By Alyssa Valentyn
Puerto Rico literally means “rich port,” for all its wealth and beauty. For the 44 Medford High School students and faculty who traveled to the island this past February vacation, it was more than just beautiful: it was rich in memories we’ll never forget.
We arrived in Condado, Puerto Rico, at 2:30 in the morning. The groggy group of students from when we boarded the plane in Boston suddenly became excited with the sight of palm trees and the feel of the night’s warm air; after all, in Boston, it had seemed like a record-breaking cold day.
Walking to the bus in Puerto Rico, however, we were already sweating. What a surprise!
On that first morning, we went down to breakfast with four hours of sleep and an open mind for the day ahead. We had just about gotten used to the idea that we were far from home and were about to begin a new adventure.
With a full schedule and our wonderful tour guide, Bernardo Benetti, we kicked the bus into gear and headed to El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest reserve in the U.S. National Rainforest Reserve. After hiking through hills, sightseeing and swimming under waterfalls, we then went on to the picturesque and world famous Luquillo Beach, where we relaxed on the gold sand listening to the sounds of Puerto Rico’s splendor.
The second day was truly a historical and cultural experience. We participated in a scavenger hunt at a local farmer’s market in Rio Piedras, where we bartered with the locals; afterwards we explored Old San Juan and its fortress San Cristbal.
It really felt like we were on the set of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. At the end of the day, we watched a beautiful orange sunset behind a statue of a Taino princess.
Most of the third day was spent in the mountainous central western region of the island, more specifically in the city of Utuado. We hiked uphill, paddled through a bat cave, enjoyed a picnic lunch by the river, swam, jumped off a cliff and zip lined through the Puerto Rican forest.
The day was inolvidable (unforgettable)!
The fourth day was divided between an indigenous Taino ceremonial center called Tibes, lunch on a large boardwalk called La Guancha and ending with salsa dance lessons. The following day proved to be just as exciting, as we visited the Ramon Olivares Elementary School.
This is where we immersed ourselves in the Puerto Rican school system while making new friends. That being said, we were sad to say goodbye to the school.
Later we visited a dry forest and explored artisan kiosks in the small fishing village of La Parguera, where we stayed for the rest of the trip.
On day six, we spent a great while at Boqueron between swimming, banana boating and sunbathing. Those of us who went banana boating were able to see a small section of the town, while the group on the beach collected shells, swam, and enjoyed the water.
We returned to La Parguera, where we boarded a large tour boat and headed out to a bioluminescent bay. We watched in amazement as our bodies began to glow green with the light of millions of dinoflagelates. Not only that, but we were also able to experience a hands-on marine life show!Read Full Article