Part 1: FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO
Photo of the condo I stayed in. I took the photo from the middle of the ocean, while sitting on a paddleboard.
I was born and raised in Miami, FL and grew up in a Puerto Rican family. My grandparents, my parents, and most of my aunts and uncles were born on the island and lived out their childhood years there. I had island inspiration and culture all around me, especially since Miami is the United Caribbean; in Miami, you never have to leave to experience the Caribbean, because the city is the gateway to them.
I remember my cousins taking trips to Puerto Rico. They’d come back and talk about it and I would try to visualize their experience, but I never felt a desire to visit. I never asked my parents to take me to Puerto Rico. I was so in love with the trips we would take to the Florida Keys: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West. I loved visiting the central Florida theme parks: Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Epcot .
I dreamed of being a writer that lives out of a suitcase and of all the places I dreamed of visiting, Puerto Rico wasn’t one of them. I felt like I was already in Puerto Rico being in Miami. It wasn’t until later in life that Puerto Rico became a place I needed to visit.
Fast forward to 2017; life after Florida. I relocated to a new region, worked my way around various positions with a very large insurance company, built and sold my first house, and realized the American dream wasn’t my dream; I started feeling and seeing Puerto Rico.
I got up to cook one day and found myself playing Marc Anthony. I hadn’t listened to Marc Anthony since childhood. I was chopping vegetables and felt myself moving to the music. I turned on the stove and felt my mouth moving with the lyrics. As I cooked, I saw my Puerto Rican dads face (my Puerto Rican dad passed away when I was 12). As I plated the food, I felt the first pull in my gut. It was a pull that I felt, like someone grabbed a handful of my insides and pulled me over.
I visited Puerto Rico for the first time a few years later. I visited again a year after that. Then in August 2022, while sitting on the rooftop of a hotel smoking cannabis, I heard my ancestors in the wind followed by a yank in my gut. As I exhaled I heard myself respond outloud “I’m coming back to spend December and January here”.
On December 3, 2022 I booked my one way flight to Puerto Rico. On December 7, 2022; I landed in La Isla Del Encanto.
Fajardo, Puerto Rico: The City that Guards the Sun of the Caribbean
Photo of sunrise from my balcony.
Fajardo, Puerto Rico; La Metrópolis del Sol Naciente, is located on the very eastern tip of the main island, closest to the islands of Vieques and Culebra (these are islands separate from the main island of Puerto Rico, but still belonging to Puerto Rico). This area is surrounded by little islands also known as cays, natural reserves, over 5 marina’s; one being the largest marina in the Caribbean, Puerto del Rey. Discover Puerto Rico says that the town got its name from: “Santiago de Fajardo, a Spanish conquistador who found a river rich in gold here”.
Things to do and see in Fajardo vary depending on what the traveler is into. The town is known as a water sports hub, the best location for life lived on marina’s, and home to the popular bioluminescent Laguna Grande known for its glow in the dark water. If boat adventures are of interest, Fajardo is a great place for that. There are a lot of private charters, boat tours, and excursion companies on this side of the island.
Photo from my balcony showing the ferry going across the water, and of sunset over El Yunque.
Something that recent/new travelers to the island may be unaware of; Fajardo is where the ferries used to pick up and drop off for Vieques and Culebra but the ferry was moved over to Ceiba after the hurricane (Ceiba is about 10 minutes away from Fajardo). The port was once filled with vendors, restaurants, and hotels but the move took some of Fajardo’s port life away.
Something else that people miss; Puerto Rico is a United States territory therefore, citizens of the U.S don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico.
My December in Fajardo, Puerto Rico
Photo of my vegan meal while spending time at the Luquillo Kiosks: Vegan mofongo with a side of sauteed vegetables in garlic sauce
I started my exploration of Puerto Rico at a condo (bnb) located on the Isleta Marina in Fajardo. A small private island, just off the main island of Puerto Rico. I had to take a ferry from the private island to get to the main island. The only thing on the island are condo buildings, pools, picnic areas, palm trees, and the marina. There is no store, no cars, no gas stations.
The private ferry picks you up from the private island where the marina is, and takes you across the water, where you get off and walk to your car or wherever. Coming back home is the same. You have to park your car, walk over to the ferry, get on the ferry, go across the water to the Isleta Marina, and get off to get to your condo. This was the only way on and off the island. It was quite the experience!
As a vegan with no car, I struggled a little in this area because there weren’t any vegan restaurants in Fajardo and Uber services weren’t the greatest in this area. Uber does service Fajardo but there aren’t a lot of drivers in that area, and not a lot of traffic coming to the area since the ferries were moved. I didn’t check this in advance. I assumed since Uber is all over San Juan, it meant the same for everywhere on the island. I was wrong.
Vegan options at restaurants in the area were a little hard to come by. I found that some of the restaurants added meat to their beans or pork grease to their rice and mofongo. I cooked more than I thought I would.
As for sunrise, there is absolutely no sunrise prettier than this one. I woke up every morning to sit on the balcony, take in that I was on a private island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and to catch the sunrise just in front of me, over the waters of the Atlantic. It was mesmerizing and never got old to me.
The sunsets were magical too. From the balcony, I had a view of El Yunque and the sunsetting behind the mountains created the most beautiful colors in the sky. I saw exactly why the town is called: La Metrópolis del Sol Naciente.
I recommend having a car or a transport service during your trip to Fajardo. It’s much easier to travel to bordering cities that have better experiences. As for eating vegan, your best bet is Luquillo in my opinion, about 10 minutes away from Fajardo.
My favorite place to eat, sip, and kick it on the beach: The Luquillo Kiosks: a row of about 60 family-owned kiosks selling food, drinks, and souvenirs, right off the ocean. I was able to eat vegan, sip on passionfruit cocktails, listen to music, dance a little salsa, all while looking out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Photo from my balcony of the marina at night.
Fajardo was my first private island experience, it gave one of the best connections to nature, water, and self. I was surrounded by my favorite ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and it was the quietest place I’ve experienced anywhere in Puerto Rico. The constant sound of flowing water soothed my soul. It was the pause, the stillness, the quiet needed to decompress and organize my thoughts.
I had the most marvelous journey with fungi while here. I had some of the most connected experiences with nature here. I spoke out loud into the portal that surrounded me, I learned some potent truths here, and manifested some treasures.
Written by: Veronica Castillo, the Traveling Cannabis Writer
Special thank you to my journey to, and stay in Puerto Rico sponsor for the month of December:
Sky High PEO; a woman owned, California based full-service employment organization that services the entire United States. Sky High PEO helps companies manage everything from employee benefits, to payroll processing, to workers compensation.
2 thoughts on “Fully Immersed in Puerto Rico, Exploring from the East Tip to the West Tip of the Island”
This is awesome