A July 2003 trip
to San Juan by Brenda De Ramus
Quote: Four days and nights in San Juan followed by three days and nights in the El Yunque Rain Forest.
Caution: local driving habits appear aggressive and hurried, but be assured that the locals really ARE good drivers.
If you don't plan to drive, taxis are plentiful in the metro San Juan area but be sure to confirm the cab fare to your destination BEFORE you get into the taxi. Quoted fares seemed to fluctuate with the time of day and the cabbies' moods.
Tres Palmas has about 12 guest rooms tucked among narrow pathways in a compact, garden-like setting. Above the main building which houses the reception/check-in area, is a roof-top patio that has a covered seating area and includes two hot tubs and a recently added guest room. This is the only room with a "private balcony overlooking the beach and the Atlantic ocean". I was told that this room would be "quite nice" because everything in it is brand new, and "very quiet" because it is the only guest room on the roof and away from the other guests. "How special" I thought as I booked this wonderful getaway haven. Not so. Remember, the roof-top has the patio and hot tubs. It seemed that many of the guests preferred late night (as in 11pm until . . .)gatherings at the hot tubs with pizzas, beer, and many a tale to tell. You most likely can guess how THIS tale ends.
A sparse continental breakfast is provided every morning on the enclosed lower patio: bananas, cold cereal, bagels and coffee. There is no "personal service with a smile" at Tres Palmas, but the accommodations are adequate.
The best thing going for this place is its central location for fast, if not easy, access to many attractions by auto or taxi. There are no major attractions within walking distance. You might want to try taking a walk on the short and narrow beach that is just across the surprisingly busy Park Boulevard. Actually, walking beyond the beach is not recommended. The "nice" neighborhood around the guest house is about four blocks square.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 7, 2003
2212 Park Boulevard
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The lodge is painted in whimsical shades of light green and yellow. The building stands out yet somehow manages to "fit" into the surroundings. The guest rooms are no-frills basic. Try to reserve one of the upper level rooms with a balcony to fully appreciate the view and sound of the waterfalls. There are also assorted palm and tropical fruit trees just an arms length away from the upper guest room balconies. Housekeeping services are provided once a week but towels and linens are available upon request. Full breakfast is included in the room price. Pack lunches for day hikes can be requested and cost $6 each. There is coffee and tea each morning in the central atrium. Here the guests exchange stories about their El Yunque day-hiking adventures, and offer advice and suggestions on best trail heads and local eating places and attractions during the morning "reveille." The 9am sit-down breakfast is served just off the atrium at a long dining table that seats 14.
Don't be put off by Casa Cubuy's close proximity to the roadway -- there is a locked gated entrance and the building is separated from the road by a concrete wall. Parking however is along the narrow, two-way road which dead-ends about a mile further uphill. This dead-end is a favorite destination for local residents and "in-the-know" visitors so traffic tends to be steady until late evening most days. However, once you are inside the "compound" of Casa Cubuy, the rest of the world fades into a distant memory as the rain forest sounds and smells come alive. This side of the walled entrance reveals a view of the rain forest that is not so much breath-taking as it is peaceful, inspiring and beautiful. The sounds and view of waterfalls are especially memorable after a rain shower. It rains here unexpectedly, and nighttime downpours are common. Add to all of this the bird-like calls of the native coqui frogs, and the medly is a banquet for the senses.
Before settling in, take a short walk down the hillside to the rock beds of the river that is closest to the lodge. There are excellent places to swim or to just sit and embrace the environment. Once you are back in your room, through open the balcony doors, turn on the ceiling fans and enjoy!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 20, 2003
Casa Cubuy Eco Lodge
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rican-style pot roast I had was about as exciting as it sounds and tasted pretty much like American-style pot roast, save the interesting way in which the beef was cut and presented "au jus." Instead of the usual potatoes on the side, it was served with Puerto Rican rice. I enjoyed the flavor and texture of this rice and it was a perfect complement to the dish. The salad greens were unmentionable. To make the meal more interesting, I decided to try one of the local brews. The unexpected surprise of the evening was the dessert I chose -- guanabana cheesecake. Absolutely the most amazing cheesecake I have ever had. It wasn't really the exotic-sounding guanabana-flavored topping that made the difference. The cheesecake itself was awesome!
Another surprise is the inside atrium and garden-like family-style setting. If you plan to try this place, don't expect an earth-shattering experience and try to get seated before sunset so that you can enjoy the atrium lighting at before dusk. The environment is cozy-quiet, but definitely family-style.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 20, 2003
El Patio de Sam
102 Calle San Sebastián
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
+1 787 723 1149
Attraction | "EL Yunque"
The trails throughout the rain forest are generally well-marked. The Big Tree Trail has many informational plaques describing the history and ecological importance of the trees and plants along the way to the trail's main attraction: La Mina Falls. Here dozens of people enjoy swimming as well as relaxing on the rocks. If you're not into crowds, you might want to skip the falls, but the trail offers an opportunity to learn much about some of the trees and flora native to Puerto Rico.
Be prepared for sudden rain showers and wet trails. Although hiking boots are not necessary, I recommend shoes with good tread for safe hiking because the trails are either muddy, cobbled or rocky. The hike to the top of El Yunque (elevation 3,533 feet) takes about three hours round-trip. There are, however, shorter trails leading to other points of interest such as Mt. Britton and El Toro. Mt. Britton has an architecturally interesting castle-like tower at trail's end that affords a panoramic view of the rain forest and the ocean beyond. Surprisingly, El Yunque's summit boasts only a huge radio tower, a caretaker's quarters and an abandoned-looking building that serves as a viewing post. Unfortunately, we were not inspired to linger and enjoy the views.
There is an intriguing variety of ferns, palms and other plants. However, the absence of animal life (not even a glimpse) was surprising, if not disappointing. An occasional bird-call and the amusing coqui frog whistle-like shrill is the sum of our exposure to the fauna of Puerto Rico.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 23, 2003
El Yunque National Forest
Road 191, Off Highway 3 To Luquillo Beach
Palmer, Puerto Rico 00721
Brenda De Ramus