Old San Juan Puerto Rico aka “Cat City”

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This cat was unwilling to cooperate for my picture

You’re probably wondering why I am calling San Juan “Cat City”, if you have ever been to El Morro in Old San Juan you would know exactly what I mean! There is a really nice path to walk by the main fortress wall of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Before you get to the wall there is el Paseo de la Princesa which is European-style “Raíces” fountain and walkway through shady trees after passing through that part you make it around to el paseo del morro (path or walkway by the wall).

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Before we made it to the Raíces fountain we saw nearly 20 cats. We own 2 cats so I approached some of them and tried to give them food but they were all very skittish.

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As we walked along both paseos we were surrounded by cats, I had never seen anything like it! I wish we had taken more pictures but there were probably hundreds of cats on both sides of the walkway hidden in nooks and below whatever they could find. The nice thing is that someone brings big bins of food and water for all the cats there.

We sat at one of the benches and played with some of the cats for a little bit. After they saw that we were nice, more and more cats wanted attention.

We enjoyed walking around Old San Juan and the random surprises that we found.

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PR Se Levanta!

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In most of my posts I try to focus on the positive aspects of places we travel, but when we went to Puerto Rico the destruction from Hurricane Maria was very apparent. It doesn’t take away from the natural beauty of the country, but it is impossible not to see it. I haven’t shown much of it because I wanted to focus on everything that we enjoyed when we were there. I usually don’t like calling to attention things that I can’t help or do something about, but since I am not a linesman or have very much skill in construction I can’t don much to help Puerto Rico except exposure. I honestly wish I could do something to help the people there, but I wouldn’t really know what to do.

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Like I said before the destruction from the hurricane had hit most of the island and there were power lines on the ground everywhere. People had told us that only 60% of the island had power and one of my friends mom was without power for 7 months. Before we went and visited we called our cousins to see if they had needed anything, but they told us that they didn’t need anything. We ended up bringing some small things, but luckily they were prepared for the hurricane and were doing well.

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As we visited parts of the island there were billboards and signs blown all over the place, we also saw a huge chunk of road caved in that they had blocked off. After going to a beach we saw a truck giving water and food to residents of that area and it was hard to see, however the people in Puerto Rico seem to be very positive about fixing up their country. They have a saying PR Se Levanta which means that they will pick themselves back up and I believe they will.

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Regardless of their current situation almost everywhere we went the people were nice and helpful. It was fun getting to go back after learning Spanish, being able to communicate with people in their 1st language and getting to feel a different vibe than what I had remembered.

PR Se Levanta!

Puerto Rico West Side

Many people are aware that Puerto Rico is a great place to go on a vacation, but my favorite part of the island is the West Side. On the West Side of PR there are a lot of beautiful beaches and there are some great places to surf. People say it is like an east coast Hawaii, good waves and no wetsuit required because the water is really warm, which makes surfing really enjoyable.

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Playa Peña Blanca, Peña Blanca Beach

We left our plans pretty open and on our way to the island we looked up beaches and things to do on social media. We also asked some locals and my cousins what we should go see and we were not dissapointed. The first day we drove over to the west side but traffic was horrible getting there from San Juan, what looked like a 2 1/2 hour trip ended up being like 3 1/2 hours or more. We finally made it to Rincon but we were not able to find the AirBnb that we had reserved, there was no internet up in the hills and the address that was on the listing took us somewhere different. Finally we were given coordinates to get to the house and after some asking around we made it. Directions are difficult in Puerto Rico because house addresses rarely work so you need exact coordinates to make sure you get to the right place.

The AirBnB we stayed at wasn’t very nice so we left that morning and went on our way exploring the island. We went and checked the surf but there was nothing worthwhile so we went beach hopping to find some good places to swim and relax. After having a good day cruising around Rincon we met up with one of my friends at La Parguera which is famous for its nightlife. The small town was alive with music, outdoor/indoor dining and other things to do. We decided to eat at a restaurant which ended up being a bad decision because they took an hour and a half to even get us our food, my wife and I were really annoyed because we have never had an experience like that. We both ordered mofongo de yuca which is a traditional Puerto Rican plate and Mika and I both decided that we weren’t huge fans of the yuca plant taste.

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After our not so great restaurant experience we went and stayed with my cousins in Lajas who I hadn’t seen in about 10-11 years. Since visiting I have learned Spanish so it was fun getting to talk to them and understand what they were actually saying.

 

It was fun getting to spend time with family, they took us around showed us some pretty beaches and views. We went to a lookout above La Parguera, then we went to Las Salinas and to Playa Sucia.

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Las Salinas

Las Salinas was on the way to Playa Sucia which according to locals was one of the better beaches to visit there. The next day we went to Playa Buye which was very local but if you walk down the beach a bit the views there are beautiful.

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We then went and stayed in Aguada so that we could be closer to the surf breaks, we went to go rent boards and it was still flat so we decided to go Crash Boat Beach which ended up being our favorite beach.

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The water clarity was great and there wasn’t reef so you could go swim easily. There were several street food vendors close to the beach.

 

Finally the swell rolled through and we were able to go surfing for 3 days in Rincon. The last day I went surfing it was really fun it was about 5-8 ft and pretty clean shaped. We didn’t want to leave the west side but my wife hadn’t been to Puerto Rico so I thought it would be good to go see Old San Juan and go to El Yunque Rainforest.

 

Puerto Rico! Isla Del Encanto

 

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Bienvenidos! It has been way too long since I have written a post, now that I have some down time I thought I would post about our trip to the land of my ancestors….yes that is correct. Even though I don’t look like it I am 50% Puerto Rican and have over 400 years of family history on the Isla Del Encanto (Island of Enchantment).

My wife and I were looking for places we could visit on a discount budget and since my mom works for JetBlue we decided to use her buddy passes and spend some time somewhere tropical with surf. My wife was a bit skeptical at first because she gets nervous going to new places, especially after what happened in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria.

I had previously been to Puerto Rico 2 times, but I couldn’t remember too much because I was younger and probably didn’t appreciate traveling as much as I do now. Getting off the plane in San Juan coming from winter in Utah was a nice change and reminded us of a Spanish speaking Latino Hawaii. We had reserved a rental car and after all the paperwork we were on our way to the west side of the island.

West=Best Side

We both fell in love with the west side of the island because of its nice beaches and the great surf. We went at a perfect time because the swell was weak all winter and a good swell came in the week we were there. When it was smaller Mika and I rented longboards and surfed together. On the bigger days she was relaxing on the shore getting dark and I was out there getting as red as a lobster, enjoying the swell.

Since I haven’t been writing too many posts I thought it would be good to give a summary of things we did and  do separate posts (with more details) about some of the cool places we went in PR.

Here’s the quick version, we stayed in Rincon, Lares (where my cousins live), and Aguada, visited family saw some great beaches met up with an old friend of mine, went to La Parguera at night, surfed. After 5 days on the west side we headed back towards San Juan to see more sites like the fort San Felipe del Morro, old San Juan, and El Yunque Rainforest.

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We had a great time and really enjoyed what the Isla del Encanto had for us. We both were sad to leave and go back to freezing weather but we made a deal that we would go back.

Time in Chile Coming to an End

As we get closer to our departure from Chile it is a good time to reflect upon all of the fun things that we have been able to do while here. We have been able to see many pretty places and eat a lot of good food. It’s been a while since I have lived in a South American country and it has been good for me to continue practicing my Spanish.

Mika doesn’t want to think about the departure because it means that she will no longer be so close to her parents and other family, but it is almost time for us to go and continue our own adventures.

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Every month Mika and I try to go on a special date. Last week she decided to surprise me and take me to Concon and drive along the coast and then we watched the sunset while eating all kinds of snacks. It was a good time and a fun way to enjoy our time together.

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We’ve also made it a tradition that almost every time we go to the Centro of Quilpue that we go and get ice cream. It’s so cheap that it almost doesn’t make sense not to……well that’s my way of justifying it at least.

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Quilpue Zoo and Chorillanas from J Cruz in Valparaiso

I know it has been a while since I have written but I have a good excuse. After 3 weeks of being sick, I went to the doctor and found out that I had strep throat! I’m not sure what hurt worse being sick or getting the penicillin vaccine in my butt. I’ve never had a penicillin shot before and everyone that I talked said it hurt really bad, I now know that they were not kidding. It was hard feeling horrible and not being able to go out and do things, but my sickness was more grave than what I had anticipated and I was hesitant to go to the doctors.

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Now I’m feeling good and ready to explore, yesterday we went to the Quilpue Zoo. It was nice and refreshing to finally get out of the house and do something different.

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Most of the zoos that I have been to are concrete jungles and flat but the Quilpue Zoo is on the side of a hill. It has a more rustic or park feel with dirt paths going to different animal cages.

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We saw many different types of animals but my wife and I enjoyed watching the monkeys play around. All of the monkeys were accustomed to ask for food and it was funny when they would stick their arms out through the fence holes.

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We spent a good time at the zoo and then went and got lunch at a quaint restaurant in Quilpue Centro to end our day date.

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Totally unrelated to the zoo we went to a place called J Cruz in Valparaiso and ate a traditional Chilean fast food called Chorillana. It is a very famous touristy place in Valparaiso city center and is in a place you wouldn’t expect it to be. When we got inside it is decorated with all kinds of random things and people have posted pictures/written things on the wall. There was also a guy playing an acoustic guitar when we first got there.

The food was really yummy! They serve in 2 sizes, massive and even bigger for 2 or 3 people. We ate like pigs and enjoyed every moment of it. Their natural juice was also really good, I would definitely recommend going there if you ever visit Valparaiso.

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Koko Head Crater Hike Oahu, Hawaii

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Some people call this hike The Stairs of Doom but I think it is a great hike to see Hawaii Kai as well as much of the Southern part of Oahu. Yes, it is about 1050 steps going up but it’s a good workout with a great view at the end.  I have done it 5 times and always enjoy being up top.

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Koko Crater Trail is a 1.8 mile hike and from the top, you are able to see Hanauma Bay, Hawaii Kai, a part of Sandy’s Beach, Makupu’u and obviously Koko Crater. As you can see in the other pictures you climb up railroad tie almost all the way to the top. At certain parts of the trail, it is a lot steeper and more strenuous.

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Depending on how fast you walk or climb it could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. My wife and I hike it in about 25 minutes and with my parents, it was an hour.

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There is anther way to way to climb up but it is much longer and more dangerous, you can start in the botanical garden and hike along the ridge all the way up to the top, it has great views along the way but is much longer.

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It is definitely a hike I would recommend if you find yourself in Waikiki and are looking for a good quick hike to do. It is easy to find, free to hike and has plenty of parking down at the bottom.

Isla de Catalina “California” USA.

Llegar a la Isla de Catalina no fue muy complicado, un amigo de la familia de mi esposo nos llevo en un”Cigarette boat” nos demoramos unos 35-45 minutos en llegar. Para poder entrar a la isla uno tiene que pagar por estacionar el bote.

llegamos por el lado que se llama Avalo Ca, se veia muy lindo al entrar, lo mejor y recomendado es comer en los restaurantes que estan al lado de la costa, es muy sabroso y bonito.  Luego fuimos a pasear por la Isla y solo puedes usar bicicletas o autos de golf, permiten solo algunos residentes tener autos. bueno igual es genial porque no habia trafico jajaja. arrendamos dos autos de golf y manejamos por la costa, tratamos de conocer bastante y llegamos a unos miradores muy hermosos, bastante tranquilos que podiamos ver gran parte de la isla luego bajamos a la playa cosa que kelvin con mis Suegros y Steve tenian un sorpresa para mi. Bueno nos separamos con mis suegros y Steve que se fueron todos en un auto camino a la playa mientras kelvin y yo fuimos a concer mas de la isla y sacar fotos lo cual yo estaba fascinada. Luego llamaron a kelvin diciendo que fueramos a donde estaban ellos y note que kelvin estaba muy nervioso.

Llegamos, caminamos hacia la playa y lo primero que ví fue demasiada gente, luego cerca de el agua ví ramos de flores rojas con piedras alrededor puestas en la arena, que decia algo muy importante era…. “Te Casas Conmigo”, Yo pene es una broma cierto? ya que el dia anterior habia hecho una mala jugada en disneyland. IMG_1397

Me mostro el anillo y note que era serio cuando el me hablaba y la gente puso la cancion “Rude” de el grupo (Magic). Cuando ya pude creerlo, Me encanto y obvio dije que Si acepto!

Despues a la tarde al regresar a California tuvimos una experiencia bonita pero un poco mala para mi, espero que nunca les pase, quedamos varados en medio del oceano. Nos vinieron a buscar y demoramos en llegar a Cali como 4 horas y a mi me dio mareo todo el viaje y las olas no estaban calmadas eso fue lo peor pero lo lindo es que vimos delfines y ballenas!

Pichilemu and Punta de Lobos, Chilean Surf Capital

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So the day started off kind of rough we woke up at 5 so we could get rolling by 6……which did not happen. Mikaela’s grandma initially wanted to come but then once we were on our way you could tell that she had regretted the idea. It is a 3 and a half hour drive from Quilpue and she was not liking being in the car that long. I mean I understand why, but we all knew that it would be a long drive to get there. We finally made it to Pichilemu and as we were arriving at the city I noticed that the swell was coming in pretty strong.

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I had looked at reports and knew that is was going to be big, but it’s one thing to see it on a report as compared to seeing it in person. As we drove through Pichilemu to get to Punta de Lobos it was interesting to see the change in houses and style of life from Pichilemu city center to Punta de Lobos. Near Punta de Lobos there were a ton of upscale houses and tons of vacation rental properties.

We finally made it to our destination Punta de Lobos and were excited to get out of the car to see some waves! Punta de Lobos didn’t disappoint, the waves were firing. I was stoked to see the waves but realized I had made a mistake…… I forgot my freaking memory card for my camera! I was so bummed that I hadn’t thought of that when packing things for the trip. The camera on my phone was the only good option left.

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Since I have started surfing I haven’t been to many point break surfing spots but Punta de Lobos was awesome. It was extremely consistent with how many waves were coming through and ranged from 7-12 feet. I personally think that some of the sets were even bigger than that but I couldn’t tell you for sure. After watching some people catch waves at the famous big wave spot behind the two rocks I wanted to give it a try, but not where it broke as big. I put on my wetsuit and watched a couple of people paddle out to try and figure out what to do.

I put on my wetsuit and watched a couple of people paddle out to try and figure out what to do. After watching I felt comfortable to paddle out and I made it out past some rocks and got taken by the current, it took me a while to paddle to the spot that I wanted to be. After watching some waves I caught what felt like a massive wave and rode it for a good while and then paddled a little bit deeper than where I was before. I only have one board and unfortunately, it is not really made for those kinds of waves because it is only a 5’4″ and I’m 5’11”. Anyway I was deeper trying to catch a good size wave and a massive set came through, I paddled through the first 2 or 3 waves and then got destroyed by one of the bigger waves that had broken a lot deeper than where I was. I got wrecked and was underwater for about 10-15 second but it always feels a lot longer when you’re getting thrown around like clothes in a washing machine. I then decided to paddle closer to shore to catch some less intimidating waves.

After surfing we decided to go back to Pichilemu to see what was over there and we ate at a restaurant overlooking one of the main beaches. Mika’s grandma wasn’t happy about being so far away from home so late so we decided to head back even though Mika and I didn’t want to leave yet.

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Overall it was a fun experience and I really enjoyed the views of Punta de Lobos and Pichilemu. I would definitely recommend it if you enjoy surfing or just want to see something different in Chile.

 

 

Chilean Currency, Value of each bill compared to US Dollars and tipping guide

Managing money in other countries can be difficult, especially when you don’t understand the value of each bill it can make it hard. For those of you traveling to Chile here are some examples of Chilean Pesos and their value as compared to US Dollars.

 

As of right now, 665 Chilean Pesos is equal to 1 US Dollar. Here in Chile tips aren’t always expected but are appreciated. For example, if you go to a grocery store and someone is there bagging your food you can give them anywhere from 100 to 1000 pesos depending on how many bags you have and that is considered acceptable. If you are driving a car in Chile and someone helps you enter or exit a parking space most people tip 100-500 pesos depending on how much they actually help you.

 

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Bill Comparison

 

If you have any further questions feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

 

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Sunset in Reñaca Chile