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March 11, 2005
My memories of Easter weekend bring up lazy, sunny afternoons in Isleta Marina off the coast of Fajardo, watching "The Greatest Story Ever Told" dubbed in Mexican Spanish, eating codfish "pastelillos" with mayo-ketchup sauce and anxiously anticipating the Easter Bunnys fun fare on Sunday.
For others, the location might have changed, but, pretty much, this is how Puerto Rican families usually spend their Holy Week vacation. They head to their favorite beachy hotspot on the island and dawdle away the hours, while the family catches up on gossip and the sun bakes their skin and highlights.
Since Puerto Rican culture is already a heady mixture of Catholic beliefs and American kitsch, its no wonder that Holy Week has proved to be the same: devout and sober on Thursday and Friday, light and merry on Saturday and Sunday. And where better to uphold this cultural flip-flopping than a place where the good life kicks back its sandals and lets it all hang out.
Everybody head to the nearest beach enclave. This is Easter Fun at its best. Following are the most popular spots to spend your Holy Week/Easter vacation in Puerto Rico.
The East: Fajardo, Vieques and Culebra
Stay in Fajardo and youve got plenty of beaches to lay around in, as well as a lush rainforest to get lost in in nearby Rio Grande the notorious El Yunque, of course. In Fajardo youve got plenty to see and do. Theres the placid and multi-hued Seven Seas beach you can even camp in. There are also cays you can make your way to with a chartered boat, (try Erin Go Bragh), like Diablos, Icacos, Palomino and Palominitos. You can also take a tour of Las Cabezas de San Juan or take the entire family on a magical kayaking tour through the Laguna Grandes bioluminescent loveliness. Finish off the day feasting your sun-weary self on fresh fish at Las Croabas area.
Fajardo Inn has clean accommodations for the budget conscious. Although not the kings of room design, this eco-friendly lodging offers warm service and sweeping vistas to boot. If you can spare it, then go all out and stay at the Wyndham El Conquistador for the best view of all. But then you probably wont even want to leave the grounds and explore. Im sure they will have your Easter weekend all set for you and yours.
If you feel like getting away from it all, yet you want to keep your nightlife options open, then head to Vieques. La Isla Nena oozes laisez faire charm like no other, while blooming at night at the Malecón in Esperanza, and especially this time of year. Kayaking is tops anywhere you go, but the easiest is toward Cayo Afuera, the little cay off of Esperanza. Go snorkeling at Green Beach. Make sure you spend a leisurely afternoon at Sun Bay, Media Luna or Navío beaches to soothe your senses. After all that lazy fun under the sun, head to the islands top-notch restaurants. Most of them are lined on the Malecón. Also, dont you forget to visit the bioluminescent bay for the most unforgettable night swim ever.
La Lanchita Guest House in Los Bravos de Boston offers great sunset views and plenty of dolphin décor. For something Zen and out of this world try the unique Hix Island House. There will be an Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds of the Wyndham Martineau Bay, so thats another high-profile option.
Culebra is a tamer option than Vieques, although it can get pretty rowdy around the Flamenco Beach encampment, so opt for staying in real lodging. Just remember to reserve your SUV as soon as possible, or bring your vehicle from the mainland. The rentals go very fast. Dilly-dally at the uber gorgeous Zoni Beach. Eat fritters and conch salad at Flamenco Beachs food stand while everyone else bakes at one of Americas most beautiful beaches. Or just paddle the day away in any of Culebras secluded coves.
By the way, its turtle watch season, so if you stumble on some mysterious-looking eggs on the beach, dont touch!
Club Seabourne, albeit a bit expensive for what it is, offers probably the best dining around and gathers a crowd of friendly folk from all over at the cozy bar. There are no phones and the pool is tiny, but room décor is posh and in the shower you get the good stuff: Crabtree & Evelyn Jojoba shampoo. Tamarindo Estates, the only lodging inside Culebras Reserve, is ample and airy, offering the best of both worlds, even a kitchenette amid virgin territory. The sunset views are simply idyllic and the shoreline facing the villas guarantees an unforgettable snorkeling adventure. But if you prefer to stay in town, go for Mamacitas warm and inviting atmosphere. The bar downstairs gets really hopping with local musicians and everything is close by.
The West: Rincón, Cabo Rojo and La Parguera
Rincón is a surfers Nirvana. It also faces clean into the great wide west, offering some of the best sunsets ever. During this time of year you can still catch the humpback whales passing by the Lighthouse. Nearby Desecheo Island is a wildlife reserve and is a hoot for divers and snorkelers alike. There are many boats that take you there for a day.
Beside the Pointe Inn is amiable and inviting, with quirky, beachy décor and very nice people. Its right on the beach and everything else and has a bar and restaurant that serves awesome papaya smoothies. If you want something classier, then stay at Rincón of the Seas-Grand Caribbean Hotel, with its luxurious surroundings, grand pool, award-winning Deco-Fine Cuisine restaurant and cool-looking Rain Wine Bar. If you want to get even more chic and exclusive, then try to get a reservation at the reclusive Horned Dorset Primavera. No kids under 12; perfect for honeymooners to get pampered beyond their wildest dreams. But be prepared to shell out the big bucks.
Cabo Rojo is home to Boquerón, the most festive of fishing villages. Guaranteed there will be live music somewhere. Just follow your ears. The municipality is also known for its salt flats and the impressive view from its renowned Lighthouse, which hangs over limestone cliffs overlooking the vastness where the Caribbean and the Atlantic meet. When it comes to beaches, Cabo Rojo is tops, with beauties like Buyé, Boquerón, Combate, and Joyuda. All of them are pretty popular, so dont expect that much peace and quiet. Cabo Rojo is also home to the Joyuda fishing community, where fresh seafood restaurants abound. Youll get to sink your teeth into one of the freshest fried "chillo" (red snapper) with a toothy "mofongo" (mashed plantain) on the side.
Cabo Rojo has yet to be overrun by five-star hotels, but many down-home inns pepper the area. For accesibility, try the Lighthouse Inn. Although the lighthouse theme can be a wee bit too much, the rooms are clean and no-nonsense. The pool is ample, although it can get crowded during this time, but then again, you just want beach right? Another alternative known for its centric location is Parador Boquemar. Its La Cascada restaurant is cozy and the service is warm. Joyuda Beach Hotel is a warmer lodging right by the beach, featuring the shallowest beach ever. Although neither the restaurant nor the pool are nothing to brag home about, the place itself is quaint, out of the way and peaceful.
La Parguera is certainly a Puerto Rican staple of Holy Week vacations. This bantam fishing village packs a big punch, especially for all the water-related action you can partake in here. You can rent a small boat and head to the nearby Mata La Gata and adjacent mangrove islands where the snorkeling water is crisp clear. Dive at La Parguera Wall for amazing Caribbean underwater scenery. Go hiking and bird watching in Guanicas Dry Forest. Add to that the fact that at night you can kayak through the bioluminescent bay or party hardy until midnight at the strip.
Top places to stay include: the Posada Porlamar, with its popular La Pared Restaurant and home to the well-known Parguera Divers tour guides; Parador Villa Parguera, one of the mainstays and a favorite for local weekend getaways; and the newer Torres de la Parguera overlooking the bay and offering snazzy décor, gourmet cuisine and kitchenettes.
Erin Go Bragh Charters
La Lanchita Guest House
Hix Island House
Tamarindo Estates Beach Villas
Beside The Pointe Inn
Rincón of the Seas-Grand Caribbean Hotel
Horned Dorset Primavera
Joyuda Beach Hotel
Parador Villa Parguera
Torres de la Parguera
Brenda A. Mari is an editor/reporter for The San Juan Star, an accomplished web copywriter and a fan of everything unusual. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org