Nature, History, Family and other things

I just got back from a brief family vacation in Puerto Rico. Since my 7-year old had never visited the island, I decided to play tour guide so she would “discovery” the Island.

In order to experience different sites and sounds, we decided to venture outside of the San Juan Metropolitan area. We started with a visit to El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest part of the U.S. Forest Service. This area of 28,000 acres is well known for its biodiversity. More than 100 billion gallons of precipitation fall each year. My daughters were truly impressed by the luscious greenery and sounds of the rainforest. I had to convince the little one that the chirping came from little frogs, the coquis, not birds. We all enjoyed El Yunque. It has the potential of being designated as one of the new 7 wonders of the world!  Definitely has my vote!

Another escapade took us to the southeastern town of Salinas which faces the Caribbean Sea. My daughters were struck by the rich aquamarine colors of the sea. We had lunch at an open terrace restaurant right at the coast. The children were entertained by a family of crabs that was playing on the sea-bathed rocks.

During another day excursion, we walked through the cobblestone streets visiting the historic sites of Old San Juan including forts, museums, and a pigeon park. A short film at the San Felipe del Morro Fort described the role these forts had played in defending the capital of Puerto Rico during Spanish colonial times. After exploring the historical venues, we enjoyed tropical flavored Puerto Rican snow cones commonly referred to on the Island as piraguas.

During the course of our vacation, we took time to visit with family, attend my high school reunion, and enjoy the beaches. When it was time to bid farewell, we took one last drive along Piñones, an area along the northern coast outside of San Juan to enjoy some Puerto Rican culinary delights (alcapurrias and bacalaítos) which we washed down with some fresh coconut water. We drank it straight from the coconut. It was truly a memorable experience.

We packed many events during our brief sojourn in Puerto Rico. We’ll have to schedule day excursions to visit the karst region, Camuy Caverns, and the bioluminescent bay in Vieques. Next time.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

El Morro bridge and beach closeup of bright red flamboyan flowers Sentry box over the ocean dense green jungle foliage Lamina Falls flowing through the jungle trees

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