On our last full day in Puerto Rico, the boy asked what I’d like to do most, to which I responded, spend some time at the beach. I know, I know, I can do that anywhere, BUT in my defense, typically the sand isn’t white, the ocean isn’t bathwater warm, and there isn’t someone bringing me tropical drinks.

I should have been more specific, because the boy decided we need to find the best beach, and rather than simply walking outside our hotel, we hopped in the car and drove back to Fajardo. We tried to catch the ferry to Culebra, a small island off the coast that’s only 7 miles long. We failed and I started to panic but the boy found Ceiba’s Aeropuerto Jose Aponte de la Torre (try saying that 5 times fast!) nearby and we took a speedy 15 minute flight to the island.

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Here’s proof of my first small propeller plane experience! Luckily my terrible motion sickness stayed at bay and we took a few photos. We entertained the two locals flying with us who take this route daily, I’m sure!

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After we landed, we headed to the island’s only real town, Dewey, for food and snorkel gear. We grabbed lunch on-the-go at Pandeli, considered the spot for sandwiches, but unfortunately this was one of those times where I ate just because I didn’t know when I would eat again. Turkey, cheese, mayo and hot, ick. I suppose I’ve been spoiled by California’s version of a “classic” turkey sandwich, with avocado and sprouts.

We had much better luck renting snorkels, where the enthusiastic woman who likely owned the place described where to find the best reefs. After parking at the beach, we walked through a gap in the chain link fence at the back of the lot and hiked about 20 minutes along an unmarked path. Despite the lack of signs (and people), we finally stumbled upon the hidden beach.

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It was beautiful and literally deserted.

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We found a pale blue spot in the ocean (light = sand = good entry; dark = reef = bad entry) and geared up.

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I wish we had had an underwater camera, because we saw so many different fish! I especially loved the ones with funky stripes and polka dots. The boy saw one camouflage itself right before his eyes. Maybe you can tell from my huge grin how awesome it was?

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On the wet and sandy hike back to the main beach, we were a little more curious and made a few stops to check out the scenery. I couldn’t resist picking up this hermit crab; I had so many as a kid!

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Then we walked over to Playa Flamenco, which is considered one of the top ten best beaches in the world. Our guidebook said we might have to expect crowds, but thanks to the rainy season and the fact that it was a Monday, the beach was almost empty.

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We managed to figure out the ferry system and bought tickets to take the cargo boat back to the mainland. From dock to dock, the trip took 2 1/2 hours, while the plane ride was only 15 minutes. But, the tickets were only a few bucks each and we had a great view.

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We had time to kill before setting off and wandered into a bar near the docks. The boy had a drink and I scored some Dramamine — resulting in a sleepy yet pleasant boat ride.

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We docked and the boy literally sprinted to grab a cab. Transportation is spotty anywhere outside San Juan, and we didn’t want to be stranded. Luckily a nice woman who spoke English grabbed a guy to take us back to the airport a few miles away, where the car was parked. His cab was housed for the night (at 8:30 PM, yes), but he took us in his personal Crown Vic. We were grateful for his Spanish when we got to the airport and found the gates closed (at 9 PM, yes). My heart was racing, but a few hopped curbs and sharing of licenses later, we made it out. Only in Puerto Rico!

Oh, and for dinner, we headed back to Lolita’s. Nothing like mole chicken enchiladas to curb a growling belly.

It was just as good the second time around!

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