Puerto Rico Punch

Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques Green Beach. (Amanda Wilson - Amanda Wilson)
By John Deiner, Steve Hendrix, Andrea Sachs and K.C. Summers
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, February 26, 2006

The tangle of on-ramps and the backed-up traffic around San Juan International Airport were just what the four passengers from Washington expected. They may have arrived with different ideas of what would constitute fun during an island weekend, but they came with the same preconception: that Puerto Rico is basically an American annex, a sort of South Bronx neighborhood with South Florida weather. Bad city traffic? Of course. Right along with McBurgers, wall-to-wall English and all the other hallmarks of garden-variety American culture. Right?

That was before one of them almost crumpled his rental car trying to decipher the Spanish signs at a toll plaza, another found a nearly whole chicken in her tureen of soup, one went island-hopping by cargo scow and one found himself floating at the base of a rain-forest waterfall that no one will ever mistake for New Jersey.

That's what they discovered, in four different ways, in the course of the weekend: Puerto Rico is, like, a foreign country.

It may be exotic, but it's not very big. Would an island of 3,427 square miles offer enough variety to simultaneously satisfy these four workmates?

Joe Beach , a sand-sifting rum-sipper happiest on a paperback-equipped chaise longue in the shade of a resort palm.

City Slicker , a latte-powered museum aficionada with art gallery radar and a nose for nudes.

Island Girl , a sun-bleached sport princess who be snorkelin' by day and jammin' by night.

Eco Guy, a bored-by-the-beach lover of highland jungles, mountain vistas and creaky old hotels.

They flew in together Friday morning, but went their separate ways to survey different parts of the country for the weekend. Then they reunited and compared notes Sunday night in San Juan.

Four people, three nights, one island. Here's how a quartet of Washingtonians with distinctly different interests spent their time in Puerto Rico.


2:20 p.m.

Joe Beach picks up his rental ride for the drive to Rincon, a west coast surfer's mecca two hours or so from San Juan. But after stoplights and congestion, a wrong turn and a stop for groceries, he pulls up at the Rincon Beach Resort four hours after setting off. The front desk clerk takes pity and tosses him an upgrade: top-floor oceanfront.

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