Puerto Rico

During spring break we went for a few days to Puerto Rico to escape prolonged cold weather, catch up on some sun and see something new and different. I didn’t do a lot research on Puerto Rico and really didn’t have a lot of preconceived expectations, other than its being an island in Caribbean and that we don’t need passports to travel there, it’s being US territory. We had a great time on the island and here are some of my observations:

  1. The first thing I noticed is the economical rundown of the island. I was a little surprised about it. I thought that since it is US territory and major travel destination, it will be in a much better shape. I say this simply on visual observation of the San Juan, places where we walked, took a bus or drove around the island. There are a lot of buildings that are simply abandoned, show their dark skeletons, covered with some graffiti or with advertisements, proclaiming that “Puerto Rico Does it Better”.
  2. In San Juan you will see police on almost every corner. Pretty much every house or apartment building around the island, not just in San Juan, has bars on the windows up to the second floor. This tells me that there must be a lot of crime in San Juan and overall everywhere. Otherwise why so much police everywhere? This is probably the byproduct of the first observation.
  3. Food and hotels are expensive, pretty much US or higher prices.
  4. Roads are in great condition. We rented a car for a few days, drove around the island, stayed a few nights in the mountains and I was really impressed with the condition of the roads. Even though they could be a bit wider in the mountains, they were passable with two cars, just had to be very careful and not to drive in the middle of it as it goes left and right and up and down and you never know when oncoming car will show up from around the corner. If you rent a car and plan to drive in the mountains then try to get compact car, it is much better suitable for those narrow roads. And they are all pretty much paved (at least we didn’t venture to any dirt roads) and I saw maybe only one or two pot holes, great condition of their road system.
  5. Cell phone reception was excellent. Even in most places in the mountains (not at our mountain retreat, which was actually nice, being disconnected from it all) we could geo track where we were driving.
  6. Gas prices are priced per litter. Speed limit is in mph, and distances on the roads are shown in kilometers (I think). Some strange combination of US and European metric systems.
  7. I knew that Puerto Rico has iguanas. I didn’t know where they exactly live and if we were going to see any. I saw three of them and in most unexpected places. One was running across busy intersection in Utuado, small mountain town in central part of the Island. The other two were seating next to airport runway in San Juan as we were planning to take off. We didn’t see them anywhere else, not in the mountains, not on any beaches.
  8. The food was excellent. With the exception of our first meal at Subway (we flew in on Good Friday and pretty much everything else was closed) I didn’t have a single bad meal. Everywhere we ate the food was really fresh and well prepared. Sometimes it was delivered to our table on the “island time”, taking from thirty minutes to an hour, but it was tasty.
  9. Buses can be used in San Juan, but they run on their own unpredicted schedule and it might take a while before you get to your final destination. At least they all cost the same – 75c, exact change required.

I took a lot of photos, have not looked at most of them yet, I hope there are some good ones to share with you guys. Here is one to start with. It rained on and off for the first two days, so everything was a bit grey, but really nice temperatures.

Click me!!! See me large or buy a print!

Purchase Limited Edition print of this photo

This photo was taken at 400mm focal length. It was taken from Parque del Nuevo Milenio, which is about 3 miles away from Castile San Felipe Del Morro. For this trip I rented Nikon 80-400mm lens and took a lot of photos with it. This lens is very expensive (almost 3K) and I don’t want to buy it, but renting it was a great way to take photos like this, otherwise impossible with lenses that I own.

I use this guys to rent lenses for my trips:

lens rental

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10 Responses to Puerto Rico

  1. Our daughter-in-law is from Puerto Rico originally. Everything is as you said in your blog. If you get the chance to visit Vieques, an island off the coast, you’ll get a true island experience, one of our favorites. Also a charming place to stay in San Juan is Cliente 84, an apartment type hotel on a cobblestone street.

    • Dmitrii says:

      We tried to visit Vieques, left San Juan almost two hours before 9AM ferry to give us plenty of time to get there, but not to be… there was accident or something and after spending hour plus in the traffic jam we had to turn around as the next ferry was leaving at 3PM. I really wanted to see Playa Flamenco, maybe some other time.

  2. natuurfreak says:

    Very nice photo I like it a lot

  3. simon0252 says:

    Excellent photo – well worth renting the lens.

  4. That was very informative. “Gas prices are priced per litter. Speed limit is in mph, and distances on the roads are shown in kilometers”.. this is hilarious! One of my friends was there recently. He mentioned about a tradition of shooting bullets into air on new year’s eve when the clock strikes 12! (Not sure how true it is though)

  5. jetsytravels says:

    Wow! I have lived in San Juan for the past 26 years, and you, on a short vacation, summed it up perfectly! I want to comment about the economic situation here. Puerto Rico is completely dependent upon the US for its economy. We have a saying here “When the US gets a cold, Puerto Rico gets pneumonia.” The downturn in the US that began 08-09 has hit us really hard. Business has dried up. Lots of people are out of work. In addition to the abandoned buildings, there are more people than ever setting up do-it-yourself roadside food and crafts businesses. In addition to that, Puerto Rico has still to embrace tourism as our major source of economic activity. We used to have a manufacturing industry, especially garments, that employed a lot of people. But as the minimum wage rose – those jobs moved to the Far East. We still have a healthy pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, but it is fully automated, so there is not great employment potential there. Tourism was something that the rest of the Caribbean had to rely on, not us. Times have changed, but our attitudes haven’t.
    Can’t wait to see your pictures!

  6. d berm says:

    Love your photo and thank you for sharing it. Sounds like P.R. hasn’t changed much but just getting worse. It has been a long time coming since my last visit there in Utaudo. Rumor has it and always will remain that PR is CORRUPTED! YEA that beautiful island the Borican’s had to fight hard and win over from Christopher Columbus Day’s. Beginning in San Juan and working it’s way to the mainland. Poor Pop, things were so bad that they even stole from the dead and scattered the remains. I know my father was amongst them! No, shame to the local districts who abuse the system & the poor people that live in desparity. Question to you: Should Puerto Rico become a State?

  7. kelihasablog says:

    Very cool…. thanks for that link! Your photo is fabulous! 😀

  8. Hi Dimitri – Lovely insight to your trip, thanks for all the local information – Great photo tooo! Thank for passing through by blog and hitting the like buttton! 😉

  9. Hi Dmitri, sounds like a good trip overall! I hope you can make it to Playa Flamenco in the future. I once read that if Puerto Rico was a state, it’d be the poorest state in the U.S.

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