Most people traveling to Puerto Rico, fly into San Juan and keep their travels within an hour radius. Why not? There are great beaches, history, nightlife and wonderful restaurants. You have the best shopping in the Caribbean, a rain forest, and exquisite snorkeling spots within a short drive.
Since our time in Puerto Rico is not limited to a one week vacation, we are determined to enjoy some of the less frequented spots on the Island. In April, 2011 we went on a 3 day trip to Aguadilla, located on the West Coast of the island. It was a fairly easy 80 mile drive from San Juan, and it was a wonderful escape from city living. Had someone blindfolded me and dropped me on
a West Coast beach, I would have sworn I was on the island of Kauai, HI. The cerulean waters are similar to our home town of San Juan, but the landscape is much more dramatic and the surf is higher and stronger. In addition, English was the predominant language on this side of the island; much more so than even the tourist friendly San Juan.
In today’s blog I share photos and some information on accommodations, food, beaches and activities.
If you have military access, we stayed at the Guest Cottages on the Coast Guard Base. Here is a link to the base: http://www.uscg.mil/d7/airstaborinquen/ and specifically to the guest cottages: http://www.uscg.mil/mwr/lodging/BorinquenCottages.asp
The accommodations were adequate. We rented a 3 bedroom house. It was clean. Had the basics as far as beds, kitchen utensils, a washer and dryer, a television. Since we were merely using the facility to sleep, shower, and make breakfast and lunch, it was exactly what we needed. Had we hit upon rainy weather and were stuck inside for days, we might have had a little too much togetherness. We did pay $10 a night extra for an “ocean view.” What we had was a “construction view.” When this was brought to the attention of the rental office, we were not offered a refund.
In this same area, there is a very nice, clean Courtyard Marriott. The building was formally the base hospital, so it has a bit of history with it. http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bqncy-courtyard-aguadilla/
Other accommodation options would include many beach houses, condo rentals and individually owned hotels. I did not see any other recognizable chains in the area. If you are looking for pricier and luxurious, check out the villa montana mentioned below in our eating experiences. GORGEOUS!
As I mentioned above, we ate breakfast in and packed our picnics for the beach. I was able to pick up most necessities at one of the few local grocery stores. While I warily packed our gluten-free favorites with us, I was pleasantly surprised with a variety of GF options in the grocery stores. The most surprising place was a small mini mart just outside the Airport, I popped in for sunscreen and came across aisles of health foods, to include GF pasta, mixes, flours and snacks.
Dinner #1 was at ECLIPSE restaurant located at the Villa Montana resort. The restaurant is open air and right on the beach, affording views of the West Coast sunset right from the table. Dinner seating doesn’t start until 6pm. Prices ranged from $8 – $12 for kids’ meals and $18 and up for adults. Nothing was specifically made for the Gluten Free eater, but we stuck with grilled meat, fish and plain vegetables. http://www.villamontana.com/
Dinner #2 was at The Courtyard Marriott. After a very long day in the water we were looking for easy and quick. When we explained to the waitress that we could not eat gluten (in our broken spanish/english) she brought a beautiful platter of fruit out in addition to the basket of bread for our glutenous eaters. While nothing was specifically labeled GF, we navigated through salads and burgers without the bun. Just as we wanted, we left full and in a reasonable time for everyone to head to bed.
Surfer’s (below) - Quiet, somewhat secluded, rough waters. Tide pools filled between the rocks, with interesting specimens.
Star fish found in the tide pools.
Jobo’s (below) - Fabulous water, not too crowded before 1pm, but busier later in the day. Street parking. Good for learning to surf. A few riptides to be wary of. (our favorite!)
Crash Boat (below) - Historically this beach tells a great story of our military and rescue missions. The water is beautiful and it is supposed to have good snorkeling. The beach itself was crowded, dirty and many appear to be living or long-term camping out on it. We were advised to avoid the bathrooms and never go there in the dark. (our least favorite!)
Borinquen – quiet, you can whale watch in the winter months, a good place to snorkel and look for old airplane engines from crashes and golf balls as it is located just below the base golf course. (No pictures of this one, as we went just after the sun went down. We WILL be back though, to watch for whales.
There are many things to do in the area, most of which involve the beach – surfing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, horseback riding… my kids were dying to learn to surf. We enlisted the instructors at Aquatica http://premium.caribe.net/~aquatica/ to teach us how. Once the children were signed up, Prince Charming decided to get in on the act – and YES, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I stayed on the shore with my video camera and Nikon capturing every moment. On the next visit, it is my turn.
I would highly recommend this location for anyone living in Puerto Rico, or the vacationers that have some extra days for exploration. If you plan to visit, or just want to read the history of the US military presence here in Puerto Rico, check this out: http://www.rameyafb.org/history.html