During the family visit, we did a few excursions just before the New Year. The first excursion was to the south coast of Puerto Rico. O and I already visited the south together with our first visitors during Thanksgiving. Once again we headed straight south from San Juan across the mountains via Caguas, and without any stops arrived in the colonial town of Ponce. I just have to repeat the Ponce slogan as I find it so funny: Ponce es Ponce… y lo demás es “parking” (“Ponce is Ponce, and the rest is parking”, I have no idea where this slogan comes from). The town is also called La Perla del sur (the Pearl of the south) and it really has a beautiful historic centre.
Unfortunately we were not much luckier than last time I visited the town when it came to open restaurants and cafés – it is obvious that Sundays and holidays are not the time to visit if you want to catch something to eat. We eventually found a nice restaurant just outside of the historic centre.
After filling our empty stomachs, we drove north – on Highway 10 which crosses the mountainous centre of the island. Well, the highway is still to be fully completed so we ended up driving one part of the distance on zig-zagging country roads – with people riding horses along the road! Horse-back riding is still a mean of transport in some rural parts of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately the roads don’t seem to be entirely safe for the animals, we saw one horse carcass, as well as some dead dogs lying on the side of the road (this phenomenon of dead horses and dogs is actually mentioned in the Lonely Planet).
The central mountain area is worth its own visit, la ruta panorámica (the panoramic route) crosses the mountains from east to west (west to east?) and I hope that we will have the opportunity to visit this area’s towns and villages another time.
We finally arrived to the north coast, and the highway between Arecibo and San Juan. The family couldn’t resist the temptation of stopping at the Barceloneta factory outlet mall and all its shops (Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, GAP etc), even though we had already been to the other outlet mall on the island a few days before… Needless to say that the cheap American dollar added to the feeling of not spending too much on well-known brands.