|Beachfront to the east our of hotel at Isla Verde|
Our last visit to the island had been in February 2016. In September 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria. The island suffered catastrophic damage to all basic systems. 100% of the power grid was offline, safe drinking water was unavailable, and many waste treatment plants were inoperable. While substantial repairs to infrastructure have been completed, a great deal of work still needs to be done. The island has suffered from a decades-long financial crisis which has been aggravated further by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the restrictions on travel loosening, tourists are returning to Puerto Rico in swarms from the US mainland. Our plane was full to capacity.
Arriving at the Luis Muñoz Marín Int. Airport in San Juan, we were whisked away to the nearby Marriot Isla Verde with our prearranged driver, Jose. Located on the outskirts of San Juan, our only plan for this stop was to hang out beachside. The weather was perfect, sunny but mild with a delightful breeze and despite our sunscreen, nine hours in the sun, even under our canopy, was definitely not a good idea.
Though plans for snorkeling can be arranged on the big island, we wanted to return to the nearby island of Culebra. Roughly an hour's drive
|Snorkeling at Melones Beach|
Over the next three days, we returned to a few of our previous favorite snorkeling spots.
Starting with Melones Beach, overlooking the Luis Peña Natural Reserve, we were the only snorkelers in the water. Soft and hard corals appeared to have been minimally impacted by the storms but unlike our previous visit only a handful of tropical fish showed up during our swim.
Visiting Punta Soldado, we were disappointed to find the water full of seaweed and not snorkeling friendly. However, following a visit to a local snorkel shop we learned that we needed to travel about a quarter mile further to the end of the road on the southwest side of the point to find the clear waters. Extensive damage to the coral was evident here, but young, new growth was widespread, so hopefully, over time this area will recover. Water mampoo trees provided shade and a couple of deserted beach chairs created an ideal spot to enjoy the beautiful views.
|At Tamarindo Beach|
Zoni Beach on the northeast side of the island was our next outing. Not known for snorkeling, the white sand beach and turquoise water provide a lovely place for a walk or just for relaxing or picnicking. Still sunburned from our first days in San Juan, we were grateful for the shade trees near the water’s edge. As with all the beaches (except the closed Flamenco Beach), the only amenity provided is parking. This happened to be the most crowded beach we visited, with perhaps a dozen people spread over the miles-long beach.
Covid-19 restrictions on Culebra and in San Juan were mixed. Masks were required on our ferry trip and the grocery stores also
|Along Zoni Beach|
|View along the Malecon|
With the heat index peaking at 95 degrees, the hottest by far that we had experienced on this visit, we closed out our day with a poolside margarita, a perfect ending to our visit. The next morning, we began the journey back home. Plans for the summer are uncertain, but if we travel, I’ll be sure to bring you along for the trip.
|Sculpture and fountain along the Malecon|
|At Tamarind Beach|
|Manta Ray at Tamarind Beach|
|Overview on the drive to Punta Soldado|
|One of the many alarm clocks on Culebra|
|At Melones Beach|
|Capitol Building of Puerto Rico in San Juan|
|Mural in San Juan|
|Enjoying a Bacalaitos (Codfish Fritter) near the waterfront|