The Caribbean, forts, pirates and rum. These are the things that dreams are made of. For many, it’s sailing the Caribbean seas seeking warmer climes, looking for adventure and a departure from the ordinary. It’s a lot like one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs, “A Pirate looks at Forty.” One of the big things on my bucket list has always been sailing the Caribbean. A standing item on my bucket list is to visit four places that I have never been. In August of 2015, Cecilia and I did just that. We visited 5 islands in 6 days on that trip, but I want to focus on San Juan, Puerto Rico now.
The bonus we found when exploring the grounds was San Geronimo, some long abandoned Spanish outpost guarding the port. It’s lonely watch showed the historical contrast to the sleek modern hotel where we were staying. One could imagine a small cadre of officers and men (soldados in Spanish) keeping vigil for pirates and invaders from this small fort.
We flew into San Juan and it was truly a tropical paradise, a dichotomy of the old and the new, palm trees swaying and everything you could imagine in paradise. We stayed at the Hilton Caribe right on the beach, reportedly where the first Pina Colada was concocted so many decades ago in the so-called heyday of swanky bars and classy tourists. It was obvious that the Hotel Caribe had been there for a long time as we were being driven up, from the architecture and style of days past, but upon arrival, the check-in desk was modern, the room was classy and a amenities including a fantastic series of pools, bars and a Morton’s Steak house (another top-notch experience!). This made for an elegant stay while we were waiting to embark on our sailing adventure.
We made a point of visiting the Bacardi distillery, which ended up being not only one of the high points of San Juan, but truly an education. It would be expected to be a first rate operation, but it was really more of a tour that touched the heart. We were greeted and offered welcome drinks to start our tour and the trams whisked us to various parts of the campus. We would, as expected, see the whole process of sugar cane being turned into molasses and the eventual alchemy into rum, but it also had the added bonus of the technology that was involved. The large windmills on the grounds provide power in sustainable fashion for the campus, but also aids in supplying power to the surrounding area as well. There is a high value placed on the quality of the product, the quality of the process and there is little to no waste product in production. The tour is first rate and should be a stop on anyone’s travelogue to San Juan. There were certain add-ons that we employed, such as the mixology class that turned out to be a real treat. We learned the finer parts of mixing some of the standard rum-fare, such as the Cuba Libre (and the accompanying history), the traditional Daiquiri, and the Mojito. It is in the details that make a drink a tropical experience. The classroom was modern and well-appointed, the staff friendly. And since we were not driving at any point, we could enjoy the libations! This is the first installment of this adventure, more on our stay in San Juan, including the fort that must be five times the size of our familiar Castillo in Saint Augustine in future articles. In the meantime work on your bucket list, we are here to help you get those “bucket list items” checked off. Call us today, let’s get started.