Day 9: Ponce and Fajardo

This morning, we said goodbye to the treehouse and started our journey home. We had a full day to spend on the island, so we spent our lunch time in the southern coastal city of Ponce and then made our way to the very northeast corner of the island for a night-time bioluminescent kayak tour before heading back to the airport.

After lunch at a roadside coffee shop, we walked around the main square of Ponce for a bit.

CoffeeHouse, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Plaza Degetau, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Catedral Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Parque de Bombas, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Plaza Degetau, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Plaza Degetau, Ponce, Puerto Rico

On our way out of town, we were struck by the remains of the old municipal hospital, so we stopped and made a few photos:

Antiguo Hospital Tricoche, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Antiguo Hospital Tricoche, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Antiguo Hospital Tricoche, Ponce, Puerto Rico · by Lisa Rozmyn
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Antiguo Hospital Tricoche, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Antiguo Hospital Tricoche, Ponce, Puerto Rico

We had heard about bioluminescent bays and that Puerto Rico had a few of them. We managed to finagle a spot at the last moment with Glass Bottom Kayak Tours, so we drove all the way to Fajardo on the very northeast corner of the island during the afternoon.

They advised us to arrive an hour early so we could find a parking place, because … “well, you’ll see why when you get here.” Turns out there was either some kind of festival or big party and it took us a while to find a parking place. This was a lot of fun, but it made finding dinner before the tour … challenging.

Parque Recreativo, Fajardo, Puerto Rico · by Lisa Rozmyn
Parque Recreativo, Fajardo, Puerto Rico · by Lisa Rozmyn
Parque Recreativo, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Parque Recreativo, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Sadly, bioluminescence is only really visible in almost absolute darkness, so we have no photos to share. But it was a truly magical experience. If you go to Puerto Rico, you should definitely plan on taking this or a similar tour.

Driving in Puerto Rico

If you are a US mainlander tempted to rent a car and drive while in Puerto Rico, it’s definitely doable, but here are a few things you might want to know:

  • The road signs are all in Spanish; English translations are rare. That said, if you have even the most minimal knowledge of Spanish, you’ll be fine. The shapes and style of the signs are almost exactly the same as in the mainland.
  • Many road signs were damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Maria some years ago and have not been replaced. Many freeway exits have no signs whatsoever. Plan on using a maps app for navigation.
  • The roads themselves are often damaged and unmaintained. Stay alert for potholes. There are lots of them.
  • “Slower traffic keep right” is a mainland concept. You will often find people driving at or below the speed limit in the left lane and they will not change lanes for you. Get used to passing on the right; it’s common.
  • Puerto Rico uses a rather bizarre combination of metric and US traditional measures: Speed limits (velocidad máxima) are in miles per hour, but distances are in kilometers. Gas is sold by the liter. Bridge clearances are in feet and inches.
  • Despite all these quirks, Puerto Ricans are pretty decent drivers. I’ve driven in more than 40 countries and consider P.R. to be in the middle of the pack as driving cultures go. Stay alert and you’ll be fine.
Ponce to Fajardo and San Juan, Puerto Rico · 294 km / 183 mi
(Mouse over or tap on the markers to see the photos there.)