Traveling to the Tropics: From Old San Juan to Flamenco Beach

Summer is a time for relaxing, traveling and just enjoying the perfect weather that nature has to offer us. When I picture a summer vacation, I picture a place tropical with beautiful beaches and trendy sunglasses. 

This summer, my family took a trip to sunny Puerto Rico. We stayed in the capital, San Juan. On our first night, we took a trip to Old San Juan, with the quaint streets and pretty colored buildings. We went to a rooftop restaurant and enjoyed beautiful views with our traditional foods. Later that night, a trip to the touristy Condado showed us the brilliant nightlife of the town. The city was lit up with pretty colors and people filled the streets.  

Summer in the tropics means an unfortunate amount of rain, so our first beach trip left us cowering under the umbrellas on the beach to hide from the rain. We enjoyed splashing in the ocean and the gorgeous views across the horizon. Behind a collection of hotels, Isla Verde Beach appeared to be a secluded spot away from all the hustle and bustle of Puerto Rico.

Staying near the Convention Center meant a mecca of authentic restaurants, all within walking distance. The humidity was painful, but walking around the neighborhood, we found a few cute restaurants. Pretty pink mood lighting and menus on chalkboards greeted us at Casita Miramar. We were able to enjoy some more traditional Puerto Rican food, from rich sauces to exotic fruit flavored marinades.  

Part of what makes Puerto Rico so wonderful is the natural wonders that fill the whole island. We were able to travel to El Yunque National Forest for a few days. From tours through the rainforest, to climbing up the waterfall and swimming in the river, we were fully immersed in nature that you just don’t see in LA. We were able to swing off a rope into the river, hike through the forest and zipline through miles and miles of trees.  

On our bus ride home, we stopped for food and fresh fruit smoothies that were creamy like milkshakes. We ate homemade stew and empanadas and learned about the different plants and animals that called the rainforest home in the information center. Most notably, we learned about the coqui (a specific species of frog) that call all of San Juan home. In fact, we learned that it was their mating calls that we heard outside our hotel each night. It was not bugs or birds as we had anticipated.  

Flamenco Beach, one of the world’s best beaches, has soft white sand and is only accessible by boat. We were able to take a boat tour to stop by the beach. With beautiful sand and warm ocean waters, we walked along the coast and enjoyed the sunlight. It is one of the few public beaches on the island of Culebra and boasts shallow waters.  

We were also able to take a snorkeling tour, where a large group of us followed our tour guide around the ocean. Jumping off the boat into the cold ocean water, we clumped together into a group to follow our tour guide. We got to see sea turtles, stingrays and even a swordfish along with a ton of other exotic fish swimming about. The water was so calm and clear that we were able to see straight down to the bottom of the ocean. We watched as a turtle came up for air and enjoyed the beautiful fish all throughout our hour long tour.  

There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world, three of which are in Puerto Rico. We had the opportunity to visit one of them. We visited Laguna Grande in Fajardo. Fajardo, about an hour and a half drive from San Juan, was a smaller area with small toursity shops and a beautiful enclosed body of water. We got to walk around the area and purchase a few small souvenirs before our trip out to the bay. We, fortunately, went on a night with very little moonlight, which allowed us to better see the beautiful lights in the water. When you disturb the water with your hand or a stick they gave to each of us, you can see the fish lights sparkle.  

Los Angeles may have a collection of beautiful museums and its own gorgeous beaches, but Puerto Rico’s true natural beauty is something wonderful to behold.  I loved traveling to Puerto Rico and seeing the kind of nature we just don’t have in the city and I’d love to go back to that little island again.