Earlier this year, we visited San Juan for the second time, this time with Brian’s parents. It was a special trip as it was the first time any of us had experienced swimming in a bioluminescent bay. It was my third time in San Juan, and every time I’ve visited I’ve fallen more in love with this quaint town. We stayed at El San Juan Hotel and enjoyed their cabanas, private beach, and delicious food.
I was not able to document our trip right away. After the devastation of Hurricane Irma, the last thing I felt appropriate was a blog post about how much fun we had in Puerto Rico whilst most of its residents were still without power. I felt that it would be in poor taste. The people of Puerto Rico are as resilient as the island itself, and I hope we are able to come together as a country to help them recover as quickly as possible.
Super excited for our trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico 🇵🇷 at the end of the month! I found these beauties at Target and couldn't leave them behind! Can we ask stores to improve their dressing room lighting PUHLEASE??? I almost gave in to the mean voice in my head ALMOST. . . . . #vacation #bikini #bikinis #ihavethisthingwithcolor #abmlifeiscolorful #abmhappylife #pursuepretty #fitnessmotivation #leopard #leopardprint #emerald #bbggirls #floridabloggers #flashesofdelight #jaxflblogger #livelife #livecolorfully #livethelittlethings #nothingisordinary #pretty #petitejoys #selflove #thehappynow #thatsdarling
Shortly after I posted the following picture to Instagram, the skies opened up and a deluge of rain pounded San Juan for close to an hour. Luckily we had our umbrella, but at one point we gave up and started dancing in the rain.
Cuba Libre (rum + coke in the USA) poolside "en la Isla del Encanto." . . . . #sanjuan #sanjuanpuertorico #tropical #beach #vacationmode #goodvibes #livethelittlethings #picoftheday #instagood #abmlifeisbeautiful #beach #livelife #liveauthentic #livecolorfully #nothingisordinary #petitejoys #saltlife #thehappynow #thatsdarling
One of the nights of our trip we enjoyed dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Old San Juan, Triana Restaurant. The food is good, but the entertainment is even better. The live flamenco dancing is amazing. Walking around the cobblestone streets gives you ample opportunity for people watching and window shopping. The narrow streets open up to plazas teeming with nightlife.
Road Trip to Playa Buye
Since we were going to be in Puerto Rico for a few days, we planned a few excursions during our stay. We booked a rental car to drive all the way to the southwest tip of the island. We planned our day to sunbathe in Playa Buyé during the day, and enjoy a nighttime bioluminescent bay excursion in La Parguera afterwards.
We had lunch at the cutest little mom-and-pop restaurant on the side of the road. We sat in the shade by the family’s crops. Afterwards, we spotted a fruit stand that served smoothies and fruit bowls. Yum!
Playa Buyé is a gorgeous little beach where the locals go, and it was definitely worth the drive. We got to enjoy a pretty remote beach with very few people and gorgeous waters. It was the only beach day we got to enjoy, as it rained almost the entire time over San Juan.
The only shot I took of Playa Buyé. I definitely lived in the moment during this road trip and I don’t regret one second of it.
Bioluminescent Bay Excursion
The drive from Playa Buyé to La Parguera was under an hour, in the direction of our hotel. We had to arrive 30 minutes prior to the departure time of the boat ride to the bioluminescent bay. We enjoyed some of the best mojitos we’ve ever had from a restaurant called El Karakol. We also did some shopping in small boutiques, including long-sleeve snorkeling gear that we ended up using that very evening.
This excursion was hands-down one of those experiences you remember for a lifetime. And, to be honest, we kind of have to since it was a nighttime experience and it was impossible to document due to the darkness. And total darkness is the only way to enjoy the bioluminescence phenomenon.
I tried taking pictures of the bioluminescence, but all I got were pitch black images. At a low f-stop you could have seen the magical bioluminescence appearing when we splashed around in the water, however, since I was on a boat I didn’t have the luxury of shooting pictures in complete stillness. The best way I can describe our experience?
Envision the magical transformation of Cinderella’s rags to a ballgown by the Fairy Godmother. Remember all of those white sparkling “lights” floating about her? Now, instead of floating in the air, imagine those little specks of light underwater ranging from white, red, green, blue, and purple lights like that of the Avatar Pandora world. They only appear after vigorous movement in the water under complete darkness, where even moonlight will wash them out. They disappear after a few seconds, but will reappear if you splash about a bit. They were visible even on our arms, legs, and clothing during our trip.
If you do one thing in Puerto Rico, besides eating the local food, look for tours to a bioluminescent bay. We decided to book a tour in La Parguera due to the proximity to Buyé Beach, but there are several locations around the island to enjoy this natural phenomenon.
Catamaran Snorkeling Excursion
Brian booked an amazing adventure for us for the end of our stay in Puerto Rico. We drove 2.5 hours from our hotel to Fajardo, where East Island Tours took us on an hour-long catamaran ride to Icacos Island for hours of snorkeling. Icacos Island is an abandoned island with gorgeous (yet sharp!) coral reefs and tons of beautiful schools of fish.
When we arrived at the dock, we received snorkeling fins and met our crew. They were extremely friendly, and they made sure to always top off our rum cocktails.
Like the rest of our trip, it was overcast and we had the occasional rain. When life hands you lemons, and all the jazz. I can only imagine how beautiful this island is when there aren’t clouds in the sky. It’s been years since I’ve been on a boat with sails, and I was fascinated by how the crew worked together to steer the catamaran.
Once we arrived at Icacos Island, we were warned not to try to walk the perimeter of the island, as we would not make it back before the catamaran left. We were also told to avoid snorkeling over the reef, as they were sharp and we could get hurt, but more importantly, we could cause irreparable damage to the coral.
Can you keep a secret? At first I wasn’t planning on snorkeling. I’m not the best swimmer. I can dog paddle, but I panic when I can’t feel the bottom, and the snorkeling site was deep. About 30 feet deep. But, YOLO! After snapping these pictures of Brian, I got really excited and I jumped in, to everyone’s surprise. The snorkeling gear included a flotation device, so I was able to enjoy myself without the panic.
Snorkeling at Icacos Island was an absolutely breathtaking experience. Using the snorkeling goggles, I was able to see ALL THE WAY to the bottom of the 30 feet below us. It’s one thing seeing the fish swim from above, but it was indescribable magic seeing them swim underwater. I could have stayed there all day face down. I didn’t want to leave, ever.
The crew brought out food for the fish, and that’s when we really saw huge numbers of them come out. We loved feeding them. There were so many beautiful colors swimming in the water. Brian was lucky to be in the water when the crew fed them. He also got to feed them in the water and felt them nibbling his fingertips. I’m happy that I was able to capture it on camera. Next time, I’m making sure we have a waterproof camera for underwater photography and video.
Have you ever visited a bioluminescent bay?