Secret Puerto Rico

A few times a year, our friends Mia and Paul and their dog Teddy fly down to the surf capital of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico. After hearing the two of them rave about these epic surf trips, Anthony and I finally decided to tag along. We booked our tickets and before we knew it, we were on a midnight flight to Aguadilla. The plane was nearly vacant, so we spent the 3 hour 50 minute flight stretched out across our own rows. We touched down at 3AM, and hopped into a Charlie's shuttle van to Charlie Rent A Car located 5 minutes away from the airport. Seeing as it was 4AM and we couldn't check into our place until 11AM, we threw our bags into our oh so spacious Hyundai Hatchback and followed Mia and Paul through dark tropical streets to their Airbnb. 

We pulled up to a little purple house on a tiny hill. Inside was some interesting yet charming decor: a bobblehead here and some plastic flowers over there. But our exhaustion quickly took over so we all hit the sheets. Well, Anthony and I hit the four foot black velvet couch in the living room, but we could tell that we were already off to a great adventure. During the next three hours of shut eye, we listened to dogs, chickens, crickets, and many more unidentifiable wildlife. At last the sun rose, and we swiftly headed out for some breakfast. We wound up at El Carey Cafe which became the every morning pit stop. It's located on route 4466 between Shack's Beach and Jobos Beach. Diana Vasquez not only owns the place, but she also sells her paintings there too. You might even catch the world's tiniest Chihuahua in her arms, Shaggy. They also make kick ass homemade hot sauce that you can purchase as well. 

"I felt the most relaxed that I'd felt in so many months listening to the grumblings of the waves crashing on the Earth's floor..."

We still had some time to kill before our check in, so Mia and Paul led us to Surfer's Beach for a quick surf session. Our surroundings quickly changed from residential to wild and tropical. We were on a dirt road with trees intertwining overhead until we reached the sand. Paul paddled out in the 5 foot waves while we laid down in the sand. I felt the most relaxed that I'd felt in so many months listening to the grumblings of the waves crashing on the Earth's floor and feeling the light breeze waft across my cheeks. That was only the beginning. We would have a week of this. A week of pure fun and relaxation. 

On the road again, we travelled back east about a 10 minute drive to our little palm tree covered bungalow. It was located only a 7 minute walk from the sand at Shack's Beach. As we made the turn onto the property we saw that we were staying on what looked like a tiny farm. There were horses corralled in handmade fences, and chickens running about. There was a handful of dogs on the property as well - all friendly. We couldn't have been more excited to stay there. We tossed our suitcases in and scoped out our little spot. 

"The rain felt so warm on our skin, that we sat there a little while longer to enjoy the sensation of rain drops dancing on our bodies."

The next few days, were spent jumping between different beaches. Mia and Paul knew all the sweet spots. We covered the Northwest coast: everything from Jobos to Surfer's to Wilderness to Maria's . Mia and Paul did all the surfing while Anthony and I swam, snorkeled, and hiked through the cliff sides. The water was as warm as a bath. I felt like I could float in there forever. Running to and from all of these surf spots definitely struck up some hunger. On a day trip down to Rincon, we found a dilapidated seafood restaurant right on the shore. We walked in, with only one group of locals sitting at single table. A little girl, maybe 12 years old sat us down at a plastic table outside near the dock, where we watched the crabs do their line dance along the water. We ordered a round of piña coladas, and not even 5 minutes later, it began to sprinkle. The rain felt so warm on our skin, that we sat there a little while longer to enjoy the sensation of rain drops dancing on our bodies. Eventually we ordered some lobster empanadas and conch. Everything was served on styrofoam plates and cups which didn't even phase us as we were too distracted by the fresh seafood in our mouths from that morning's catch. We found little gems like these all over. You just have to be brave enough to walk in. 


Beach Comparisons and Artwork: Mia Woolrich, Paul Schmidt


Later that same night we planned to go to Diana's art show in Rincon. But as if we weren't full enough from our seafood luncheon, we put all our efforts in to seeking out a secret thai food "restaurant." This isn't really quite a restaurant. It's actually an apartment complex, and a couple who resides there converted their outdoor balcony to a cozy surf-style seating area. Only about 8 people can fit, so if it's full, you're out of luck. We indulged upon chicken pad thai and a stupendous grouper dish that they'd just caught that morning. Oddly enough, the best thai food I'd ever had was right here in Puerto Rico thanks to the hands of this lovely thai lady and her husband. I couldn't even begin to tell you how to get there. It's a maze of a way, but if you search hard enough and ask around, someone may be able to point you into the right direction. 

Some other friends of ours had told us that we should go down to Cabo Rojo for a day trip. It's about an hour and a half drive South from Isabela. The first beach we sought out was a private beach with paid parking. We tried to get in, but Paul and Mia were denied by the parking attendant because they did not allow dogs. Luckily he gave us directions to a local spot, a tiny little cove with houses right up to the edge of the water. They were of several colors: brights and pastels alike. Some on stilts with the water so calm and pale blue. Our own little oasis for the afternoon. On our way back up to Isabela the sun began to set and we found ourselves cruising through a little main street in Aguada. There was an ice cream shop open and we decided that it would be the perfect end not only to our day, but to our entire trip. 

We woke up at 3AM and returned our little vehicle that had driven us so many miles all over the island. Then it was back to the airport to catch our flight home to New York City. What a discovery. Puerto Rico will always be at our finger tips and a short flight away. I know we will be returning soon. Perhaps this time to San Juan...


Photos + Video: True O'Neill, Anthony Garito

Words: True O'Neill (edited by Michelle Murphy)


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