While staying in the El Yunque jungle our wonderful AirBNB host showed us how to make proper Puerto Rican Coffee. This interested us in the history of coffee in Puerto Rico. While researching, Emily came across Hacienda Juanita, a coffee plantation later turned hotel. We loved our first stay in the mountains, and after a few days in the city we were craving some nature time, so we booked a few days at the coffee plantation.
It was founded way back in 1833 by a Spanish official and ran by his wife. Sadly coffee production lowered in the 1960s and Hacienda Juanita shut its doors. Luckily, in 1976 it’s doors reopened but it’s coffee production didn’t continue. It was transformed into a hotel with the help of Puerto Rico’s government and their focus to increase tourism.
On our way to the coffee plantation we stopped by a sunflower farm.
Flower farms have found multiple ways to increase income over the past decade and you can thank social media for that. There’s no better place to take a selfie than in-between a couple rows of gorgeous flowers.
It was only $2 for parking and we were allowed to stay as long you we could handle the heat.
I wouldn’t doubt it if the farm made an extra $500 a day on parking. We worked up an appetite walking the flower fields so Emily found a local favorite eatery.
You know one of those road side food stands you’d see in an Anthony Bourdain show? That’s exactly what we pulled up to.
Locals who look like they just left Sunday mass gathered out front. The food stand was built off the road and connected to the wall of the owner’s property. She cooks in the kitchen of her home and her son runs the food down to the customers....so we knew the food was going to be amazing.
Emily transcribed the menu to me but I wanted a locals recommendation. We spoke with a few people who recommended the Caribbean tripe stew, beef empanada and corn sticks.
A few minutes after ordering our food was ready. It was delicious! Emily and I talked about our passion for traveling and getting off the beaten path. We’re grateful we found each other and that we both seek learning from other cultures.
Our next stop was Hacienda Juanita but it wasn’t easy getting there. During our first trip into the mountains we learned the higher the elevation the worse the road conditions became. The road is posted as single lane both ways but the jungle swallowed about 3 feet on both sides.
Local drivers aren’t flustered one bit and their speed was the evidence. I don’t have much experience with these driving conditions and I’ve drove off a cliff once
...so I took it slow and Emily appreciated the gesture. It was relieving when we finally made it to the hotel.
I was worried about wheelchair accessibility from the moment we booked the room. When I first called the hotel to ask if they had an accessible room I couldn’t reach anyone who spoke english. Emily’s Spanish is still a little rusty, she asked if the room would work for a chair of wheels. The person on the other line said yes, so we were optimistic but having been let down before we didn’t want to get too excited. We crossed our fingers. Well...turns out the room was perfect. We couldn’t believe it, but a rural locally owned hotel in Puerto Rico had the most accessible rooms so far. Strange...but also really awesome.
We took a day trip to San Germán to sight see and get groceries. We were there on a Monday so the museums were all closed, so we decided to just wander around the town. Besides an old church and some cool old buildings there wasn’t much for tourists to see.
However, our inner foodies did manage to find a restaurant that served killer food. It had many local produce options which Emily loved. I tried the eggplant burger and Emily had a root veggie mash, and we shared yet another local fresh tropical juice.
We had a quick stop at the grocery store before jumping back on to the treacherous mountain roads. We weren’t headed back to the hacienda yet. After studying the map, we decided to adventure out to what looked like an easy trail to hike but never made it. Road conditions and a front wheel drive sedan didn’t mix well. What we passed on our excursion will never be forgotten.
Have you seen the documentary Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia? It follows a family who lives off the grid in the Appalachian Mountains. They live life in a different way than most. That’s exactly what the houses and people we passed reminded me of.
They live a simple life without power or running water. They looked like they enjoy the way they live. Children, dogs, and chickens played happily along the road and young men rode ATVs and horses around in the jungle.
We finally arrived to where the road turned to dirt. The incline was way too steep, so I had to turn back.
Even though our day turned out differently than what we planned we still made the best of it. The coffee plantation was as beautiful as advertised. We were happy with our stay but like most we needed to get moving again after a few days. Our next stop is at a surfing community on the North-West side of Puerto Rico, so stick around to see how we celebrated Thanksgiving!
Follow our travels live here: