Sighting land and knowing that our cruise was coming to an end was a sobering moment. Though the exploration of Caribbean countries came to an end, didn’t mean we couldn’t explore the island some more!
Leaving the cruise we organized to stay in New San Juan for a change at the Doubletree by Hilton which was well rated. With free wifi and well equipped rooms, we had a fine set up. The hotel was also walking distance to the beach and right next to a supermarket.
Bacardi Factory Tour (Casa Bacardi)
On our first day back, we went to visit the famous rum factory. A short drive to the other side of the bay brings you to Casa Bacardi.
Though Bacardi was founded in Cuba, the Bacardi family fled from the country in 1960. Bacardi then opened operations in many places with one of the largest factories in Puerto Rico. Now the Bacardi Experience seems to be a primary tourist draw.
On arrival, you are given a parking pass and drink tickets. The tickets are to be used as you wait for your tour to start. There is a wide range of different Bacardi rums that you can taste. I suggest one of the older rums (non flavored) on the rocks or neat.
The tour primarily covers the company’s history, the rum making process, and the company branding. It is well organized and very professionally run. The guided tour takes you from room to room with an explanation in each.
The tour is a free and fun half day activity. I recommend it if time allows!
Bioluminescent Bay Fajardo
In the evening we organized to take an adventurous kayak ride in the night to see the bioluminescence.
The drive took about an hour to reach Fajardo in the north eastern part of the island. After parking in a somewhat questionable lot, we joined the tour group that introduced us to the activity and explained the safety information. We all had to sign waivers before we started.
Then our group of about thirty people loaded up in two person kayaks and rowed into the bay. The water wasn’t too cold and the sea was calm. Once everyone was in the water we followed our guides into the mangroves where darkness took over. It got so dark, that we were soon crashing into branches and roots head first…
Soon we noticed a streak of bioluminescent light trailed behind the paddle with each stroke. It was beautiful and extremely vivid. We were giddy with the sensation of ‘creating light’ by movement and splashing ensued.
We made our way into Laguna Grande, the large protected bay where we crowded together where our guide shared some history of the bay and explained the what bioluminescence was.
Besides some loud and possibly drunk tourists, the experience was unforgettable. It made you think about the beautiful and natural phenomenon in the world that you may not even know exists.
Unfortunately we couldn’t take any discernible picture with our equipment, but here are some blurry ones.
New San Juan Beach
The next morning I decided to take a stroll on the long stretch of beach, but it was quite windy. The walk down along the shore was not very pleasant either with garbage and even needles washed up in the surf… Others seemed to be enjoying it though and I did walk by a cleaning crew.
For a beach bordering a large city it wasn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t want to spend my day there.
And that stroll was the last activity before heading to the airport for home.
The family cruise was a great success! With three new countries down and a couple of territories, I look forward to visiting the Caribbean again soon!