After having one last breakfast at the fabulous Café Café CocinaCriolla Espresso Bar we checked out of Hotel Melia and headed west on Highway 2 for the drive to Rincon. The southern coast of PR is very dry compared to the rest of the island, and it was very interesting how much different it looked. Nothing like a desert by any means, but you could certainly tell it was dryer.
We stopped for a bit in the little town of San German which has a very cute town square, which comprises the San German Historic District.
We also walked through the small religious museum in the main church on the square Iglesia Porta Coeli, which is supposed to be one of the oldest churches in the Americas.
After walking around for a while, we were hungry, although it was only about 11:30. We could not find anywhere in town to eat, since restaurants in PR seem to open right at 12 for lunch. We had planned on driving part of the Ruta Panoramica (Panoramic Route) through the mountains, but we weren’t sure we wanted to do the whole western section, which can take 5 or 6 hours. Instead, we backtracked a bit to a town called Sabada Grande to get on the route there. While in Sabada Grande we had a fantastic lunch at a little lechonera where I had the traditional Puerto Rican meal of meatloaf and rice and beans. Everything was delicious, and very affordable. It sometimes seemed like in PR the less you spent on a meal the better the food was!
After eating, we headed up Highway 120 into the central mountains. We got on the panoramic route and proceeded to slowly wind our way west. This was a lot of fun, but the hour and a half or so we did was plenty, particularly since it rained a lot of the time. It was a beautiful drive even with the rain. Small two lane roads winding through the mountains to a degree that we were usually going under 20 miles per hour. The rain was washing purple flower pedals onto the road, so that we were often driving on a carpet of purple. It was really nice. This road winds though some small towns, and is very scenic and rural. We often had to wait for chickens to get out of the road so we could pass.One funny event occurred when we saw a horse half standing in the road at an intersection. He had been tied up to a power pole next to the road and was happily grazing on the grass on the side of the road. No one was around, so I assume someone planned to pick him up later.
A word on the roads and driving: the roads in PR are great. The signs are, of course, in Spanish, but they are the same shape and the signs here, so if you can’t figure out that the octagonal red sign reading “PARE” means “STOP,” then you probably shouldn’t be running around unsupervised anyway. Much was made on the forums about how crazy the drivers in PR are, but I did not find this to be the case at all. When on the interstate going the speed limit, I was passing many more people than were passing me. They will just stop in the middle of the road in rural areas, though. Of course we didn’t have to drive that much in San Juan, but what we did was not bad either. Like most things of this sort, people have made way too much of it. If you have ever driven in a larger city you will have no problems at all. The roads are well marked and in good shape. Learn a few simple traffic terms in Spanish and you’re good to go. One slightly weird thing is that while speed limits (and again, you should probably be able to figure out that Velocidad Maxima means Speed Limit) are in miles per hour, distances are listed in kilometers. The effect of this (for me at least) was that it was hard to estimate how long it is going to take to get places.
About half way along our drive, we came to the Stone Tower, which was built by the CCC.
They say that from the top on a clear day you can see the entire west coast of PR. Even though it was cloudy and rainy when we were there, the view was still pretty amazing.
After that we continued on to Mayaguez. After driving around in various neighborhoods for a while, we finally found our way back to the main roads and headed north towards our ultimate destination on the west coast, the charming town of Rincon
We drove into town and quickly found our hotel, the extremely nice Blue Boy Inn. I really cannot say enough nice things about this place. It was truly fantastic. The rooms were nice, large and clean, the grounds were beautiful, and the breakfast was terrific. Marc is a wonderful host and (along with Sara) runs a great place. Also, there are crocodiles. No, seriously.
Also less dangerous animals (although he looked like he had been in a scrap or two).
They also have everything you need: free snorkeling gear, beach chairs, coolers, etc. They also have an area which functions as an honor bar. Guests are free to use whatever is in the fridge, and if they have some left over when they leave, they can leave it for future guests. There was beer, wine, etc. There is also a grill for the use of guests. This is one of the nicest places we have stayed at, and considering how great it was, I think the price (about $155 a night) was very reasonable.