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Puerto Rican Coffee Experience

Latte at Cafe Lareño

After our experience trying to visit a coffee hacienda on our last trip to Puerto Rico, we still wanted to have the experience but were nervous about what road conditions we might find along the way. I did a lot of research before this trip into coffee haciendas around the island and compared them to our schedule. We ended up deciding to visit Cafe Lareño in Lares because it seemed like it was close to the main roads and was only an hour and 15-minute drive from Rincon.

Of course, Google took us off the main roads and through some twisty mountain roads, but the views were breathtaking and none of them seemed to disappear out from in front of us. We made it to Lares and the coffee shop and it seemed to be nestled in the rainforest. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed coffee with a better view before in my life (left). And it was some of the best coffee I had ever had in my life. Of course, we brought some home, but it wasn’t as good when you weren’t watching them sorting the beans below you (below).

Sorting beans at Cafe Lareño

While we didn’t get a tour of the coffee plantation, honestly, I was entirely happy with our decision to visit Cafe Lareño. If you are visiting Puerto Rico and are loooking for good coffee in a beautiful setting, look no further than Cafe Lareño.

Ice cream choices at Heladaria Lares

After our afternoon pick-me-up, we discovered that there is a famous ice cream shop (heladeria) in Lares that is known for its unique flavor options. It was tricky driving into town because all of the roads seemed to be closed, but eventually, we made it. The line was out of the door on a weekday so we knew that was a good sign. Once we got in the shop and saw all the flavors, it was hard to choose. I ended up with Maiz (corn) and Piña (pineapple). Chris was a little braver and got Batata (sweet potato) and Arroz con salchichas (rice with sausage). The ice cream was very good and unlike anything I had ever had before. Chris said his was good but sausages in ice cream are strange and he wouldn’t order it again.

Ice cream at Heladeria LaresOverall, we had a fun culinary adventure in Lares, Puerto Rico. One thing to note is that Spanish was spoken almost exclusively in both the coffee shop and the ice cream shop. Most places in tourist areas of Puerto Rico have menus in Spanish and English and servers typically speak English. That was not the case in Lares or in many of the little towns we visited.  If you do not have basic Spanish, Google Translate will help you a lot, especially when deciding on your ice cream flavor (Maiz y Piña, por favor)! You can prepare for your trip by practicing Spanish with apps like Duolingo as well.

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.

Puerto Rico Road Trip

After a wonderful day in Old San Juan, we slept in the next morning and returned to Cafe Mallorca for breakfast. After enjoying a Cafe con Leche, we went back to the hotel, packed up, and picked up the car. We had a day of driving ahead of us.

We had booked a coffee tour through Airbnb Experiences. Puerto Rico used to be dotted with coffee plantations, but after the U.S gained control of Puerto Rico, sugarcane became the cash crop on the island instead. There are still a few coffee farms operating around the island that offer tours on select days of the week. This one had tours operating most days of the week and it was located in the middle of the island in the mountains of Adjuntas.

Our rental car was a 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage with low miles but the thing had no suspension. You felt every single bump and in Puerto Rico, there are a lot of bumps. For most of the drive, the car handled it fine, but when we got close to the coffee farm the roads turned to dirt and got steeper and we weren’t sure if our regular mid-size car could handle it. We ended up having to turn around and skip our tour. Once we got back to the land of cell signal, I reached out to Airbnb and they didn’t reply for a week. When they did they were very demanding that I talk to them even though I was back at work and not able to talk during work hours. After going back and forth with them for days and then getting lectured about using Google Maps, not Apple Maps (I never use Apple Maps so that lecture wasn’t necessary) they did refund my money, but it made me question booking experiences through Airbnb again. There is a reason this tour wasn’t on Viator or a more reputable site.

After deciding to bail on our coffee tour, we headed to Ponce, the second biggest city in Puerto Rico and the city hit hardest in 2022 by Hurricane Fiona. Many of the attractions in Ponce haven’t opened back up since hurricane Maria in 2017, but the architecture is just as beautiful as Old San Juan. We found a delicious spot for dinner at Rincon Argentino, an Argentinian restaurant. This is when I realized that if you get away from the tourist areas of San Juan, there is a good chance you will interact with someone who only has limited English. Luckily, my husband has been taking Spanish lessons for a while and he got to practice ordering for us.

After driving dinner and a little drive through town, we headed to our Airbnb in Fajardo. It was dark by the time we got in, but we were able to sit out on the balcony and listen to the waves before bed. Even though we didn’t make it to the coffee farm, we got to explore parts of the island that most people don’t get to see. I would say that while I probably wouldn’t attempt it again, I am glad we tried. Maybe on our next trip to the island, we will find a coffee farm that is a little easier to get to. Be sure to check back next week as I detail our experience at La Ruta de Lechon (AKA The Pork Highway).

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Returning to Puerto Rico 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! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Hurricane Hill

Hurricane Hill Panorama

Wordless Wednesday: Cruising Alaska

Cruising Alaska

Wordless Wednesday: Haines

Approaching Haines

Wordless Wednesday: El Yunque

El Yunque Mountains

Wordless Wednesday: Logan Pass

Logan Pass

Wordless Wednesday: Sun Road Vista

Logan Pass

Glacier National Park: Kayaking Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

I have wanted to visit Glacier National Park since I saw a picture of Lake McDonald in textbook for my college geography class (yes, this is the same textbook that made me want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, too). I have been dreaming about getting one of those iconic shots of the lake where you can see the rocks through the crystal clear water and the mountains in the distance ever since then. But, when we stopped at the first overlook the water was covered with this yellow pollen (you can kind of see it in the bottom right cover of this photo) that prevented me from seeing through the water as I had hoped.

The next morning, we headed back to the park early. We headed to the watercraft inspection station to have our kayak inspected so we could head out on this beautiful body of water. To prevent “aquatic hitchhikers” all watercraft must be inspected before you are able to launch in any of the lakes in the park. From everything we read, this should not be a difficult process as long as your boat is dry. That was not our experience at all. The ranger inspecting our kayak wanted it to be completely dry and devoid of all dirt and sand. This probably wouldn’t be a probably with many hard-sided kayaks, especially not the sit-on-top kind, but our Sea Eagle inflatable is not easy to completely dry and near impossible to rid of all sand. Luckily, the rangers provided us with a handheld wet/dry vac and some towels. After that process, the ranger gave us a tag that was good for that day and that body of water only. If we were planning on returning the next day, we would’ve had to do it again.

Kayak on Lake McDonaldAfter that process, we inflated the kayak and hit the water. It was a beautiful paddle, and even though there are kayaks for rent in Apgar Village, we were the only ones on the water. We paddled about half of the lake’s ten miles, before heading back to the shore for lunch. If you enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding, I highly recommend getting out on the water at Glacier National Park and Lake McDonald is probably the most iconic lake in the park for a paddle!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. 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 Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Glacier National Park: Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road

After exploring all we could on the east side of Glacier National Park, we woke up the third day and discovered that the Going-to-the-Sun road had opened for the season. I have no idea how we got so lucky that it opened up on the day we had to go from Rising Sun Motor Inn to our Airbnb in Whitefish. So, we checked out of the hotel and hit the road much earlier than we expected that day!

Going-to-the-Sun Road is 50 miles long and runs from St. Mary to Apgar Village, crossing the Continental Divide. It is a beautiful drive, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Completed in 1933, the road is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark complete with stunning vistas, tunnels through mountains, hairpin turns, and bridges over cascading waterfalls.

Snow on Logan Pass

Going-to-the-Sun Road is an engineering marvel and you really have to see it to understand it. Before we drove it, I could not figure out how it could be the end of June and the road was not open yet. Then, we drive the portion of the road that was closed only a few hours earlier, get to Logan Pass and some of the hiking trails were still covered in snow (above). On parts of the road, snow was pushed up to create a wall right next to the road. I’m from Michigan, I’m used to snow and cold winters. This was a new experience for me.

I kept thinking if they started plowing in April or May, how could they still be working on it on June 25? Well, up to 80 feet of snow can be lying on the road near Logan Pass in an area known as the Big Drift. The plows can usually reach this area around mid-May but can often take a month or more to plow it due to avalanche risk. We were talking with a ranger on June 24, hoping that the road would open and she told us that at that point, the plowing was done, they were just making sure the road was safe from avalanche risk before opening to the public.

Logan Pass

Late June is spring at Logan Pass!

Now, my description may make this road seem scary, and at times it was a little hair-raising, but the views are absolutely worth it! Due to the nature of the road, vehicles must be less than 21 feet long, ten feet long, and eight feet long to drive between the Avalanche Campground and Rising Sun. If your vehicle is too large or you’re just nervous driving, Glacier Park Lodges offer guided tours on a fleet of historic, red, jammer busses! I was so disappointed that I wasn’t able to score a reservation for one of the tours because the buses are iconic!

In 2021, driving Going-to-the-Sun Road required reservations. Reservations at lodging along the road, the aforementioned bus tours, and boat tours also counted as reservations. If you didn’t have one of those existing reservations, you needed to reserve an entry ticket on to be able to drive the road during the day. You were also able to enter the road before 8 AM and after 5 PM. A lot of people had difficulty getting reservations. We were able to get them the first day they were available without any problems.

The reduced capacity of the road made for a much nicer driving experience than I had hear about in the past. There was no bumper-to-bumper traffic. A few times, we were able to pull over and take pictures of the road without another car in it! I may be in the minority here, but I really hope they bring back reservations for 2022. They can increase the capacity some, but don’t let it get flooded with cars again. This was a much better way to see this iconic park!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop back next week as I recount our experience launching a kayak in Lake McDonald! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. 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 Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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