With some downtime at work and available vacation time I decided to plan a surprise trip to Puerto Rico to visit my family. And that was it…in a week’s time I booked a last-minute trip “home”. With the travel bug and some extra time in the island, I decided on planning a trip to Rincón. A much-needed mother daughter weekend. Simple enough, I thought.
I had seen tourism campaigns to encourage internal tourism in the island among the locals and according to some sources Rincón has been “taken over” by surfers and expats from all around the world but mostly the U.S. So naturally I assumed that I would find many online resources to plan my last-minute trip.
My initial research about Rincón a little over two years ago yielded only the type of data an elementary school kid would use for a class project. Either that, or the information out there was heavily oriented to the town’s main attraction…surfing. I had to rely on friends and family that had been to Rincón and the bits and pieces found all over the Internet. Luckily the plans for the weekend were to unwind, relax and spend some much-needed quality time with my grandmother (mom) so not much planning was required.
Still I wanted to draw down a basic plan and even that seemed to be a challenging task to manage. Wikitravel seemed to be a good source for general use only but still not much to go by in terms of a schedule. Rincón’s official tourist website was overwhelming for the last-minute short trip I was planning.
To complicate things further I was determined to stay in a “Parador” to give myself the all puertorrican experience (check out the Accommodations section on this post for a description of the different types of accommodations you can find in Puerto Rico). I was able to get a few leads on “paradores” from the Puerto Rico Hoteles y Paradores website and tripadvisor but most of the “Paradores” did not have online booking services. I ended up calling “Paradores” and hotels for about 1.5 hours the night before my trip to Puerto Rico with no results. Some places did not bother to answerer the phone, or did not have availability and the ones that did…well let’s just say the price was NOT what I was willing to pay.
Finally, I caught a lucky break after I had given up on what I thought was a failed attempt on planning a trip to Rincón. While waiting for a connecting flight to Puerto Rico in the Atlanta airport I received an email from gustazos (the PR version of groupon). They had a weekend special in one of the “Paradores” I had been calling with no response at almost half the price! A few hours later my original plan had resumed and I was only 24 hours away from a weekend trip with no plan.
Where did we stay?
Casa Verde Hotel (they now have a really nice website with online booking capabilities which was not available when I went).
Pro’s: The rooms were clean and roomy, the staff was very helpful with all the questions we had and it was a short walk to the beach, bars and restaurants. The “parador”/hotel sits on a hill and has ocean views from the top floors. The balcony on the rooms in the second and third floors was a nice hideaway with a great view when it rained a little.
Con’s: No elevator. Also, the mini fridge was small and did not cool well. However, it’s only 3 floors and there is lot’s of free ice on the first floor.
How did I manage the “no plan” plan once I got there?
When I got to Rincón I sat for a few minutes reading the brochures in the lobby of the “parador” and consulting with the staff.
I’ll admit it was a little frustrating in the beginning as I had a sense of responsibility towards my “Abuela” to make my improvised Grandmother weekend a success. But in the end the “no plan” option turned out to be quite a good one and made the experience all the more fun.
It dawned on me that what I was really looking for was a pre determined schedule and Rincón is just not the place to come with a plan. On the contrary, the only plan you should have when you come to Rincón is to relax and NOT HAVE A PLAN. Sure it would have been sad to miss the Organic Farmers Market that takes place every Sunday in the town’s plaza or the views from the park surrounding the lighthouse/faro, but in the end part of what made the faro and the market so special was the fact that I was only armed with basic knowledge and had no expectations.
So is it true, do Surfers and American Expats “Own” Rincón now?
Hell no! Don’t take me wrong. There is a large expat community of surfers, yogis and retirees in the little town but it still has its native charm. Unfortunately, the prices are a little inflated in comparison to other beach towns in the west which is probably directly related to the large amount of expats and seasonal tourist willing to pay them but all you need to do is get the inside scoop on the local spots.
I had the opportunity to chit-chat with the bartender at the hotel. She was an expat from the U.S. and I had fun asking her 20,000 questions about life as an expat in Rincón and her motivations to live there in the first place. The best part was that she did not seem to mind all the questions and I learned a little about the expat community in the town.
I have since tried the “no plan” or plan as I go option and I find it is invigorating. This does not mean that I don’t do my homework. It just means that sometimes I let my hair loose and deal with the tangles later.
Have you gone local or semi-local trips with little to no planning? How was your experience?