WSSM: Rails & Tales... Puerto Rico Exploration Tour

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RAILS & TALES . . . Puerto Rico

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efore bringing a WSSM retreat to an exoic location, we like to explore it first. Finding the best spos to surf (for all levels of surfing), the best places for our photographer to capure it all from, as well as what local hospos and activities to hit, are all top priorities for us. Yes, we know... tough job! After hearing los of great things about Puerto Rico and receiving multiple requests to take a retreat there, we decided to bite the bullet, purchase the airfare... and go exploring ! Now with every good exploration tour, you need some good buddies along to make it a fun experience, as well as to get a better overall impression of what the destination really offers. So for this journey, fellow explorers and previous WSSM retreat guests, Kristin Wetzel from New York, and Kiersa Brenner from Chicago, Michelle Olson from Phoenix and of course, our staff phoographer, Gabriel Fernandez, joined us for an epic week of sun, surf, more surf... and MORE surf! Here is what we discovered.

After a 6-8’ swell at Jobos, behind Wave Riding Vehicles surf shop (Kristin, Sandra, Dan, Michelle)

- Sandra & Dan Olson / WSSM Publishers

Enjoy the Ride Arriving into Aguadilla makes getting into Rincon, the surf capital of the Caribbean and located on the west side of the island, a LOT more convenient! At only a half hour drive through beautiful countryside, it sure beats the traffic laden 2 1/2 hour drive from San Juan. However, if you’re to enjoy it on your own- and drive yourself, you’ll have to be prepared for the lack of street signs. The directions we were given started with, “Take a left out of the airport. Turn right at the fork (a 3 way fork), then seven stoplights later, turn right, and drive about 15 minutes. Then turn left at the second Walgreens... “. Yes, we’re serious. Obviously, road signs are not a major priority here. You can imagine our conversations went something like... “Was that 5 stoplights we’ve passed? Or 6? hmmm... well, let’s just keep driving!” At 3am in the morning, which is the best time to arrive so you avoid traffic and take advantage of the very best airline prices, this can be frustrating. But, oh well, take it in stride and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Good thing it’s not a very big island, and the locals are VERY friendly on the Rincon side, so getting directions is actually a pleasant experience. Which leads us to...

The Locals Having lived in Hawaii (a state often dubbed “the friendly state” though we don’t know WHY!) for almost 15 years, you get used to living with your head down, minding your own business, and communicating minimally with the locals. You learn to stay out of their way, and they leave you alone- for the most part. In Puerto Rico though, by stark contrast, we enjoyed the laid back friendliness of the locals. From hard-core locals, to ex-pats, to yogees, to entrepreneurs... It became normal to have someone strike up a conversation with you while out to lunch or dinner, with them expressing genuine interest in where you’re from, why you’re there... and if you’ll be coming 48 | womenssurfstyle.com | wSSm

Thank you, Caroline Rocha, official jewelry sponsor of our WSSM Women’s Surf Retreats. The girls love your handpainted, Swarovski crystal embellished leather cuffs! (carolinerocha.com)


A beautiful sunset session at Domes in Rincon

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Rico Exploration Tour

Photos by Gabriel Fernandez

Kristin at Wilderness wSSm | womenssurfstyle.com | 49


RAILS & TALES . . . Puerto Rico back. They want you to! They LOVE people from around the world to visit them, and learn about Puerto Rico. Time after time, after interacting with policemen for directions, waiters at restaurants, or the random person at the bus station or store (again, for directions), we would leave with a big smile on our faces, and asking each other in disbelief... “Can you believe how friendly everyone is? They are SO nice!” As with any island or city, it depends on where you go. While definitely not as friendly or helpful as the Rincon side, even the San Juan area was nice, with people having no problem helping you find your way, or offer advice on local attractions. How refreshing!

A full moon rising over Desecheo island. Our view from the rooftop patio of Front Street Apartment 12, in Rincon

Accommodations Condo Living: We wanted to be as close to

the surf as possible, so we decided to book a nice condo right in the heart of Rincon. After finding Heriberto’s property, Front Street Apartment 12 on VRBO.com, he assured us we would be happy with our location, being close enough to town to walk to dining and nightlife. We would also be directly across the street from the beach, and only 5 minutes from Puerto Rico’s best surf breaks like Maria’s and Domes. He was right. Each morning, we’d wake up before sunrise for a light breakfast on the rooftop patio overlooking the ocean and the rising full moon etching its path across the water. Absolutely STUNNING. Beautifully decorated, it was a pleasure to come home each day after surfing hard. It easily accommodated our crew of 6 with 3 bedrooms (It can sleep up to 9 people), a full kitchen, 3 bathrooms, and the rooftop patio complete with grill and bar... we didn’t want to leave when the time came to check out. See for yourself at www.vrbo. com/359024 .. and tell Heriberto we sent you! Luxury Living: If you’re planning on coming

with a large group of people, then renting an entire house is going to be a great option for you, and they’re in abundance in Puerto Rico! We found Villa Rincon online, a beautiful 5 bedroom, luxury villa, that pampered and pleased us to no end! Located in the Puntas area which is just a few minutes north of the heart of Rincon, Puntas is a peaceful and beautiful hilltop community. We enjoyed the fully equipped kitchen, beautifully landscaped grounds, and swimming pool immensely. Falling asleep each night after showering in the perfectly designed en-suite bathrooms, then plopping into our king sized beds boasting super soft sheets and fluffy pillows as we listened to the waves break softly on shore in the distance, was magical. Truly magical. In Puntas, there are 5 roads that weave their way from the top of the hill to the beachside road, where you’ll find surf breaks Pools, Sandy’s, and Parking Lots. Villa Rincon is located only a few minutes from these breaks, making this luxury villa an excellent choice for those wanting a quiet community, gentle waves, nightlife, and dining... without having to drive more than 5 minutes for it! Check out Villa Rincon at www.villarinconpr.com

The SURF Now for the best part. The waves! San Juan was flat while we were there, and the water wasn’t “friendly” looking, so we can’t vouch for it. However, Rincon boasts tons of great breaks 50 | womenssurfstyle.com | wSSm

Front Street Apartment 12 Complete with 3 bedrooms and 2 oceanfront balconies

The rooftop patio

Breakfast on the rooftop covered patio

Dan at Wilderness


Kristin and Sandra at Wilderness

Kristin with her new board at Domes

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Photos by Gabriel Fernandez

Kristin & Sandra celebrate a good session, while Dan and Michelle talk surf stoke | At Jobos Beach

Arturo’s Mexican Food truck that we all piled into for a photo. The BEST tacos on the island!

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RAILS & TALES . . . Puerto Rico that are easily accessible, and are easily surfed at almost any skill level. Domes was a WSSM favorite, due to its short paddle out and consistent surf. The crowd is a little heavier here than other spots though pretty mellow in vibe, but it’s a great fall-back break, especially if everywhere else is flat. Parking Lots (in Puntas) was great for the beginners of our group, as was the inside of Jobos, located in the Isabella area- further north. Kristin’s favorite spot was Wilderness, which is located near the Aguadilla airport. You’ll need an SUV or van to access it due to the poor conditions of the bumpy dirt road that leads to it, but with empty peaks a norm... this was a spot we hit almost daily. Surfer’s Beach, also very near the airport, boasts several peaks to choose from, and offers a short paddle out. Lots of sea urchin here though... so you’ll want to wear booties if you’re planning on standing up after a ride. The outside of Jobos (in Isabella) was also a fun break. Due to its location, there were often lots of surfers out, which made wave-catching more difficult. Not a break to be missed though... on the right swell, it can line up with multiple sections to race, and a nice easy paddle-back out- using the channel. Puerto Rico’s warm water, gentle waves, and a super friendly surf crowd makes surfing here so much fun, and with more than 2 dozen breaks to choose from within a 25 minute drive, finding a wave you love isn’t the hard part. It’s getting your group to decide WHICH spot to surf!

FOOD Puerto Rico offers an eclectic mix of cuisine, that will keep your taste buds satisfied. Fine dining (Casa Verde) is available, but we wanted to explore cheaper- less formal options, so we could really get the local culture, and make vacationing here more reasonable for our readers. Roadside food trucks are in abundance in PR, and you can trust most of them, to offer you a lot of flavor and substance, for value. Our favorite hangouts included: Arturo’s Mexican Food: ($) We met Arturo on the road to Domes at his mobile truck, after an awesome session. A jolly fellow with a repertoire of English slang that is very amusing, he’s since re-located to Aguada and into a building. Offering the very best value we found on the island, his $3 pulled chicken tacos are GIGANTIC, and topped with his fresh salsa! La Kabana: ($$) Voted by our group as the very best burgers on the island, Enrique offers outside dining, a variety of tasty appetizers, and outstanding tacos and burgers. He uses all fresh ingredients, and although it takes a while to get your food, once you bite into that juicy burger, you know it was worth the wait! Located across from Tamboo in an empty lot, in Puntas. Surfer Spot: ($) Located on 413, in the Pun-

tas area, this outdoor surfer bar opens at 8pm (yes, that’s right), and offers super yummy burgers, fries and tacos. Sandwich Delight: ($) With over 30 sand-

wiches to choose from, and costing only a few dollars each, these freshly grilled sandwiches come in a variety of tasty ways. Some have names that give NO indication of what they are, so your best bet if you’re feeling adventurous, is to order a couple of each and split them, to figure out which one you like the most. They’re 52 | womenssurfstyle.com | wSSm

Jobos Beach: Kiersa, Michelle, Kristin, Sandra, Dan. We took over the break... and then the streets! Kiersa claiming her wave at Jobos


Michelle cruising all the way to shore

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Kiersa joined us later in the trip, but still scored waves with us at Jobos The beautiful, fully stocked kitchen at Villa Rincon

Rico Exploration Tour

Villa Rincon’s beautiful oceanview master suite

Photos by Gabriel Fernandez

The view from the master suite Gabriel Fernandez, our photographer, finally got in a shot! A fun night at Villa Rincon doing yoga and watching Point Break

Dan paddling his surfboard around in the pool Kristin, Kiersa and Michelle heading out at Parking Lots

The girls bet Dan he couldn’t back-flop. Dan won. After an EPIC session where we surfed till dark at Domes, after which we saw the bio luminescence! Stoked!

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RAILS & TALES . . . Puerto Rico Fried Potato Balls: ($) ok, so that’s definitely not the name of the place, but none of us recall seeing a sign indicating it’s name. Here’s how you get there (Puerto Rico directions). Head to Jobos. As you enter the town, the road dead ends at Wave Riding Vehicle surf shop. Turn left, and follow that road for about 8 minutes (ocean on your right). You’ll see a small restaurant/eatery on a curve on your left. The small window will be filled with fried local foods including potato balls filled with meat, and the famous Empanadillas... similar to a calzone, but fried- and filled with chicken, beef, or fish. SO good! and CHEAP! Ode to the Elephant: ($$-$$$) Ready for

a NICE dinner out? Overlooking Puntas, this beautiful and quirky restaurant sits on a hillside overlooking the ocean, and is intimate and relaxing-- before 10:30pm, after which it comes alive with the local night life crowd. Delicious cuisine, soothing atmosphere, yet comfortably local, if you only splurge on one nice dinner night? Go here!

Michelle on “La Bestia” at Toro Verde Adventure Park. Over 800ft in the air and travelling up to 65mph!

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ALL good !

Rico Exploration Tour Photos by Gabriel Fernandez

The Poolbar: ($$) A nice outside restaurant/ bar, that overlooks a pool with colored lasers dancing on it. Enjoy surf films playing on the giant screen, and rock out (yes, it’s loud- but fun!) to local music. Tamboo Bar & Restaurant: ($-$$) Great for dancing, w ith a local and laidback vibe. DJ throws down while you watch the moon over the ocean from the dancefloor. Pancho Villa Mexican Grill: ($$) A reason-

ably priced “sit down” restaurant that offers a wide assortment of Mexican favorites, without the intense spice. Happy Bowls / Puntas Bakery: ($) Excellent sandwiches, breakfast burritos, acai bowls, and more! Note: they close at 2pm! Cafe 2 Go: ($) A cute little coffee stand serving the closest thing to American espresso drinks. Located on the way to Domes. Tell Eric we sent you! Tip Top Ice Cream Shop: ($) Located in

the heart of Rincon, be sure to stop in for their incredibly rich and delicious Frappes. They’re out of this world!

Activities When you’re too tired to take one more paddle... it’s time for other exciting activities! Toro Verde: Perhaps the largest adventure park we’ve ever been to, and one that you’ll want to plan an entire day around! Located in the heart of the island, they offer heart dropping ziplines, adventure walks, waterfall rappels and more, ranging from 60 minutes to half day tours. Be sure to try “La Bestia” (the beast) which will have you flying like superman (literally) over 800 feet up in the air, for almost 2 minutes, and reaching speeds of over 65 mph! (www.toroverdepr.com) Pintos R Us: Join Julie on a leisurely horse-

back ride on healthy, happy horses, as she leads you along the beach fronting Puerto Rico’s best surf breaks. A perfect way to spend the afternoon, while taking in the beauty, you can also check the surf conditions as you ride! Bonus? Unlike most rented horses, Julie allows you to trot and run the horses at certain spots along the trail! (www.pintosrus.com) 

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Domes Beach Kristin on fire at Jobos

Thanks to Les, Carley and the WRV crew for the free t-shirts!


The girls follow Sandra to Pools in Puntas

Dan, Michelle, Gabriel, Kiersa, Kristin and Sandra, enjoying a ride with Pintos R Us, checking out surf breaks accessible only by foot or dune buggy

Julie with Pintos R Us taking the crew on a beachside ride, perfect for checking the surf conditions!

Sandra sets up for a floater at Domes, with the famous Desecheo island is in the background wSSm | womenssurfstyle.com | 55