Saturday, February 9, 2013


I need to have more days like today.  Our excursion to the Toro Negro Forest today was the perfect mix of activity, adventure, natural beauty, and tranquility. 

Robert and Sonja picked me up just after 8am today, and by 9:30am, we were parked at the Toro Negro Forest and ready to embark on our hike up El Bolo Trail to the watchtower.  (Quite a different travel time than when we went to Toro Negro the first time, which you can read about in this post!)   Traveling with Robert and Sonja, in some ways, feels to me like going on a family vacation when I was a child.  Now, before anyone misinterprets what I mean to imply about my relationship with the two of them, let me explain.  When I was a little girl, sitting in the back seat and ready for a car trip, I always knew that Mom and Dad knew exactly where we were going, that we’d see everything worth seeing along the way, and that it’d be a great time, because they had a plan and knew what they were doing.  Traveling with Robert and Sonja feels the same way.  We didn’t get lost once, and we made the most out of our day, taking advantage of everything around us. 

Today, we started by making our way to the observation tower.  The way was pretty un-strenuous, and took us just over an hour.  At the top, we were rewarded with fabulous views of nearly the entire island.  Since it was clear day, we could see both the north and south coasts—the Atlantic and the Caribbean at the same time.  We’re also fairly certain we could see both San Juan and Ponce.  How cool is that? 
It was a peaceful, relaxed period we spent sitting at the top of the tower, completely alone, enjoying the view and the moment. 

The Atlantic Ocean on the horizon
and, in the valley to the right, San Juan 

At our leisure, we decided to make our way back down the trail.  We walked slowly, stopping to take a picture or examine a snail or a cool tree.  

Eventually, La Piscina Trail branched off from El Bolo, and we followed it.  This took us to an abandoned river-fed swimming pool.  The pool is dry now, and obviously hasn’t been used in years.  There’s a sign that says the area is being renovated, which would be really amazing, because I can only imagine how fantastic the pool must have been in its hay-day.  

The dried-up pool

Still, the path around it was beautiful, and we ventured off the path to find a small, pristine pool fed by a little waterfall. 

Engagement photo?  Done.  ;) 

We finished our hike at about noon, and drove back down the road a bit towards the Cabanas Doña Juana, a little restaurant we’d passed on our way up.  Driving with the windows down, the smells of BBQ wafted towards us before we rounded the final bend in the road.  Lunch was a delicious combination of roasted chicken and tostones. 

From there, we took a short detour to experience the Doña Juana Falls, which are just down the road on the right.  We stopped, and Robert and I scrambled down the rocks to sit at the base of the falls and enjoy the view for a bit.  It was another calm, clear swimming hole where, on another day, a dip might have been lovely.

After the falls, we took Rte 143, which is part of the Ruta Panoramica that cuts through the central mountains of Puerto Rico.  We had no time schedule, and the day was beautiful, so it was the perfect opportunity to take the scenic route.  (Literally—we experienced breathtaking views of valleys, rainforest, and rock walls covered in vines at every turn). 

In Coamo, we went to the thermal hot springs and relaxed in the warm waters for an hour or so.  Quite refreshing!  It was, surprisingly enough, my first time at the springs, and I really enjoyed them. 

From there, we finished our day in Salinas, sitting on the water at Ladi’s Place restaurant, enjoying a few cool beverages, each other’s company, and a beautiful view of the sun over the sea. 

Today was laid-back, relaxed, peaceful, and yet at the same time, we did and saw quite a lot.  I filled my senses with everything that makes this island Puerto Rico.  And I came home feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.  I love this island.  

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