We could not have been more unprepared for Puerto Rico if we had tried. For example, did you know that San Juan is home to El Yunque Rainforest? Neither did we, but thankfully stumbling into this beautiful forest was the best thing we did.
We were also glad we rented a car. The rainforest is not close by, but it’s well worth the drive. We first noticed the rainforest when we drove into it to go ziplining. Ziplining was something I’ve wanted to experience for a while, despite the fact that I am terrified, no TERRIFIED, of heights. I imagined myself zipping slowly through canopies of trees like a bat, checking out flowers and colorful birds. This is not the experience I had. The first line was easy. It was maybe 4 foot and was definitely in trees. I was still nervous but managed to get across and back easily. Next we went to another line that was much more heart-racing: taller and an open space. Then we were back in the trees; the sights were beautiful, but I was beginning to panic. Do bats scream? Do bats throw up in mid-flight? I managed to make it through 4 back-to-back ziplines shakily. One of the instructors could see the anxiety on my face and asked if I wanted to sit down. I told him I was fine and bit my tongue to keep from shouting “NOT HELPING!”
Then came the big daddy of ziplines. I had to climb a shaky tower a million miles into the sky. (Kevin’s more accurate estimate is the tower was 6 stories high.) Then I had to go from shaky tower (this thing was literally blowing in the wind) across a giant zipline that was a million miles to the other side. (Kevin’s more accurate estimate is the line was 800 feet long.) The instructors told me I had to do this line twice, and as I was standing at the top of the tower about to throw up, the real panic monster grabbed me. What do you do when you’re that high in the air, scared out of your mind and the only way down is back down the tower that is currently scaring the crap out of you or across a line suspended 80 feet in the air? Well, if you’re me, you ask to go first. I wanted off that tower as fast as possible. Strangely, once I got going, it wasn’t so bad. The view on this line was especially dramatic. You could see the rainforest, mountains and treetops for miles. (Watch me on the first zipline here and the big daddy zipline here.) When I got to the end of the line, it was one small twisty zipline to the bottom. I almost kissed the girl when she said going “again” was “optional.” I hung out in the shade by the mango and avocado trees while Kevin went again.
For the rest of the day we took in beautiful vistas, guargantun waterfalls (la cascada—see? More new words) and winding tower outlooks that were more stable than the ziplining variety. The strange trees and flowers were so beautiful, and as the sun began to set you could hear the cry of the tree frog, “coqui.”
I’ve mentioned that Kevin and I don’t know how to vacation. You get that right? First Kevin does an Ironman and then I seek to conquer my biggest fear. Well, I have another fear, and it’s putting my face underwater. So, what better way to spend the day than scuba diving and snorkeling off the coast of Puerto Rico? Kevin was itching to experience water not considered “black” (ie, no visibility; thanks Texas lakes) and I remember having a blast last summer snorkeling in Key West. Well, this small charter boat was minimalist at best. No instructions for snorkeling, no real help for masks. Thanks to Kevin I got my gear on and with shaking hands threw myself in the water. Better always to go first to get it out of the way. Once in the water, I was astounded by the beautiful fish. The reef wasn’t as pretty as the one in Key West, but the fish were more bountiful and varied. I counted something like 20 different types. And then at the very end, I saw a stingray. I was able to swim right above him. How cool is that?
Although our vacation to Puerto Rico was short, we managed to have a great time. If you’re heading to San Juan, be sure to study a map before you go and get a rental car. You’ll want to experience as much as the island has to offer, and you’re going to have to step into the rainforest to do that.