(In case anyone is curious about the realities of these adorable floats – yes, they do in fact take forever to blow up, and no, I don’t recommend trying to do it on a windy beach!) The struggle was all too real, and we couldn’t stop laughing!
Puerto Rico Birthday Trip Recap!March 16, 2017
This is definitely one of my more photo-heavy posts, but if you only knew how many I had to leave out that I desperately wanted to include…oh man. It’s safe to say I’m enjoying the camera improvement on my new iPhone, because I had over 3,000 photos + videos to upload when I got home!
I can’t say it enough, this trip was one of the best I’ve ever taken. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a week, let alone a birthday surrounded by family & friends (both new and old!) It’s hard to even know where to begin, there’s so much to cover!
I received (and still am receiving) nonstop messages during my trip about how incredible it looked, what an amazing time it seemed I was having, and how much people wished they could have joined (me too, friends!) The crazy part is, traveling to Puerto Rico is actually extremely affordable. Flights down there RT are around $200-240! Believe me, it is well worth it regardless of cost. Puerto Rico is beautiful. I ended up not even editing a lot of these photos because they just didn’t need it!
Typically, you fly into San Juan Airport (although there is an airport in Aguadilla right next to my cousin’s house, it’s much smaller and flights are pricier). My cousin has a house in Isabela which is on the very west side of the island, about 2 hours from San Juan. The drive from the airport is so beautiful though – so much lush greenery and mountains everywhere you look.
She only purchased the house a few weeks ago, so the first night mainly consisted of exploring the new property and catching up, and then we headed down to one of the beach bars called “Uma’s” in Aguadilla for some drinks and a friend’s birthday party where they were teaching salsa dancing!
*I don’t think I had fully settled into vacation mode enough to dive right into salsa dancing, so I observed the pros from the sidelines and listened to the waves with a Margarita in hand!*
Shameless cousin selfies on the first night!
The next few days consisted of exploring a few different beaches, laying out with my pineapple float, swimming every 20 minutes because I couldn’t get enough of that incredible water, and snorkeling occasionally! My favorite beach the past two trips has been Jobos Beach in Aguadilla. There are a few great beach bars, it’s a protected bay so the water is a little bit calmer, there is a lot of coral to go snorkeling, and the cliffs nearby are great for jumping – as long as you’re up for a long swim!
Nothing beats beachside yoga first thing in the morning – granted, I feel accomplished that I learned to touch my toes this year, so I took a lot of breaks unlike my yogi master cousin Julia!
The waves crashing over the edge of the tide pools were intense that day – This way actually grew into one much bigger, and it barely missed me! I was tempted to sneak out there and get some closer shots, but had to be cautious of stepping on sea urchins or getting swept away to sea! Either way, it was beautiful. The tide pools can be found at Middles Beach, directly North of Jobos Beach in Aguadilla (about a 6-8 minute drive!)
The gorgeous waterfalls behind me in the last two pictures are actually a small cliff that protects the tide pools I was floating in. The wind is insane in Puerto Rico from December to sometime in April due to the trade winds, and we certainly got our fair share of it during my trip! The tide pools were a safer bet for relaxed floating without fear of blowing away.
Another all-time favorite beach near Aguadilla is Crash Boat Beach. There are a handful of gorgeous pastel-colored fishing boats pulled up onto the sand (hence, the name), some food trucks and street performers, and a huge pier to jump off of. The highlight of Crash Boat though? The incredible sunsets. No trip down there is complete without a sunset on Crash Boat.
A slightly blurry photo of a spontaneous leap off of the end of the pier right after sunset – and no, I was not prepared for the precarious climb back up a slippery ladder. Moments after I climbed up, one of the fisherman caught a huge fish and flopped it right next to me on the dock! I was ready to head home after that one!
The above photo is completely unedited – the sunsets on Crash Boat are out of this world. I always have to take videos of the water and waves crashing because the way the light reflects off of them makes it seem fake it’s so beautiful and shimmery.
We also got to see a handful of baby sea turtles being safely released into the ocean while we were walking to the pier! It was a complete surprise and so adorable. The picture isn’t perfect because I had to zoom from far away, but I didn’t want to get too close and scare the little guy!
The rest of the week was a lot of relaxing, reading in the mornings, and heading to the beach after breakfast. My cousin already has an absolutely incredible garden growing on her new property with everything you could want – Kale, Spinach, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Coconuts, Bananas, Limes & Lemons, Romaine Lettuce…It made me want to have a yard and start a garden myself!
Both she and my cousin Hilary are Celiac and have the most amazing recipes for GF and Vegan diets. I felt so much healthier while I was down there, and definitely felt like my stomach was handling the fresh and organic food much better. I’m planning on making it a goal of mine to start cooking more GF recipes whenever I can – I’ll be sure to share the recipes on here, she taught me plenty!
Before I knew it, my birthday had arrived! I can’t speak for those early years that I can’t remember…but this was truly hands down the best birthday I have ever had. In fact, I’m fairly certain I repeated that more than 50 times to my cousins that day! Sorry guys…I just had a blast!
Clearly the day was off to a stressful start on my pineapple float with a drink in hand…
I learned to surf last time I was in Puerto Rico, but was by no means an expert. Anyone who knows how uncoordinated I am knows that it is a genuine feat of gravity – but I think it’s safe to say that I mastered it! It’s hard to pass up an opportunity to learn surf lessons from the very first ever professional surfer in Puerto Rico!
Julia’s hilariously fun boyfriend Eric also picked me a beautiful birthday flower from their garden that totally made my morning!
After a long day at the beach, we headed to a little roadside mojito bar that makes massive mojitos for only $8. Another perk of Puerto Rico? All of the aspects of the United States are there, including not exchanging money, having fully working cell service, and some recognizable stores for the essentials.
After drinks we headed back for a (rare) primping session before dinner. For the majority of the trip, we didn’t bother with doing our hair or makeup and just took the week off from all of that, but who doesn’t love dressing up on their birthday?! We ended up at one of the best seafood dinners I’ve ever had right along the beach. We didn’t end up celebrating too late that night, because we had an early car ride back towards San Juan to take a ferry to a beautiful island called Culebra!
Despite a 4am wake-up call, we were beyond happy to have arrived on the new island! Culebra is right next to the British Virgin Islands, so if you’ve ever been to one of those you understand how insanely blue the water is and the adorable colorful buildings and island quirks we were experiencing!
Almost every single person on the island either rents a Jeep or a golf cart to get around. You know you’re in a small island when golf carts are a main mode of transport!
My gorgeous cousin Julia posing with some of the pretty pastel buildings!
I’ve always loved sailing and sailboats in general, so the harbor with all of the boats that people live on had me totally dying to rent one for a week. They use those little dingy boats to get to and from their sailboats, and the shore is lined with little beach bars to drive up to and order drinks and food!
One of the major disappointments of the trip was that we didn’t find the GoPro Charger until we were in Culebra, but it turned out okay because that was where we did the majority of our snorkeling! The blue water was so crystal clear and beautiful, I couldn’t stop myself from re-surfacing and removing my goggles every few minutes just to spin in circles and take it all in.
All of the buildings in Culebra are used either as decoration or for advertisement with colorful paints and chalk. I loved the vibe that it gave the whole island!
This was one of the more “secret” snorkeling spots that we found – according to some of our local friends, the sea turtles loved this area because of all of the seagrass! Our good friends own the restaurant Vibra Verde, right by the ferry port. If you’re ever in Culebra you absolutely must go there for breakfast. It was the best meal I had the entire trip!
(Almost) our entire group in Culebra right before a particularly lengthy snorkeling session. Can you believe that water?! I’ve been staring at this picture for almost ten minutes just looking at the sky and sea, wondering why I’m cuddled up in blankets in snowy Chicago instead of back on the sand where I belong.
Looking over all of these pictures is making me even more desperate to head back as soon as possible. I’m definitely going to try and squeeze in another trip sometime this fall once things settle down here!