One of the most brilliant aspects of jetBlue's All You Can Jet Pass is their effort to connect travelers through social media as they use the pass. Announcing on a Facebook group that I would be visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico the following week, I received several responses from other travelers. I had no idea that this social connection would prove to make my time in Puerto Rico one of my best travel experiences yet.
Just prior to boarding the plane for San Juan I texted Chum, who had mentioned that he and a few other guys would be staying at the El San Juan Resort, to ask if he and his friends had extra space in their hotel room. I figured it couldn't hurt and had not yet found a place that I really wanted to stay. He responded immediately that he had just written to invite me to do so. Finding that my accommodations in a 4 start resort would cost little more than a hostel sine we were sharing the room and that the guys I would be staying with shared my faith, I agreed to join them. This was one of the best decisions of the trip.
Chum, Steve and Matt soon became both traveling buddies and friends. Joining a few others we had found on Facebook who were also traveling on the All You Can Jet Pass, we rented a Jeep Wrangler the next morning and set off for the rainforest. El Yunque National Forest is a sub-tropical mountainous rainforest and lies about one hour's drive outside of San Juan. Spotting the highest overlook on the map we set out to find it. We passed a waterfall along the way and all stepped out to admire it and take our pictures together.
Among our randomly gathered group of travelers were three guys from the Los Angeles area, one from San Diego, another from Salt Lake City, a girl from Virginia and yet another from the Seattle area. Despite having met less than 24 hours earlier, it felt natural to be hiking into this exotic landscape together.
The relatively easy hike up the Mt. Britton Trail led to a castle tower-like overlook. Climbing up the circular stairs, we stepped out into the clouds and waited for them to clear so that we could see. As the clouds lifted and then returned we saw an ever-changing view of the rainforest that was well worth the journey.
Our next stop was Luquillo where the waves crashed down hard on the beach and brave locals surfed. Noticing the way the waves swirled around the rocks, I knelt in the sand to take pictures until the water came up high enough to soak me and move me from my perch. Enjoying the sunset, taking pictures, and conversing together about the beauty of this place made the social part of this experience so much more enjoyable.
We spent the evening swimming in the Atlantic Ocean back at the El San Juan. It was one of the moments that make you feel alive. I could not believe how comfortable the ocean water could be even at night. We stayed up until the early hours of the morning enjoying the 24 hour pools and hot tubs around the resort. This was a day I'll never forget where travel became a social experiment in Puerto Rico.