Where to Stay in Puerto Rico
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
We arrived in the San Juan Airport Tuesday night ready to celebrate Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort. Staff from the resort picked us up at the airport and drove us 30 minutes east to the hotel grounds. A Koi pond with fire pots marked the lobby entrance.
We were escorted to our rooms on golf carts and our butlers pointed out the amenities in our rooms, including a TV within the mirror in the bathroom! The shower was enormous (the size of a nursery) and the toilet paper roll also had a signature stamp on it.
Once settled, we returned to the lobby, enjoyed some nibbles at the bar, and planned our activities for the next three days – hiking in the rain forest, a relaxing day at the pool, and riding the second longest zip-line in the world. The bar nibbles were delicious! I’d highly recommend the avocado, cilantro, jalapeno pizza.
Hike in El Yunque National Forest
On the first full day of our Thanksgiving vacation we rented a car and drove to El Yunque National Forest. Gary was a good sport and drove while we navigated with a tourist, picture map. We exited the highway and wound our way to our first stop at a lovely, roadside waterfall. Along with countless others, we admired the water cascading over the sheer rock formation before we traveled farther up the road to Yokahu Tower.
The Forest Service built the 75-foot structure as an observation tower in 1962 which is named for the good spirit “Yuquiyu” who reigned the mountaintop protecting Puerto Rico and its people. We took the 98 steps to the top for a view of the northeast coast, offshore islands, and mountain peaks.
After enjoying the view, we headed to our next stop, La Mina Falls. We followed a mostly cement trail filled with decorative rock for about 30 minutes to a waterfall which ended up being anti-climatic given forty screaming kids were in the pool below.
The walk to the waterfall, despite being terribly slick and super muggy, was quite nice. The path followed an aqua blue creek beneath a canopy of trees so thick that we rarely felt the sporadic showers. We should have spent more time on the path enjoying the small waterfalls and tranquil pools in the creek versus trying to reach the falls at the end!
Eat at the Luquillo Kiosks
After our time in the rain forest, we headed to the town of Luquillo to try out some street food. The street was lined with about sixty kiosks, half of which weren’t open probably because it was a Wednesday, but it didn’t stop us from finding some fantastic arepas!
Gary and I had the conch, Bart had the octopus, and Ellen had the shrimp. We all felt like we ordered the best one. We also ordered a few other fried, local foods that we probably could have skipped, particularly the meat pie wrapped in banana, but it is always fun to try the local flavor!
Slide Across the World’s Highest Zipline
Today was a day of zip-lining. We hired a van to drive us over two hours from the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort to the Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orcovis, Puerto Rico. It was definitely a good choice to hire a driver. I’m not sure we would have found the place on our own.
The park offered a variety of adventure packages, but we chose a package of eight zip lines and finished it off with the Beast. The first eight zip lines were traditional. With the harness attached at our chest, we leaned back, and slid at different speeds from one tower to the next among the canopy of trees. The distances ranged from just over 800 feet to 2,500 feet.
Once we finished the course of eight, we piled in an army style dump truck that carted us up a hill where we got geared up for the Beast. The Beast, which is not only the world’s highest line (853 ft), it is the second longest (4,745). Riders are wrapped in harnesses made of material almost like that of X-ray aprons and are hooked up in two locations by their back so they fly on their belly like Superman. Zip-liners put their arms by their side like a speeding bullet and rely 100% on the guys working lines to operate the brakes and land them safely on the tower. While the flight is almost a mile long, it takes less than 45 seconds, so we took in the views quickly!
Enjoy a Relaxing Day at the Resort
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is complete with a golf course, a bird sanctuary, a multitude of trails, a beach, and a pool.
While we planned to ride bikes around the grounds or perhaps kayak in the lagoon, the heat was suffocating, so we spent most the day at the pool! My Texan travel mates were able to bear the high temperatures in the shade while I had to resort to several dips in the pool. It was so hot, even the staff was seeking out shade regularly!
Needless to say, we didn’t soak in too many rays and a front moved in by the afternoon, so we fled the pool area and opted for Thanksgiving football. Unfortunately, the hotel’s cable went out just in time for the Cowboy game, but lucky for us Cowboy fans, the first half the Cowboys didn’t show up so we didn’t miss much.
Dining at the Resort
The Fern, with cuisine influenced by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is the hotel’s signature restaurant. While the food was delicious, the service didn’t stand out. In fact, it became quite humorous. I think five things got dropped in five minutes! And of course, we were on island time.
Instead of Thanksgiving dinner, we tried traditional Puerto Rican food at the resort’s golf course restaurant, Molasses. While we all had a decent meal, Gary had the best skirt steak I’ve ever put in my mouth. It was tender enough to cut with a butter knife and mouthwatering good! We also enjoyed the more casual atmosphere while keeping an eye on the second half of the football game. As usual, too little, too late for the Boys!
We opted for a casual, outdoor dining experience for the evening. Three of us ordered the same skirt steak that Gary ordered the night before – still fantastic! We were virtually the only ones in the restaurant, however, and the service was simply horrific. Too bad for a 5 star resort! I think the hotel was overwhelmed with Thanksgiving vacationers. ETB
Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop. Each card has a travel story associated with it. 20% of proceeds are donated to charity.