Hello and welcome to the description of my favorite location in Puerto Rico so far! It’s called Isabela, it’s along the north coast about two hours west of San Juan, and Pat wanted to go because there are a lot of good surf breaks. Because there are a lot of good surf breaks, a resort town sprang up in the area, with the associated shops and restaurants and the like. This is not an uncommon story.
So, what makes Isabela so special? THEY HAVE A RUNNING PATH.
And lots of surfing. We stayed in an Airbnb practically on top of Jobos, where Pat surfed.
AND I RAN!
There was a restaurant literally right next to our rental. It served pretty decent food and even breakfast. One morning Pat and I got breakfast AFTER I WENT FOR A RUN!
A few weeks ago we went on a mini overnight adventure with some buddies. Our first stop was Guavate, aka La Ruta de Lechon, so called because of the many, many pig roast food stalls that populate the area.
Our friend Tim insisted that Lechonera Los Pinos is the best, so we stopped there. We did get some roasted pork but the ribs were the tastiest!
Next up: Charco Azul, a little pond/stream/bathing pool area that requires a brief hike through the rainforest to reach. No waterfalls, alas, but it was still cute.
Finally, we bunked for the night at Finca Corsica, an Airbnb/glamping/camping area by the ocean. There was direct beach access and a pool, but personally I (Jenn) was most excited by the cows!
This is our friend Tim’s band. They are called, as you might have surmised, Los Diamantes. We caught them at an outdoor food truck spot a couple weeks ago. We’re inoculated but still cautious, so right now outdoors is where it’s at.
We are such incredible VIPs we got to hang with the band between sets. The fun never stops when you’re vaccinated!
This past Wednesday was Noche de San Juan, obviously named for the patron saint of the city – well, island really. Interesting side note, the island used to be called San Juan and the city was called Puerto Rico… which actually makes more sense. I don’t remember why it got flipped but here we are.
Every June 23rd, the residents celebrate by going to the beach, partying, and then at midnight “dunking” themselves in the ocean 3 or 7… or 11 times. No one seems to agree on the correct number but the important part is you face backwards and jump into the waves some prime number of times. I’m pretty sure the result of this ritual is that you have good luck for the year or your negativity rinsed off, something like that.
Unfortunately, since this all takes place at night it was tough to get any good pictures but imagine the below image with more people and at night.
Since I’m currently working night shift (which is terrible and I hate), things were a bit easier in hanging out at the beach at midnight during a Wednesday. Anyway it was a fun little experience to take in. One thing I’ve definitely learned while being here is that Boricua never miss a chance to have a good time.
Hooray for easy access to COVID vaccinations! Now that we and the larger majority of the people we know have gotten their shot, we’re starting to feel comfortable hanging out and going places again.
Last weekend we sojourned out into the wilds of civilization again for dinner at La Casona, a Spanish restaurant in Santurce. Our local friends Eddie’s and Emma’s nephew was in town with his girlfriend, so we joined some of our neighbors for a celebratory meal.
Highlights included delicious charcuterie, a roving guitarist, and my personal favorite, parrots!
The grounds are absolutely sprawling; we barely skimmed the surface, but we did get to check out the wine cellar.
Here’s hoping we collectively kick COVID to the curb for good and can go on more adventures!
Just wanted to share with everyone a pic of our friends Alex, Jason, Julie, and Margie. This was before paddling out to Tres one more time during the last big swell of the season. Let’s just say it didn’t go as smoothly as the first time; I had water coming out of my sinuses for 2 weeks after this session.
So the last few months have been terrible in a pretty wide variety of ways. Even though it wasn’t the year we had hoped for, Jenny and I did occasionally find some time for fun and enjoying what we could of life and… cats. Here’s some highlights of the last few months.
Occasionally Jenny and I would hang with some of our favorite neighbors, Eddie and Emma. Usually they keep us up far too late…. seriously.
Jenny and I made a few strolls down the beach to enjoy some beers at the outdoor brewery and restaurant… also visit their parrots.
Obviously one of the few things keeping me sane through all of this is being able to surf and recently I just had one of the highlights of my surfing life; surfing Tres Palmas. Unfortunately our documentation of this trip was kind of poor, I blame it on all the excitement.
Tres is a break on the west side of the island in Rincón. We actually have already mentioned it in one of our earlier posts, I think right around this time last year in the before times. Anyways, this spot can handle a lot of swell and if the direction is right, it can produce quite a wave.
As any diligent surfer does, I keep a close eye on the meteorological forecasts to pretend I know what’s going to happen with the waves. About two weeks ago everything was pointing towards a big incoming northwest swell which made me and all other surfers on the island excited. Jenny and I booked a nice little spot just in front of Tres Palmas.
Upon arriving we found that the waves were pumping but kind of messy. I called up one of my surf buddies from Maryland, Alex, who has taken up temporary residence with his wife, Margie, on the west side of the island and worked up a plan. Alex was keen to surf Tres because he had just bought a new gun (a big surfboard for big waves). However, we decided that the wise move was to wait until the next day to go out when Jason would be around. Jason’s another gringo who spends his winters here surfing. He’s a pilot who has to work about every 8 days or so and spends his time in between surfing… pretty sweet life. So in consideration of Jenn’s number one rule for me when I go surfing, “Don’t die”, we waited and surfed some other small stuff in the area.
The next day I got up at dawn and checked the waves; everything was still working nicely, maybe even bigger. Alex had a few chores to take care of so we decided to meet up later and I walked down the road and surfed one of other breaks. After a short session I got out so I could have some shoulders left for the rest of the day and Jenny and I had some lunch at El Ancla (the anchor) at the marina, watched the surf, and had a few Don Q’s.
Alex and Margie joined up with us and we did a check of Tres and decided it was time. Jason was back and ready to go. Us three caballeros met down on the beach and set off for the long paddle out, roughly about 30 minutes. Thankfully, when we got out the lineup it was in that sweet spot of enough people around to make you feel comfortable for safety (and cheering) but not too many too make it feel overcrowded.
At this point I was feeling pretty undergunned, in that the biggest board I own is 7′. I didn’t really have any plans on catching a wave though, just to observe and get a feel. Since I was generally just trying to avoid the big sets coming in, I was sitting pretty wide towards the channel in the reef and hooting Jason and Alex into waves. This was also Alex’s first time in waves of that size out there and he was enjoying how his newly acquired gun was working.
Suddenly I hear Jason say a set’s swinging wide, so I picked my head, looked over my shoulder and low and behold I was just about in the perfect spot. A little repositioning, I put my head back down, gave a few deep paddles, and I was into the biggest wave of my life. The next few moments are a bit of a blur, I mostly remember the crazy speed you get going down the face of a 20′ wave… it’s a lot. I had a nice little line then hopped off over the back of the wave and right back onto the board without getting my hair, or scalp I suppose, wet. I paddled back to Jason and Alex with a grin from ear to ear. I knew from then through the rest of the season, any other waves I get would just be icing on the cake.
I paddle over and sat chatting with Alex, we were both pretty content and the sun was starting to set. Jason, on the other hand, was not content and didn’t want to go in until he caught a bomb. So Alex and I bobbed around waiting on the inside for Jason. It was starting to move past dusk and into the evening proper, so Alex and I were debating paddling in but it didn’t feel right to leave him out there. Just as we were discussing this, Alex saw a group of flashlights on the beach waving around. Alex immediately knew he was in much bigger trouble… the wives were signaling us back in. Thankfully, in what was now almost complete darkness, Jason paddled up next to us having given up on his efforts, we made our way back to the beach. We had a surprisingly easy exit onto the slippery rocks and joined up with the wives. I think our overall giddiness made them quickly forgive the late return.
We all went out for a nice outdoor dinner and recounted the events of the day, while Jenn and Jason’s girlfriend bonded over their mutual love of airplane disaster shows. Apparently she enjoys quizzing Jason on various emergency piloting situations. After finishing up we departed and got ready for the next day of surf.
The next morning Jim (another philopatric gringo surf visitor to Rincón) paddled out with Alex and I to Tres. Once again the waves were pumping but this time there were far, far more people. I again took to the shoulder and sat back and watched. I was hoping to catch one but wasn’t pushing it given I had already seen two collisions. Jim eventually caught a nice one and we went back to the beach. A few hours later the onshore winds picked up and made everything a mess. Alex and I took a drive around to spot check but eventually called it quits and we settled on a nice dinner in town with the ladies.
Thankfully, I got one more session in with Alex prior to leaving at a lesser known but fun spot. The waves were slightly overhead, clean, and fun. I bid adieu to Alex and started back to our place to pack up, but promptly got lost in the hills. Eventually, I made it back with enough time to pack before check out and we got on the road back to San Juan. Successful trip.
So overall, the year hasn’t been all bad, in fact, if you ask Ruffian it’s probably been the best year ever .
As I and every other surfer knows, Endless Summer is a misnomer. The best waves are always in the winter, and given that we’re now in the full swing of summer… well, I’ve been a bit bored. Thankfully Puerto Rico has an abundance of aquatic activities to keep me busy. One of these days there will be a hilarious post of my misadventures in kite surfing, wind surfing, or sailing, but for now I’ve been keeping myself entertained with snorkeling along our reef. There are hundreds of reefs around here; however, one of the unique things about ours is that it almost touches the beach, meaning I can swim to it fairly easily.
Now for a quick soapbox: remember if you’re around reefs to use reef safe sunscreen (those without oxybenzone and octinoxate).
Anyway here’s some video of me playing around on the reef. Disfruta!
I’ve found a new running trail! It (mostly) hugs the beach all through Piñones, and features some pretty sweet views of the ocean and sometimes even the mountains.
I tried to take a video during my last long run during my favorite portion of the trail. I can’t say it turned out great, per se, in that it a bit herky-jerky and I didn’t always control the camera as well as I would’ve liked. In my defense I was also partially concentrating on not tripping and falling on my face.
All the same, this video will give you the gist, and Pat doctored it nicely and added some music (Nellie McKay’s “Caribbean Time,” since you asked). It doesn’t do the trail justice but it’ll have to tide you over until you can come visit.
First and foremost, we hope everyone is healthy and staying safe. Jenn and I have more or less been hunkered down at home for the last two months, only really venturing out for groceries or occasional takeout food. We’ve been pretty bored but otherwise doing well.
As Memorial Day weekend came around we were finally able to get back onto the beaches and into the water. Thankfully for me and all the other surfers, the relaxation of the governor’s orders came right in time for an off-season swell. Being out of the water for about 2 months I was pretty desperate. I woke up around 5 AM to do a surf check to find some pretty mediocre waves at my spot. Thankfully I texted my neighbor Carlos to see what his plans were. He cryptically responded to hang tight we’re going “somewhere”.
Carlos has taken me to a few other surf spots around the area and more or less knows the ins and outs of the best breaks on the island. After waiting for quite some time for his friend Mario to arrive at our condo, we finally got underway. We went to an area of the island to the east about 40 minutes from San Juan and then down a pretty ragged dirt road.
After about 10 minutes down the bumpy road we came to the secret / not so secret surf spot. According to Carlos it was packed, but really it wasn’t bad, it was a huge beach and plenty of space to spread out.
After about 4 to 5 hours of surfing we were all wiped. We drank some water then some beers and started back home. My shoulders are still recovering and my sunburn is still healing, but it was well worth it.