Friday, September 12, 2014

Puerto Rico Part 2 - Isabela, Luquillo, and Palmas del Mar

     In case you missed the first half of the trip, here's a link back to Part 1 where we explored Ponce, two indigenous sites, and a cave.

     When Steven was working in Aguadilla a couple weeks prior to my visit, some of the locals recommended that he drive over to Ola Lola's Garden Bar in the adjacent city of Isabela. Their must-try menu item is the Original Peanut Butter Burger. Steven loved it so much that he insisted on making the trip up from Ponce when I was there. A wonderful couple from the States operates the restaurant in their semi-retirement, and they give Ola Lola's such a warm, welcoming vibe. The open-air seating and the corral with horses across the rural road only added to the relaxed atmosphere. Steven ordered the peanut butter burger (above), and I ordered the asaigo bacon burger so we could try both. Maybe I've just never had peanut butter served above room temperature, but, when it's warm and gooey, it surprisingly makes for a very nice alternative to cheese!
     To give you an idea of how much of the island can be covered in a few hours of driving, we made the round trip from Ponce (south-central coast) to Isabela (northwestern coast), stopping at Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana and Cavernas del Río Camuy, in a day. We didn't leave the hotel in Ponce particularly early or get back too late either.

Luquillo Beach and Food Kiosks
     Moving on to sites on the east side of the island, we checked out a beach and the popular strip of food kiosks in Luquillo.

Even though it was chilly and drizzling rain at the beach, the gray clouds hanging over the mountains were really beautiful.

Plus, we made a dog friend, so that warmed me up a bit :) His name was Hydro, and his mom was lounging a few yards away from us. It was fun watching him chase the beach birds.

     When we checked online for things to do and see in Luquillo, there were several great reviews for the food kiosks. The options were overwhelming, and the kiosks included sit-down restaurants, bars, fried seafood on a stick, and lots more. Some looked less appetizing than others, but we are big believers in finding awesome food at hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I didn't actually take any photos of the strip of kiosks, so here's a fun overview from the Travel Channel:

We decided on La Parilla (kiosk #2), which was actually pretty upscale in the kiosk lineup, and this meal was probably my favorite from the whole trip. We split this grilled lobster, rice and bean, and salad platter in the photo above. Steven's face says it all: buttery lobster bliss!

Palmas del Mar
     After Steven's assigned week in Ponce was finished, we moved to Humacao for his fourth and final work location. We stayed in Palmas del Mar, which is a resort community within the municipality of Humacao. I must say, I could have gone for more than two nights at this place... maybe another time :)

Iguanas were all around the hotel, especially near the pond at its entrance. When I was sitting beside the pool, I heard some rustling in the shrubs near me and figured it was a bird or small rodent... NOPE. This guy (above) was chowing down on leaves just a few feet away from me.

The beach was perfectly warm and sunny that day, and there was a convenient restaurant right by the water. The colorful signs on the tree (above right) indicated the distance/direction to famous international cities.

It was a nice surprise to find Birmingham, AL, on the list, especially since I was flying back there the next day. It's hard to see in this photo, but whoever made the sign was thoughtful enough to include Vulcan and Sloss Furnace!

     That concludes our trip, folks. This was the first time I've ever had to navigate airports and board a plane by myself, so I definitely feel like I've gained some confidence as far as traveling goes. I'm also feeling more at ease with air travel in general now that I've got a few trips under my belt. Guess that just comes with experience, but I still REALLY don't like heights...
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

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