago, secluded islands and pristine beaches to name a few. After leaving the rainy, green jungle we wanted to put our feet in the white sand and feel the ocean breeze.
We knew this trip wasn’t going to be easy. We knew Emily was going to be putting in more work as in getting me from point A to point B than she usually does back home so we agreed to have some pampering done from time to time. This is why we booked 3 nights at one of those beach front resorts you see in magazine advertisements. Before I describe the resort I have to share our trip from the jungle to the resort.
When we left it was raining, no surprise there. It’s rain season. Driving in PR is different than driving in CA. Usually CA drivers are aggressive but not the type that hug the center of the lane pushing you to the shoulder while descending wet mountain roads aggressive. But maybe it’s just the way they drive here so I might be the jerk in this scenario....who knows? Anyhow, we cautiously made it down the mountain with only a little mud on the fenders. On the plus side, driving through the rainforest again was stunning - so many vistas and lush scenery. Views that pictures will never fully capture.
On our way to the resort I misjudged a turn and took us into a mall parking lot.
It worked out perfectly because Emily’s hike put her shoes out of service. Luckily the mall had a decent replacement. The shoe store was the least interesting thing in the mall. At the main entrance the first thing we saw was an indoor ropes course... which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any of our malls back home.
After the ropes course the first business is K1 indoor cart racing, a bowling ally, and then an arcade.
I was starting to think this mall was an indoor amusement park but eventually we saw the stores as advertised on the outside of the mall. We were both intrigued and wanted to wander around some.
The mall also had some bizarre but beautiful hand-crafted super hero steam punk art.
The artists name wasn’t posted. That said, I was able to find an artist during my mall visit. His name, Otto. His art, hair!
I wanted to get a hair cut before I left California but couldn’t find the time. I was excited to get my hair cut but also skeptical. Otto and I had a little trouble understanding each other at first. After I gesticulated wildly and tried my best to describe what Hair cut I wanted Otto pointed to my phone and said, “Picture man, picture!” I showed him what I wanted and asked if he was able cut it like the picture. He replied, “Are you scared?” Hair grows back but I was scared. Our communication was off and thats what I told him. Otto responded with animation and pride, “Fuck you! I’m the best!” At this moment I knew Otto and I were going to get along fine.
Communicating was difficult at times but we used our language barrier as a way to learn new words. I asked Otto if he considered himself an artist and he pointed to a superhero steam punk piece outside the shop and said, “That’s art.” I agreed but explained that an artist can comes in different forms. I believe Otto is an artist. My hair cut is evidence.
After my haircut we decided to eat at the mall food court with the locals. Our options weren’t the healthiest. I’m sure you can imagine the options in a mall food court. We’ve been trying our best to eat local so we chose el mason sandwiches. The food didn’t taste bad but I’m sure wasn’t good for us.
After lunch we hit the road again. This time I stayed on path and got us to the resort issue-free. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort. Sounds fancy right? Well, we immediately ran into some issues after checking in, however. After a failing toilet, broken coffee machine (Emily can’t survive without her morning coffee) and the shower water not getting hot we moved rooms. I know what you’re thinking, first world problems. I agree, but the Wyndham claims to be a four star resort. We noticed a few more issues but I don’t want this to be about how Wyndham wasn’t great because our experience was mostly positive. I have suspicions why these issues took place.
Let’s start with Hurricane Maria back in September of 2017. I suspect the hotel was closed for awhile after. Wyndham still hasn’t reopened a few other resorts in Puerto Rico. I can’t imagine how much it cost Wyndham to replace windows, doors, landscaping, and that’s only the outside of the building. Have you been to Puerto Rico? The humidity is insanely high. I’m guessing all the carpet, bedding and linens had to be replaced when the hotels air conditioners weren’t getting any power.
I’d also like to note that tourism in Puerto Rico took a nosedive after hurricane Maria and we are here during off season. It’s noticeable that the hotel is understaffed at the moment. With tourism being a main source of income for Puerto Rico this is saddening. However, things seem to be on the up and up as Puerto Rico has started a tourism advertising campaign and it’s clearly working.
Resorts have a purpose and I understand people have the right to choose how they vacation but it’s not exactly our cup of tea. The experience I crave isn’t at the “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Margaritaville” beach front bar listening to Jimmy Buffet on repeat. It’s okay if you do. A portion of your vacation money is still going in Puerto Rican pockets but stepping foot off the resort to visit a local eatery or do some shopping at a local store is super beneficial to the people who don’t work in tourism. Although we had a few hiccups at the beginning our stay was overall enjoyable.
The resort has four restaurants on the premises. The breakfast buffet was outstanding and our server each morning went above and beyond to make sure our experience was enjoyable. We had lunches at the poolside bar. The usual poolside foods like nachos, hamburger and of course the tropical drinks. Dinners met the four star resort rating. Our first night we shared the Yellowtail Tartare- aji amarillo, coconut, avocado & popped corn.
Emily and I shared a salad and ribs for as our main course.
Our last night turned out to be our best night for food. I had lobster and Emily had a Kale salad.
November is the last month of the rainy season. We’ve seen rain at least once a day. I usually dislike abundant amounts of rain but it feels so good here. It’s a natural shower from the heavens to rinse me of humidity induced sweat. The resort was practically empty but when it rained it felt completely empty. Emily and I were the only people by the pools. Having this to ourselves made us feel like royalty.
We were quickly dethroned from our resort kingdom by a lightning storm.
One of the biggest reasons we stayed at the resort was for some pampering. To take a break from non accessibility to recharge our batteries. Emily had a rejuvenating spa experience that was well deserved. She’s not only put in extra work dating me, she’s worked her ass off for the past 4.5 years at a startup. She’s in between jobs which is the biggest reason we’re on this trip. The spa experience seemed a little violent if you ask me. She said the deep tissue massage was the deepest she’s ever experienced. The bruises on her legs are enough proof for me to believe her.
Resort life was fun but we were also ready to hit the road. We’re usually ready for the next adventure after a few nights in one city.
Ponce the second largest city in PR is where we went next. Here’s a teaser. We went cycling with military vets, stayed in the oldest continuously running hotel in Puerto Rico, watched a Christmas performance and so much more. All coming in my next blog.