Disclaimer: this isn't a "guide", per say. We're all for planning ahead, but sometimes you just have to play things by ear. That's essentially what we did on our (well, Baker and Beef) recent trip to Puerto Rico. In essence, this guide is simple:
1. Do some light research to get an idea of the island
2. Know you're going to have a good time
3. Pick a location (or multiple) per day
4. Get there and play your activities by ear
1. You will need a car if you want to get around
2. Have a car phone charger, or something
3. Reach out to the locals
4. Try "mofongo"
Hey, it worked out for us. We took the chance and regretted nothing. We were there for a week, or. so. Our adventures will be broken down into 3+ different blog posts, starting here:
Day 1 - Ponce, Southern Puerto Rico
Ponce (puh-on-seh) is basically dead in the center of south Puerto Rico. Their saying? "Ponce is ponce. Everything else is parking." We actually went to Ponce on our second day there. We just relaxed on the first. We had one goal upon arriving in Ponce. Get coffee. With that in mind, while Beef drove, I got on my phone 30 minutes prior to arriving in the city and Google searched "Coffee". The first thing to come up was some "hacienda buena vista", among a few other "cafés". The cafés didn't exactly promise coffee, and a quick glance at the reviews for the hacienda described it as a coffee plantation. So to the hacienda we went, through the clearly-Spanish-colonized town, passing the abandoned who-knows-what factory, and through the greenest winding roads of your life.
Upon arriving at the plantation, we were greeted by an emotionless guard and a gate. Just like that. Boom. We're confused. We roll down the window and he asks us if we have a reservation. Nope. Lucky for us, there happens to be 2 spots open (AWW YEAH). "$12, is that okay?" he asks. Of course we agree. We drove all this damn way! Mind you, we were still not sure what we were getting ourselves into. Screw it. We went in. We parked and walked through more Spanish colonial buildings. We were confused up until we got up to a museum-like store front. It wasn't like a museum store front. It is a museum store-front.
The Hacienda Buena Vista is a plantation and estate in Ponce. It once was a coffee plantation, among other things; and it no longer makes coffee. Of course, we could've found that out by furthering our search on Google/Wiki (if you want to learn more), but where's the fun in that? We were just hoping for a coffee sample in the end. But nope. Now, enjoy the pictures.
We finished this awesome history lesson still coffee-less. Well, Beef bought some beans. They sold them there, but were from some other coffee plantation in PR. Regardless, we wanted coffee. We asked our tour guide where, and she directed us to the center of Ponce, Parque de Bombas. She said there were 2 or 3 cool coffee shops there.
In to town we went. First coffee shop – closed. Second coffee shop – the shop was open, but the coffee bar closed. Fuck. We walk down half a block, basically giving up and in the car's direction. But right before actually giving up, we see "Proscenium...coffee theater". We saw "coffee" and the door was open, so we went in. Based on the 5 people in the big room, it was closed. Except they weren't! And they had an espresso machine. Score. We learned later that this cafe/theater had been open for about a month. Apparently there's more activity earlier in the weekend. We learned about them after asking if they would mind a quick photo shoot on their stage. They seem like good people. If you're ever in the area, check them out!
Finally satisfied with our coffee, we debated eating in town or back at Beef's parents house (where they were nice enough to let us stay). We circled the park and didn't find anything interesting. Again, we were headed back to the car. However, we passed some people that seemed to be setting up a music stage. Initially, I assumed that they were packing up. Luckily, Beef wasn't sure. So we asked. Turned out they were setting up for the town's municipal orchestra. Hell yes. And all we had to do was kill 2 hours. We circled the park again and found a cool, fancy-ish restaurant in a hotel, Lola's. There, we had some delicious mofongo paired up with some Brooklyn Brewery beer (More on the PR beer scene in a later post).
We killed 2hrs getting topped-off on carbs, and headed back where the orchestra was done setting up:
Just like that our trip was off to an amazing start. Nothing planned. Just Ponce. What did it take? Talking to the locals and phone with battery.