If you want to find the best opportunities for fun and adventure, take a look what I discovered in the west coast town of Rincon, Puerto Rico. Hiking, water sports, dining, and nature at places both on and off the beaten path, just out of peak tourist season. This trip happened at the end of November.
The rates to fly to Puerto Rico are extremely reasonable this time of year. The San Juan airport is the main international airport on the island, it is small and easy to navigate, and a short walk to get to the car rental area. Take a carry-on and you will breeze right through your flight schedule.
There are typical car rental rates in November, but a bigger selection of newer cars to choose from with very low miles. My car had 128 miles on it and still had the plastic on the seatbelt connections and the new car smell. I had 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the surfing beach town of Rincon, Puerto Rico. I could have flown into the closer Aguadilla Airport, but San Juan had less expensive options and I wanted to explore anyway.
The Mental Adjustment
It’s my belief that traveling to my destination is part of the vacation. Snacks and drinks in the airport, reading a book I’ve been dying to crack open during a layover, a movie on the plane ride, and hopefully a window seat for take-off and landing, are part of the experience. It helps if you revert to child-like wonder from the moment you leave work and start packing. A perk of my trip is a membership to Dreamtrips travel club and having what is called “Rovia bucks” gained from sharing the club with friends who love to travel as well as I do. This club account paid for my airline ticket and sent me through expedited security lines. I didn’t start spending money until I picked up my rental car. I could have covered my accommodations by searching for a pre-packaged vacation or an available hideaway in the area but opted for a private rental option with friends who live in Puerto Rico instead.
There are many places to see between San Juan and Rincon driving along the west coast of Puerto Rico and I had researched a few ideas ahead of time. Waking in a comfortable bed on the first day in my Rincon rental, I felt the ceiling fan and open windows blow the humid 82-degree air over my body and was immediately psyched for morning coffee on the rooftop. I left the rain and chilly air of Charlotte, North Carolina, far behind to stay with people who spend six months of the year in Puerto Rico’s Rincon area who were going to be really helpful finding my kind of vacation entertainment. I walked upstairs to find myself in a tropical paradise of plants, outdoor cushioned furniture, a hammock, and a small pool. The sky was blue and I could see the ocean in the distance. I was already taking pictures to send home.
The rental I was staying in used to be an old church. It was an open floorplan, light wood, tile floors, and brightly colored walls with beach themed decoration; totally my idea of an oceanside cottage. Three bedrooms and two baths with one outdoor shower made it perfect to share as everyone had their own privacy. Open windows allowed us to be serenaded by tree frogs at night and awakened by crowing roosters in the morning.
We all eased into the first day with a trip to local Rincon beaches. Getting from point A to point B means navigating roads that are only a lane and half wide with periodic hairpin blind turns. Take the extra car rental insurance and bravely explore. Eventually, you will be driving like the locals, in the middle of the road, relying on reflexes, and blowing through red lights late at night. You will note the cars parked outside their residences are marked by a series of fender benders with age.
Sandy Beach, like many beaches, is lined with palm trees on one side and turquoise ocean water on the other. Since the area is known for surfing, many of the beaches are rocky and it’s hard to walk into the water without tripping, but Sandy Beach is “swimming friendly” where you can walk easily in and out of the water, snorkel and float, then relax on a beach chair. A convenient boutique size hotel and bar called Tamboo is on the beach when you feel like getting some food and refreshment. Stay the day or hop over to Steps Beach – named for the mysterious cement stoop – sitting in the water near the shore. This beach is a little rocky, but good for snorkeling since there are places for fish to play hide and seek.
Dome beach was once an active military installation that officially shuttered its doors in 2012. Within the dome was a boiling nuclear superheater run by general electric from 1965-68. There is now a museum of atomic science, a local surfing beach with trails, rocky outcrops and a view of the mysterious looking dome over the tropical trees and vegetation. It is now a premier surfing beach for skilled locals and tourists.
Next to Dome Beach is the Rincon Lighthouse sitting atop a small hill. You may find a stand for handmade jewelry outside, a grassy courtyard is often used for weddings for its picturesque views of beaches from above, and there is a convenient restroom facility.
Beach Activities and Equipment Rental
If you like watersports, locate Rincon Paddleboard Rentals owned and operated by Damiano and Chicako who are Rincon locals. Find them on the main website or on Facebook and learn about how they can teach you to paddleboard, surf, kayak, and snorkel as well as take you on tours. They have all the necessary equipment for each activity
available to rent. Tell them Jessica Headrick sent you for a surprise on your visit. They are located on the beach and can take you out as soon as you are ready. Keep in mind that Puerto Rico has 501km or 311 miles of coastline and this is just the western section.
Dining and Accommodations
Playa Maria Beach access is next to the Calypso Café which has a bar with live music in the evenings. There are a couple of beach shops that provide great reasons to get out of the sun for a bit, soothe your skin, and hydrate.
The Lazy Parrot Mini Resort in Rincon has an island atmosphere suitable for events and weddings. It has hotel rooms and suites, a gift shop, restaurant, and poolside bar in the courtyard. Stay there to take complete advantage of the amenities or just visit the bar and take in a game or two over a local Medalla beer.
Grab an authentic English style breakfast or tea at the English Rose Bed and Breakfast located up a winding road surrounded by lush foliage, ending on a hilltop with breathtaking views for miles. Have a relaxing brunch or reserve a guesthouse overlooking the pool and stay a while.
The Aloha Surf is an outdoor food stand and bar right in town beside other local restaurants. The owner, Crystal, may be your chef, creating local favorites like fresh seafood, steak, chicken, and pork pinchos which are pieces of meat pierced with a stick like a kabob. Empanadillas are another Spanish dish of pastries filled with the same meats as the pinchos either chopped or ground. These finger foods are very popular fare found along every roadside throughout the island, but there are always those that come highly recommended over others.
Located right on the beach, La Copa Llena at the Black Eagle is the setting for spectacular sunsets, unique menu items and specials like Poke (a yellow fin tuna dish), tostones (mashed green plantains), butter-poached mackerel, and ribs that melt in your mouth.
The Hotel Villa Cofresi is a beach resort. Upon entering you will see their gift shop, pass by an open-air game room with billiard tables on the right and a pool on the left, and then find a seat at the bar overlooking the pelicans and boats on the ocean. Their signature drink, The Pirate Special, is several types of rum mixed with coconut milk, sprinkled with cinnamon, and served inside a freshly opened coconut shell. The entire drink does not fit in the coconut so it comes with an overflow cup. It is the perfect drink at the end of a beach day.
Finding fresh seafood in Rincon is not hard to do, but if you are looking for an exceptional recipe and presentation, you need to visit Saltaire and the Casa Verde Hotel. The chef, Christopher, studied the culinary arts while living in New York City where he refined his skills in fine dining and opened a restaurant in Puerto Rico. He showcases the variety of fresh catches, such as red snapper, along with lamb chops, stuffed mushrooms, fresh gnocchi, and even coconut bread pudding. The outdoor bar on the ground floor is decorated with little white lights and potted plants for ambiance and there is plenty of room to dance in the evening.
Saltaire is only open during Puerto Rico’s winter season – November through April -and we were lucky not to miss them! Contact them at Saltaire.email@example.com to ask about specials and tell them Jessica Headrick sent you!
Day Trips from Rincon
My separate article on Click link〉〉Side Trips from the Town of Rincon, Puerto Rico features details of visiting the following locations by car:
- La Parguera about an hour south of Rincon to Gina @ Johnny’s Boat Rentals.
- About a half hour north of Rincon to Jobo’s Beach in Isabella.
- The salt flats in Playa Sucia – La Playuela – in Cabo Rojo a little over an hour south of Rincon and where Los Morillos Lighthouse is also located.
- Waterfalls at Gozalandia Falls in San Sebastian about 45 minutes north of Rincon.
- Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, a half hour north of Rincon.
The best part of my trip: La Cueva del Indio with caves and isolated beaches an hour and a half north of Rincon in the town of Arecibo.
A third article titled Click link〉〉 Arecibo, Puerto Rico: The Caves of Cueva del Indio is dedicated to this location with many photos of the site and is certainly worth reading!
The end of this visit was filled with memories of things that can’t be seen or experienced elsewhere. Puerto Rico is loaded with other activities, beaches, restaurants, shopping, and historical sites. That will be the subject of another trip.
I would not have necessarily thought of taking a trip just after Thanksgiving, but Dreamtrips Rovia bucks eventually expire after a year and I wanted to take full advantage of my travel dollars. It’s hard to imagine needing the incentive to travel, but many of us put off plans more than we act on them. I joined the travel club to be sure I would see new places at least once a year if not several times each year. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.