Okay, I’ve got a few more days in Puerto Rico to share , and they couldn’t have been more different! For some reason, many of the spots we wanted to visit were closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so we decided to squeeze in a trip to Hacienda Buena Vista, a coffee plantation. Unfortunately, both the GPS and iPhone neglected to tell us that the road we ended up taking was actually a very narrow, unpaved path for 4×4 vehicles only. We were in the middle of nowhere…lost.

We saw a few abandoned, rusting cars along the way and hoped we wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

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Other sightings included banana trees (which I desperately wanted to eat after hours of driving)…

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…and many interesting signs of civilization, like this parking garage housing brightly painted buses located in the middle of vast fields.

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Headed down steep, winding curves, I literally had to jump out of the car at points and run ahead to make sure we could clear through the mud. Luckily we were stopped by a few really nice locals who helped direct us to the main road. Also small and steep, but paved!

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Sadly our mini adventure meant we missed learning how coffee is made, so we ended up backtracking a bit and stopping to check out Rio Camuy Cave Park. The third-largest cave system in the world, Camuy is the site of huge caverns carved by water over one million years ago. Tours are first come, first served, and since it looked like it was about to rain, we scrambled to join a departing group. Luckily there was room for two more! We took a tram to get closer to one of the entrances.

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Only a small part is open to the public, so I wasn’t sure how much we would get to see.  We hiked down from the tram and were immediately in awe of the 170-foot ceiling and the hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites that sat before us. The caves are full of bats but since they are sleeping during the day, we didn’t see any…which I wasn’t too disappointed about. The caves were pretty dark, so it was hard to get clear photos, but thanks to sunlight streaming through the tunnels and some artificial help, we got a few great shots!

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I especially loved the places where it almost felt like we were underwater.

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Everything deep inside the cave was very softly lit, producing a faint red glow. Cool, huh?

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After the tour, the rain started, so the boy tried to score some vending machine goodies for lunch (key word, try. The bag of popcorn he bought snagged and split as he was pulling it from the slot!). I entertained myself by taking pictures of the cat. Side note, cats and dogs are roaming the streets EVERYWHERE. On our last day, we were seriously talking about shooting a whole montage of “the cats of Puerto Rico.” But, I decided to spare you from my crazy cat lady antics.

When the rain let up enough, we got back on the road and drove to Ponce, only getting a little sidetracked for scenic tourist shots.

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Ponce is the country’s second largest city, and known for many different things, but I was most excited to see the red and black, century-old wooden firehouse. Both this building and the lovely pale blue cathedral are located in Plaza Las Delicias, the town’s main square.

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See the boy scoping out the guidebook above? He was investigating dinner options, as it was now late and I’d only eaten oatmeal, a Fiber One bar, and some potato chips to this point. Food was definitely #1 on the agenda. We ended up eating at Archipielago, which claimed to have the best view in the country. Almost sweeter than the windows overlooking the city was the fact that the restaurant was empty and we had the whole floor to ourselves.

Us + our glasses of wine of course.

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We started with the fried cheese balls & tomato jam. Fried + cheese isn’t normally what interests me on a menu, but I tried one and was pleasantly surprised. The not-too-fruity jam was such an unusual but delicious pairing that I had to have another!

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For dinner I ordered the mahi mahi fillet breaded in corn meal, served with dill hollandaise sauce and sweet plantain gnocchi and sauteed spinach.

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My favorite part was the chewy, squishy gnocchi. They were really fat and while I couldn’t specifically pick out the plaintains, they tasted much different than the usual potato-style.

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The boy won the best dinner prize though with his meat and root vegetable stew served with white rice and fried plantains. Surprisingly, my favorite part was the broth! It was rich and thick and reminded me of winter meals as a kid.

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We skipped dessert at the restaurant to check out King’s Cream, a local favorite. Even though the employees only spoke Spanish, they were very helpful and I was able to order two cones, one tamarind and one coconut.

The ice cream tasted like a cross between Italian Ice and sherbert, and it melted fast. I adopted an ice cream stance to avoid dropping it all over myself.

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Both flavors were good, but we liked coconut the best. It was so cold and creamy and didn’t taste artificial or syrupy. I could have eaten another cone right then and there.

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We lucked out with live music in the town square. Apparently a band plays on Sunday nights and there were a lot of people just sitting and enjoying themselves.

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We may have been the only two people dancing, but it was just one of those moments. Aww.

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Only two more Puerto Rico posts to go. I know, I got back two weeks ago but I am still reliving the vacation through the blog. I’ll get back to real time soon enough 🙂

Speaking of real time, summer has finally hit LA. This weekend, I read on the beach, went surfing, and tried paddle boarding for the first time. It was fabulous!

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