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Episode 30: Puerto Rico Beyond San Juan (8 Must-See Destinations)

    puerto rico travel interview with jen ruiz
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    Learn Spanish Con Salsa Podcast

    Episode 30

    Puerto Rico Beyond San Juan: 8 Must-See Destinations

    Interview with Jen Ruiz: Travel Blogger, Amazon Bestselling Author, and TEDx Speaker

    In this episode of the podcast I’ll be talking to Jen Ruiz, a lawyer turned solo travel blogger and Amazon bestselling author. She is also a TEDx speaker and has been featured by The Washington Post, Huffington Post and ABC News. Jen documents her adventures on her website, Jen on a Jet Plane.

    This is part 1 of a 2-part conversation with Jen.  In this episode, we talk about her travel hacks and must see destinations in Puerto Rico beyond the island’s main city of San Juan.








    Hola y bienvenidos al episodio 30. Hello and welcome to episode 30 of the Learn Spanish con Salsa podcast. In this episode I’ll be talking to Jen Ruiz, a lawyer turned solo travel blogger and Amazon bestselling author. She’s also a TEDx speaker and has been featured by the Washington post, Huffington post and ABC news. Jen documents her adventures on her website. Jen on a jet plane. This is part one of a two-part conversation with Jen. In this episode we talk about Jen’s travel hacks and must see destinations in Puerto Rico beyond the Island’s main city of San Juan. So I hope you enjoy this conversation with Jen. Let’s get to it.

    01:20– 01:27


    Hola Jen, bienvenida.

    Hi Jen, Welcome. Welcome to the Learn Spanish con Salsa podcast.




    Hola, gracias a ti por tenerme.

    Hello, Thanks for having me.




    So, Jen let’s start out. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?




    So, my name is Jen Ruiz and I am a lawyer turned travel blogger. I blog at Jen on a jet plane and I basically go around the world and I help promote different destinations, see different places. I help people figure out how they can travel from this and fit and travel into their busy schedule. Since I know what that’s like having traveled before when I had a full time job and just help them be able to have the adventures that they’ve always dreamed up instead of putting it off and waiting for later.




    Wow. That’s awesome. So how does it that you transitioned from lawyer to travel blog or how did you kind of make that switch?




    So, I transitioned a year ago now. It’s been a year ago and a year officially a year and a month and it’s been a nice milestone for me because I just recently actually surpassed my attorney and come with remote work income and I was so proud to have been able to see that I could made a go of this. So, it was a lot of work. I started off initially while I was still working full time taking on a second job, teaching English on mine, which helped me get through the transition as I was monetizing my blog and then from there I worked a lot on trying to get income from ads, growing my traffic, publishing books. I have two books on Amazon and just trying to find ways to connect and network and make a name for myself in this new field.




    Yeah, that’s great. I know there’s a lot of people that listen to the podcast that are interested in traveling more as well as trying to find ways that, they can use Spanish in their day to day life and some people also looking to work, and use their Spanish for work. So, that’s interesting so, so that perspective and how you were able to get your income from your business really surpass your, your day job. So that’s, that’s really cool. So, let’s talk a little bit about travel. Cause I wanna really ask you because I know that travel is the biggest reason or one of the biggest reasons that a lot of people choose to learn another language. And I know we all have this sort of vision of just traveling the world or we want to go and being able to talk to people, you know, and really connect with people. So, I’m really interested in your experience as it relates to travel and specifically, I wanted to talk about Puerto Rico because anybody that knows me knows that’s one of my favorite places to visit.




    And you know, some people say that they’ve been there if they’ve gone to old San Juan, right. And they’ve gone to like, like on a cruise ship or something and they’ve just kind of like gone to that little area. And I always tell people when they say that, I’m like, you have not been to Puerto Rico. There is so much more to a see on the Island. First, I want you to ask this, what would you say to people who are a little hesitant to go to Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria? Has the Island fully recovered? And what would you say about anyone who still not sure about going to Puerto Rico?





    I would say that it is definitely the best time to go. Puerto Rico was experiencing huge tourism boom right before the hurricanes hit. As a result of the Despacito song that everybody, you know, kind of went wild over and it brought a lot of tourism and attention to the Island that it didn’t have before. You know, being on billboard charts all over the world, people knew the name Puerto Rico now suddenly everywhere. So, it just was experiencing a huge boom and hurricanes kind of came and stalled that. But in no way did they prevent that and it’s coming back again and it’s going to be as big if not bigger, of a destination and it was before. So if you want to go and see it, now is definitely the time to be able to go when there’s less crowds, when it’s more reasonably priced and really take advantage of this kind of recovery for you as a tourist to get a bargain destination and also giving back to the Island because they need these tours of dollars to be able to move forward and really make that full recovery.




    But I have no doubt that they will make it and at this point it is completely safe. I’m actually going to be moving there. Puerto Rico generally compared to a lot of other Spanish countries is so safe because there’s so much American infrastructure there. You have American roads, young American signs, you have, you know, American laws that apply. You know, it can be a little bit different in in many ways, but also the same and it’s still America in that sense. So, for people that are traveling from the U S and are nervous about going to a kind of, you know, foreign country that’s not Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico is a very familiar place and you’ll find that there’s a lot of familiar things, familiar stores, you know, your phone works the same there. You don’t even need a passport to go, you just need your license. So, it’s really just like traveling to another state, like traveling to Hawaii and it should be looked at in that sense.




    I know I’m actually been a couple of times too since the hurricane and I was a little bit hesitant at first but yeah, it was, it was completely fine. I didn’t have any issues at all. I think the first time I went there were a few traffic lights that still weren’t working, but there was no real major problems with traffic or anything like that. And that was, and I think this, when I went back the second time, that that had even been resolved, at least in the San Juan area. So, now I know most people when they think about Puerto Rico, like you mentioned the song Despacito, which everyone is still kind of crazy about that, you know, that made a certain area of the Island very popular, especially the part this featured in the video, which is more like in the area of metro San Juan, but tell us a little bit about Puerto Rico, beyond on the Capitol and beyond just El Yunque rainforest. What, tell us, you know, what does Puerto Rico like beyond sort of that cruise port and what, what do you really get from a real Puerto Rican vacation that you can really get to know the locals, so sort of the culture there and not just sort of like what you saw in Despacito.




    Well, I think one of the really interesting things about Puerto Rico is that unlike some other countries from other places, Puerto Rico, the residents don’t really vacation elsewhere. Like they don’t feel a need to leave because there’s so many things to discover on the Island. And even if you’re there for years, like you still would have a hard time, you know, visiting all these different natural wonders sites. So, I mean there’s more than 2000 caves on the Island. Not even, they haven’t even all been discovered yet. They always keep finding new ones, but there’s some really popular ones that people like to take drives out to and, and no place is going to be further than a three- or four-hour drive from San Juan because the Island just isn’t that big. So, every place is really pretty accessible on a day trip and definitely on an overnight trip.




    But there are some of the caves that are raised, I mean, and they catch a lot of attention, include Cueva Ventana that has kind of a window over view of the Valley, and just looks very scenic and majestic and great in photos because you’re getting kind of that bright look of the sunlight on the outside and you’re in a dark cave, so that’s a great place to visit. You can also see that in conjunction with Cueva del Indio which recently had the, there was, there used to be a ladder that allows you to climb down further into like the clue because it’s cliff side. It’s actually used to be a filming point. It was a filming point for the Goonies and Pirates of the Caribbean and all kinds of other movies that take place on these kinds of scenic cliffs.




    So, it’s a gorgeous cave to visit and it has some, I don’t know hieroglyphics there that you can still see on the walls but they did just recently take down a ladder, it’s a little bit of an unregulated place. There’s just a parking lot. There’s the owners of the parking lot that I guess charge you the $5 to access the cave. If you’re, you know, adventurous and tried to bait, you could really go and find another way in. But for the most part, that’s where you would leave your car. It’s hard to find parking along that way. These are kind of the more remote road areas. There’s a huge zip line. The second largest zipline in the world. So, it goes for like two miles over the tree tops in the mountains and that’s the Toro Verde Zipline.




    So, that one’s amazing too. And a really fun adventure. You have to go through Orocovis, which is this really kind of remote mountain towns. You have to go on windy roads to get there. It’s a fun adventure. And I love the Pink Lakes by Boquerón, which I think a lot of people traditionally when they think pink lakes, which have become a new Instagram wonder, they think of Mexico. I know I did because those are the ones that are the most, I guess publicized or have gotten the most attention and some in Australia as well. But there’s in Puerto Rico and they’re very, the ones in Mexico now due to the tourism attention are now regulated. You have to go out with a guy, they have it fenced off. The ones in Puerto Rico are technically private property cause these, pink lakes are all salt mines. And that’s how part of what gives it the coloration. But, you can still wander in and explore for yourself and take pictures and there’s nobody stopping you from doing that. So, it’s an undiscovered, untouched place in a lot of ways. You know, Vieques, if you want to go off to the Island Culebra where you can see a military tank that’s covered are on the beaches. So many places, like I said, people live there for years and still don’t see everything that there is to see.




    Yeah. And I think one of the things that I’ve learned, it just in the times I’ve visited is that like you mentioned like Puerto Ricans, they vacation in Puerto Rico. Right. And I know for a while like I would stay around Catalina and San Juan and then later I found the Southern part of the islands where it’s really much different than the Northern coast. So could you talk about some places that might be more to the South of the Island or even to the East, like Cabo Rojo that, you know, most people wouldn’t see if they just kind of come in through the main airport?




    Yes, absolutely. The pink lakes are in Cabo Rojo. So, they are in that side of the Island and you can also go see the secluded beach up I guess you see I believe, which doesn’t sound nice but it’s like the most beautiful beach and it’s very remote and you can get there walking afterwards, see a lighthouse. It’s a nice little trip that you can make there in that area. And if you are interested in like Lechón on the other side of the Island, there’s a the Comate Lechón trail that you can go on, which is just a bunch of cards that have all kinds of roasted pig there and you can really just have a feast for very cheap price and just enjoy the smells and the, and just seeing so many of them. Ponce is really nice if you’re interested in museums and art and actually, you know, kind of a metropolitan culture outside of San Juan. So, there’s lots of places to see around that area. Absolutely.




    Another thing I wanted to touch on, cause you’ve talked about some places that are more structured in terms of traveling and other places where you can sort of access them and do it more informally. And as a female traveler, especially traveling solo, I know recently there’s been some talk in the news about people sort of adventuring off in different islands and you know, really running to some trouble. And I know we talked about Puerto Rico being a safe place earlier, but just kind of with the recent news and that’s been going on. I know some people have been concerned about traveling to the Dominican Republic or you know, some of the other islands in the Caribbean. So, what would your safety tips be or just sort of like general street smarts while you’re traveling? for females that are traveling by themselves in Puerto Rico.




    Transportation’s probably gonna be your biggest, your, your first hurdle and what you should consider most carefully. So, I personally rent a car cause it’s driving, you know, there’s no differences in driving or not driving on the other side of the road. You don’t have to read signs and another language, it’s, it’s, you know, you have to be aware of aggressive drivers. So, pretend like you’re in New York city, but for the most part I would rent a car because I think that that’s the best way to be able to access the Island on your terms. Feel secure and not have to rely on Uber and not have to be out there waiting for a ride to pick you up. Some of these places don’t have great phone reception. So at least when you have a car, you’re fully in control of your circumstances.




    There’s gas station, there’s stations everywhere. So, you should have no problem, you know, finding the supplies that you need to do the trip on your own. And I do think it’s a great solo trip to do on your own. I would be careful driving at night, so I’ll rate, always be careful generally because like I said, it’s like driving in an aggressive city, but for the most part make sure you have insurance and travel insurance, and all of that always. But otherwise it’s pretty safe. Just make sure that you take roads that you know, if I would personally take screenshots of the GPS in case you lose service just so that you at least have some idea of where you need to go. And some of these more remote areas. I would try to just be careful with potholes and some places cause some places are a little bit more difficult than others and you want to always make sure you have a spare if for any reason you need it.




    But these are all kind of like precautions that you would take. Worst case scenario, which, which rarely happens but it’s always just good to prepare. You can take the ferry easily to Culebra or to Vieques or you can also fly there from San Juan if you prefer to not have to take that hour drive out to Fajardo to go to the airport and it might be more convenient for you that way. Rum is served pretty liberally there. And I love rum one of my favorite drinks, you know, rum and Coke and in general, but I would be careful with drinking in certain areas. Some areas can get a little bit rowdy at night because people like to have a good time. People are vacation, people are drinking. So, if you’re on your own and this is anywhere, but if you’re on your own, just be careful and just, you know, make sure that you drink responsibly and handle yourself in the same way that you would in any other big city where you have the same kind of circumstances.




    All right. And one thing you talked about renting a car. One of the things that I learned very quickly was the number of numbers that are in the street. The street name really matters, right? So, like a main road, like route 66, right? Like be like a main road. But if you see like three numbers, you know it’s going to be a little bit more remote. If there’s four numbers, you know, you’re about to go up the mountain somewhere. That’s what I always tell people. If they’d be like, those are like the more remote street, they’ll just kind of be prepared. If you’re used to driving




    on roads, it’s like a lot of Hills and curves and that’s something to be prepared for. If you go around those roads, it’s like you know, nine one four seven or something like that. Like it, it tends to be one of them where remote areas. So that’s kinda my little bubble.





    I hope you enjoyed that conversation with the Jen. And don’t worry if you didn’t catch one of the places she mentioned, you can go to our show notes page at https://www.learnspanishconsalsa.com/30 download a PDF with all the destinations in Puerto Rico that you heard about in the conversation. So that’s that. Go to https://www.learnspanishconsalsa.com/30 and you’ll be able to get access to that PDF for free. Now in the next episode, we’ll continue our conversation with Jen and talk more about her experience growing up, being exposed to both mainland US and Puerto Rican culture. And we’ll also talk about some Puerto Rican Spanish words that you won’t hear anywhere else. So that will be in next week’s episode. So, if you haven’t already, make sure you hit the subscribe button so that you will be one of the first to know when that episode is available. So that is it for me. As always, I hope something you heard today moves you one more step on your journey from being a beginner to bilingual. Hasta la próxima.

    Until next time.


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