Travel by Any Means Necessary

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Wordless Wednesday: Playa Negra

Visiting Vieques

Sunset from Playa Punta Arenas

After our time in Rincon was complete, we headed back across the island to catch the ferry to Vieques. Vieques is an island off the east coast of Puerto Rico and is popular with beachgoers and those looking to see the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Vieques is accessible by ferry from Cieba, just south of Fajardo. We bought our $2 ferry tickets online about a month in advance so when we got to Cieba, we parked our car and waited for our time to board.

Wild Horses of ViequsThe ferry ride to Vieques was a little rough but it wasn’t long before we were docked on the island of Vieques. We booked a Jeep from Coqui Car Rental, which was a short walk from the ferry terminal. We picked up our vehicle that was ready for the rough roads the island is known for, dropped off our bags at our Airbnb, and went out to explore the island. We quickly discovered that maneuvering our big Jeep through the narrow roads of Isabel Segunda was a challenge, but we ended up needing the off-road capacity the Jeep provided later on in our exploration of the island. I was surprised by how many wild horses roam the island (left).

Playa Negra

We downloaded a Vieques History Audio Tour that helped get us acquainted with the island and its history. The tour took us from near the ferry terminal in Isabel Segunda to the sugar mill ruins, the breakwater, the lighthouse, and the black sand beach. The black sand beach on Vieques is unique because the island is not volcanic. If you have seen the black sand beaches in Hawaii (or in our case, the Azores), this is different because the beach is mostly normal beige sand with black streaks. Those streaks are tiny magnetic rocks (mostly magnetite). The brown sand gets pulled out to sea with the waves, but the black sand stays behind. It’s a very unique sight to behold. The black sand beach is accessible from the road by a trail that runs along a creek bed, so waterproof shoes are a good idea if you plan to make the trek. The beach is very rocky and not recommended for swimming.

One of the things we learned on the audio tour is that three-quarters of the island is inaccessible because for 60 years the U.S. Navy used it as a live-fire range and it is full of unexploded ordinances. In 1999 a local man was killed in an off-target bombing and the people of Vieques lobbied global human rights forums to end the bombing on the island. In the early 2000s, the weapons training area was shut down and the land was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is working on cleaning up the residual bombs.

After exploring the island, I wanted to experience the sunset on the westernmost beach on the island, Playa Punta Arenas which is located in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. We climbed in the Jeep and were jostled over the rough dirt roads in the park. Prepared for a lot of people jostling for the best sunset spot on the island on New Year’s Day, we parked and were shocked to find that there was no one else around except for hermit crabs on the beach. I still can’t believe how serene that experience was (top)!

If you are looking to have a pristine Caribbean beach all to yourself, consider a trip to Vieques. What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for natural beauty. Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience in Vieques’ bioluminescent bay! Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our time in Puerto Rico, check out my Circle Tour of the Island. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. To read campground reviews check out my Michigan Campground Reviews page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Hermit Crab

Hermit Crab

Wordless Wednesday: Beach Sunset

Wordless Wednesday: Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach on Lake Michigan

Camping Manistee National Forest

Lake Michigan at Manistee

I’ve wanted to camp at the Lake Michigan at Manistee campground in the Manistee National Forest for years now. The campground is located between Manistee and Ludington on the shore of Lake Michigan and borders the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. The campground has four loops, two of which can be reserved in advance. First-come, first-serve campgrounds make me nervous, but I was able to secure a reservation for the weekend after the fourth of July without much difficulty. All of the sites are rustic (no electric or water) but two of the loops do have flush toilets (the other two have vault toilets) so I chose to stay in the orchid loop.

Our site at Lake Michigan Campground

After two nights at Orchard Beach State Park, we moved to this campground for the weekend. Cell signal is pretty much nonexistent in the campground so this is not a place we would be able to stay when Chris needs to work. The sites here are very big and wooded giving great privacy. Even though we were here the weekend after the 4th of July, it was very quiet and not crowded at all. Every evening, families flocked to the beach to watch the sunset.

Trail to the beach at Lake Michigan at Manistee

There is a hiking and biking trail from the campground to the beach. From the beach area, trails connect to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. Nordhouse Dunes is a 3500 acre undeveloped Wilderness Area along Lake Michigan with miles of trails through the woods. It is also one of the few areas in the lower peninsula where you can do dispersed camping. It is always fun to walk through and see the hammocks hanging in the trees along the cliff, looking down at the water.

Overall, Lake Michigan at Manistee is a wonderful rustic campground on Lake Michigan. It is a great place to reconnect with nature. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and is on our list of campgrounds to revisit. Reservations can be made 6 months in advance at

Hiking Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach at Low Tide

After leaving the Lake Crescent Area, we headed to the coast, specifically Rialto Beach. There are many beaches in Olympic National Park so it was hard to choose one to visit. Ruby Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the Olympic Peninsula was closed when we visited due to road construction, so we chose to visit Rialto Beach and do the Hole-in-the-Wall Hike.

When deciding what days to do what in Olympic National Park, we looked at the tide chart. The hike to Hole-in-the-Wall can only be accessed during low tide so we had to plan our visit accordingly. There is a forest service trail that would allow you to see the Hole-in-the-Wall formation during high tide, but you wouldn’t be able to get as close or see the life in the tide pools.

When we got to the beach, it was drizzling a little and it was overcast with a little fog. There were strange rock formations jutting out from the water. It was unlike anything I had ever seen anywhere else. We drove through the town of Forks, Washington to get to the beach and I totally understood why Stephanie Meyer set the Twilight books in this area. It looks like a place where strange sparkly vampires would live!

Tides at Rialto Beach

The trail is a 3.3-mile long out-and-back trail and most of the hike is just an easy walk on the beach, but there are some tricky sections.  The scariest part for me (and most of the other women hikers we saw) was the part where you had to cross Ellen’s Creek small stream that dumps into the ocean. The only way to cross it was by walking over a log. One woman told me, I’m sure as an attempt to reassure me, “I’ve been standing here over an hour and I haven’t seen anyone fall in yet.” Luckily, I didn’t ruin her streak, but I did take the chicken’s way out on the way back and scoot across on my butt. Apparently, when the creek is less full, people wade through it instead of the scrambling we had to do.

Starfish at Hole in the WallFrom there it wasn’t much further to the rock and the feature known as Hole-in-the-Wall. It is known as Hole-in-the-Wall because over time, the tide eroded the center of the rock and created a hole big enough to walk through. The walk on the rocks was slippery and I was very worried I was going to fall, but seeing all the life in the tide pools was absolutely worth it! We had never explored tide pools before so it was really cool to see!  I had no idea starfish came in so many colors! It was crazy because you could be looking at a part of the rock for a while and just keep seeing more.

If you are looking for a beach to visit in Olympic National Park, I highly recommend Rialto Beach and the hike to Hole-in-the-Wall. If you are planning to do this hike, waterproof hiking boots with good traction are a must. Walking on the beach, our feet got a little wet, but scrambling over wet rocks would’ve been near impossible without our hiking boots.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I share about our time exploring Hurricane Ridge! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Rialto Beach Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Hole in the Wall

Rialto Beach

One Day in Luquillo

La Pared BeachWe chose to stay in Luquillo, Puerto Rico before our cruise because of its proximity to El Yunque National Forest. It is only about a 40-minute drive from San Juan airport to Luquillo. We chose to stay in an Airbnb as opposed to a beachside resort and I am really glad we did. Later in the trip, we spent a little bit of time in the Isla Verde area. While we enjoyed our time there, most people in the area were from the mainland, and the shops and restaurants catered to mainlanders. By staying in Luquillo, I feel like we got to experience real Puerto Rico.

Luquillo is known for its beautiful beaches and the most popular one is known as Luquillo beach. More than a mile long and shaded with coconut trees, Luquillo beach is a beautiful place to sunbathe and enjoy the ocean.

Luquillo Beach

Luquillo Beach

If you get hungry while at the beach, step over to the Kiosks where 60 local food vendors serve all kinds of food and drink from local Puerto Rican food to Mexican and Italian food as well as your favorite tropical drinks. Before visiting Puerto Rico I read everything I could find about the Kiosks (honestly there’s not much out there) and I had no idea what to expect. Some of the kiosks serve grab-and-go fried food or pizza, but some of them are full sit-down restaurants with a view of the beach. We chose to get dinner from Kiosk number 2, La Parilla. It is one of the full-service, sit-down restaurants serving Caribbean and Puerto Rican food. We tried the Pastelillos (Puerto Rican meat pies), arepas (dumplings), Queso Frito (fried cheese), Bolitas de Queso (breaded fried cheese), Sorullitos de Maiz (fried corn sticks), and Nuggets de Pescado (fish nuggets). Everything we had was wonderful and we finished with flan for dessert!

It is only about a 40-minute drive from San Juan to Luquillo so it is a doable day trip. Or, stop on your way back from El Yunque, enjoy the beach and get some food from the kiosks before you head back to San Juan!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Luquillo Pin Luquillo Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Duncan Bay

Blue sky over the bay

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