Where: Puerto Rico
When: December 2015
It takes leaving somewhere you’ve always known to truly see and appreciate it’s beauty. Puerto Rico is my homeland. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t blind to see how beautiful of an island it is through my years as a full time resident. But once I actually left I learned there’s nothing better than a Puerto Rican Christmas eating “arroz con habichuelas y tostones.” Out of my five years living in New York, I only spent one White Christmas in the Big Apple. I knew after that first that never again would I be missing Navidades en Puerto Rico. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Instagram had loads to do with my growing appreciation for Puerto Rico. I started seeing places that not even during my childhood I had explored or heard of. How could that be when during one school year I my teachers took us to at least four field trips to do internal tourism. None of these places that were popping up on my feed had I ever heard of. With all these unexplored hot spots, I made became a tourist in my own homeland. Every trip home basically was more like a vacation by spending it driving across the island to explore uninhabited beaches.
It’s true what some say. You learn to appreciate where you’re from once you leave. Puerto Rico is my homeland. It’s where my parents decided to raise their family regardless of better opportunities across “the pond". It’s where my grandparents . It’s where my dreams of seeing the world. They wanted my brother and I to grow up left my beloved homeland in 2010 for the Big City and for the six years I’ve lived in the city
After a first few days spent indulging in doing much of nothing, and catching up with family and friends at Christmas festivities, it was then time for the first adventure of the trip. My parents' friends recently purchased a boat and invited us out to sea for its first trip to Icacos, a tiny island on east of Puerto Rico. We started our day off with an early morning wake up call to drive down to Marina del Rey and be the first out at sea. It has been a couple years since I'd been out boating in the Caribbean Sea and I dearly missed the wind swept salty hair, crashing deep blue waves, and being utterly remote. Arriving at Icacos - it was just as I remembered, turquoise and white sand. I immediately jumped off the boat and spent the afternoon floating around in the water and sun basking in the front of the boat. By lunch time, we barbecued chicken kebabs - which we call pinchos - by the ocean, snacked on spicy crab dip and sipped mimosas, until it was time to go return to the mainland before dusk hit.
Visiting Cueva Ventana had been on my must-see list since I'd left the Island. The cave started popping up on my feed of the picture framed view and ever since then I kept trying to make it there but until this visit I got to go with my long time friend and her boyfriend. We learned that because of the multiitude of people coming in-and-out of the cave, leaving trash, and destroying nature, they had to organize a touristic experience in other to manage the safety. They gave us helmets and flash lights to climb down a barely lit cave surrounded by bats until we'd get to the edge where we got to enjoy the view, take all the cliche photos we wanted and keep hearing a legends about a snake that lives in there. I would love to had my Indiana Jones hat to enjoy the full on experience. Now glad I crossed that one off the list.
I'm on a boat again - this time we took off to what I consider to be the ultimate secluded beach in Puerto Rico. Again we took off super early in the morning in other to make the most of our day out at sea and this time the trip to Culebrita would longer. I invited my best girlfriend along this time to goof around. There was more jumping off the boat, floating on floaties, but this time I was trying to enter the water in a more gracefully that I might have strained my lower back with a super bad angle dive. I had lower back pains for over three months. I learned my lesson - do not show off for a 'gram. We enjoyed some laughs over puns about my friend's tire floatie a.k.a. goodyear. We barbecued again homemade burgers that I proudly prepared the beef paties. Sippe on more mismosas. It is not a cocktail that you would initially associate with enjoyed out in the sun but you'd be surprised how delightfully refreshing it is.