Our first stop on our honeymoon was to the small western surfing town of Rincón. This trip was my motivation to learn how to swim in the first place, because you can’t surf if you can’t swim! When I first arranged the trip, I thought there would be plenty of time to arrive in San Juan in the afternoon and drive up to Rincón the same day (2 hours according to online maps), but it was more than 3 hours due to traffic and time adjusting to the signs “Este” and “Oeste”.
It wasn’t late when we arrived in Rincón, it just seemed late because it was so dark. The sun sets earlier there, and when it does, (like in all non-urban environments) there is absolutely no street lights so navigating your way around is very challenging. The streets don’t really have names and the roads aren’t paved. When we were driving to get to our destination, we had to get through crazy dips and curves in darkness and I was not sure if the place was going to look as nice as it did in the website. Who would build an establishment here I thought? We wondered if we were the only people in the area because we hadn’t seen other people or cars for over an hour. Then all of a sudden we saw a small sign that said “Casa Islena Inn” and turned into a muddy parking lot. We heard the ocean and once we let our eyes adjust to the darkness, saw the star-filled sky and roaring waves. At the edge of the parking lot was a sign that read “Zona De Peligro” (Tsunami Zone — Yikes!). I was officially scared shitless.
Once we went through the beautiful double wooden doors, the place opened up to a bar on the right and seating and a heated pool on the left. The bartender said “You two must be the honeymooners” and gave us two wine glasses and we ordered two Medallas (a generally good, unfussy Puerto Rican beer). We walked up to our room but couldn’t really appreciate the beauty of it until the morning, when we realized our balcony overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. Realizing that things closed early in Rincón (especially in off-season) we quickly showered, dressed and headed back out to find this Thai place we read great reviews of online, Ode to the Elephants. We expected the drive to dinner to be forseeable, but given that there are no street signs and the roads are completely dark, it turned into an adventure. Online, the address said, “Carr 413 km 3.3, Rincon 00677.” What the eff does that mean? We tried putting that in the GPS that we brought from home but we weren’t sure if the GPS was taking us to the right place. Finally, we drove and drove until we found the town drunk. I can’t recall his name, but he was overly helpful, assured us that EVERYONE in Rincón knew him and told us to continue going up the hill, make a right at the fallen tree, and go around the mud pit. We later learned that his vague directions weren’t a result of his intoxication, but EVERYONE in Rincón gave directions like that. Then he sat back down on a bench with his two wild dogs and continued drinking his Medallas.
We ended up not finding Ode to the Elephants that night, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise because as we searched with grumbling bellies, in the distance we saw a large, lit screen out in the woods showing people surfing. We decided to follow it and ended up at an awesome sushi spot called The Pool Bar. This was my first experience in a restaurant that has a pool right in the middle. You can watch movies from the pool, you can drink in the pool, it’s very laid back. There was one bartender and one waiter so service was sloooooow (which I normally wouldn’t mind, but this was our first sit-down meal since we got to Puerto Rico and we were starving). But the wait was worth it because the sushi was amazing. Best part was zoning out and hearing people exchanging surfing stories from the day and watching the surfing footage (which looked like it was from the 70’s) as we waited for our food. J and I were grateful to see PEOPLE! We only were in Rincón for less than an hour but we were starting to wonder if people were even in town because it was so dark and quiet. Slowly we realized that during the off-season, many people in this small town end up in the same places. That night, it was Pool Bar. Before we left, J saved the location to our GPS so we could find this awesome restaurant on a street with no name. I recommend anyone visiting Rincón to do that if you have a GPS. Another thing you can do is “Drop a Pin” if you have an iPhone. Its most likely the easiest way to find your way back to your favorite spots so you don’t have to rely on the town drunk. After dinner we drove back to our guesthouse, put on our bathing suits and jumped into the pool for half an hour before crashing to bed.