For this week’s Stamped, Leonor, a technical coordinator in construction, shares her week-long adventure to Puerto Rico with her sister. She talks about her love for Puerto Rican culture and coming across the restaurant that invented the piña colada.
This is her story as told to Okibe Attah, writer at Backdrop.
Before my trip to Puerto Rico, I’d only experienced my sister in the typical family setting or when I visited her home. Because of the vast age gap, we didn’t get to do social or leisure activities together. So, in November of 2019, we decided to go on a trip together — just the two of us. My birthday is in the same month, so the trip doubled as a pre-birthday gift to myself.
From England, I met up with my sister in Madrid; then, we flew to Puerto Rico. In the evening, we touched down in San Juan, the capital, went to our Airbnb, and then went out to rent a car and get some money. The trip lasted just over a week, but we spent two days in San Juan. My sister did all the planning. All I did was book the Airbnb and show up.
We made our way around the island the next day, stopping by little towns. We walked around, took photos and went to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It is a fort used by the military in the old days.
During one of those stops, we came across Piña Colada Tablet at Barrachina, a colonial restaurant that claims to have invented the piña colada. I’m not sure if that’s true, but they tasted so good. I never liked that drink until I tried it again at Barrachina. And till this very day, I haven’t had any that comes close to theirs. Maybe they really did invent the piña colada.
Growing up, my sister was nicknamed “the drill sergeant," and she lived up to it on this trip. While I’m pretty laid-back, my sister is an adrenaline junkie. We’re opposites in that sense. However, on holiday, I enjoy exploring, as opposed to having an entirely relaxing trip, but my sister went all out. I’m pleased we got to know each other and know our boundaries.
Before this trip, my sister had met a Puerto Rican local on pilgrimage at the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain, and they stayed in contact. We met up with her and another local as we left the capital. Together, we explored smaller islands and mountains. Once, we visited the El Yunque National Forest and hiked the hill. It was both exhausting and exhilarating.
We also visited Cueva Ventana (Caves). Its walls are adorned with indigenous art. At the end of the cave is a massive opening that serves as a window. From that opening, you realise you’re almost at the mountaintop and can get an aerial view of the land.
My sister surfs, so we had to visit Rincón, a popular town amongst surfers. It is a beautiful town with a chilled aura, cute little cafés and stunning beaches. It was my first time surfing, and I didn’t do very well, so I let the pros do their thing [Laughs]. I did go snorkelling at Playa Escalera, and the view was bonkers. It looks pretty regular from above the water, but you get in and begin to see different types of fish and barrier reefs; I felt like Ariel, the little mermaid.
We were out most of the day, so we had to eat out a lot. I really enjoyed a culturally significant meal of theirs called mofongo. It’s made out of plantains, and apparently, they eat a lot of plantains in Puerto Rico. The best mofongo I had was at a restaurant called El Platanal Cupey. The variety they offered was out of this world.
We had heard about the Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bio Bay) in Vieques, so we had to check it out. Unfortunately, we missed the magical night because the full moon was out when we visited.
Before visiting Puerto Rico, we didn’t know much about the island or the culture. People would tell my sister and me how dangerous a place it is, but we thought to ourselves that it must be like every other place with its good and bad. We just had to be aware of our surroundings and where we were going.
I had a fabulous time in Puerto Rico. It was beautiful seeing how proud they are of their indigenous heritage. The locals we met were so helpful. They had so much patience when giving directions or showing us around. At least, that was our experience.
The entire trip was such a delight. It felt so good being around a variety of natural beauty. I would absolutely tell you to visit. I’d also recommend that you don’t stay in the capital for long. Get a car and explore. San Juan is beautiful, but there’s so much more to see.