The walk through the forest was meant to take 30 minutes. It seemed a lot longer and as we watched the shadows lengthen and the sky darken I had to pause and wonder if we would be spending the night in the forest eaten alive by mosquitoes.
The Rainforest - El Yunque
In the northeast corner of Puerto Rico is a beautiful rainforest, El Yunque. It is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. It has a tropical climate and rains year round. It encompasses 28,000 acres of land, making it the largest public land area in Puerto Rico. The night air is filled with the singing frogs, Coqui. You would never guess it was frogs making the delightful chirping sound.
Rainforest Inn & Margarita's El Yunque Villa
Deep in the heart of the rainforest you can find one vacation rental and the same people who run Rainforest Inn manage it. The Rainforest Inn is an eco-lodge run by Bill & Laurie and their team of volunteers. If you have ever considered WOOFing (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) then here is the place to do it.
After leaving Vieques Anna was a great guide to lead us to this little gem in the rainforest.
Bill & Laurie greeted us very warmly and showed us around the premises, it was divine.
The kids were tired, however, so after inviting us for breakfast the next morning they showed us the way to our villa for the night.
I would use the word villa loosely, because the house was much more than a villa. Manicured grounds surround you on this 5 acres estate. You go through a gate and up a long driveway to a 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom million dollar home.
When one steps into such an magnificent home with killer views, you can feel two ways. One: overwhelmed, over cautious, pretentious. Two: at home and want to stay forever. I definitely felt the second one.
There was a swimming pool, outdoor BBQ, multiple living spaces, a well-equipped kitchen, and a multitude of glass windows allowing ample access to the most breath taking view in all of Puerto Rico. It was phenomenal.
All of a sudden we had a choice of where to sleep, as did the kids. That hasn’t happened once on this crazy adventure and we hardly knew what to do with all the space, so awesome.
Our beds were super comfy and even though one bedroom had aircon we found we did not need it as the overhead fans kept the rooms cool enough.
There was even wifi out in the middle of the jungle, a little patchy on occasions, but much better then the nothing I had been prepared for.
The house would be perfect for a group of friends or a large family travelling together, it really is huge and comfortable.
Mother’s Day Breakfast
Bill & Laurie invite us to breakfast at their B&B on Sunday morning. The table was laid our beautifully and the food served at 9am with all the other guests staying on the premises.
The food was delicious. Asparagus and Parmesan omelette, croissant with the most divine Guava butter I have ever tasted and mango mimosas. The company was delightful and the kids actually had a blast following one of the lovely volunteer girls around picking cherry tomatoes and helping water the garden.
While guests under 12 are not permitted at the Rainforest Inn I would attempt to find any excuse for a romantic getaway here, it was just so special and tranquil.
The watering hole
After breakfast Anna and Leo invited us out for the day. Our first stop was a drive to a local creek where one could swim in the cool depths. On the way we spotted some friendly cows with a wonderful backdrop which, of course, made the best pictures.
At Anna's spot - Charco Frio/Las Tinajas the kids had great fun chucking rocks, while Anna, Leo and Josh relished jumping from a big boulder into the crystal clear water.
The water was a bit too brisk for me and I opted for ankle walking and staying on shore for photography.
Shoes had to be worn cause the floor was rock city, but other then that it looked like a great local family day out. There were plenty of Puerto Ricans enjoying music and picnic lunch while their kids toppled over in the water numerous times, only to giggle and do it all over again.
The swimmers worked up a small appetite so we head back down Route 3 to a bunch of small kiosk restaurants on the side of the road. These serve seafood, Peruvian food and, of course, Puerto Rican.
We tried a fried potato ball, chicken and rice, as well as fried cheese sticks and some sweet delicacies. I have to say I am not a fan of Puerto Rican food, but this… this I was a fan of – my passionfruit & strawberry juice mmmmm.
The food was quite expensive and not that great, I can’t say I would eat there again, but it was a very authentic experience that I would recommend trying once anyway.
I did find one good thing I liked.
We headed towards Farajado after our lunch to find The Secret Beach. Unfortunately I am not going to give you directions, because it is a local sweet spot, but if you are really keen Bill & Laurie at the Rainforest Inn let only their guests know, so visit them for directions.
First we arrived at a fairly populated beach, which we walked past and into a trail through the forest. It took a good half an hour or more (with our two tired toddlers) before we exited the other side to a secluded deserted beach. The sand was yellow like it had just been delivered in from a playground, but the water was crystal clear and there were no waves.
It was beautiful.
During our time in the water the rain started coming down. Anna and Josh made a dash for the bags to cover phones and cameras, before hoping back in the water where it was nice and warm. The rain didn’t last long and soon the sun was back out and warming us nicely.
We spent a lovely few hours getting nice and wrinkly in the shallows chatting about travel and blogging before deciding to pack up and head home.
Leo & Anna set off ahead of us as we struggled a little with two very tired kids. Before we knew it we had taken a wrong turn and the forest no longer looked familiar. Luckily we spotted a fence and behind it a caravan park. We cut through there to find Anna on the other side worriedly looking for us. It seemed much longer then half an hour that time around and, as my kids were crying for food, I paused to wonder if we would make it out before nightfall.
Successfully and with more pep in our step we walked the rest of the way to the car.
The kids both fell asleep as soon as the car was turned on while us adults continued our chat on travel and blogging. When you travel there never seems to be an end to the stories.
Leaving Rainforest Inn
We finalised our time at the Margarita's El Yunque Villa by having some much needed rest. Time to just sit, write, wash clothes and watch the beautiful views from the array of windows surrounding the open plan living room.
Finally, we had repacked our bags, ate as much of the food we had brought with us as we could and drove down the mossy, green, leafy bordered driveway one last time.
We headed to the Rainforest Inn where Anna and Leo were staying to return the keys and thank our hosts so much, they had just been delightful. My only regret was we never had time to hike the Oxen Trail, but there’s always next time!
Anna & Leo jumped in our packed car and we headed towards San Juan to drop them off at a car rental place while we finalized our stay in Puerto Rico at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.
As always we have way too many photos so to check out the Secret Beach & Local Watering Hole head to our Photo Journal.