We have officially taken our first vacation as a family of four and survived to tell the tale! Traveling with a baby is a daunting task for sure but I think we were all ready for a change of scenery, break from work/school, & the excitement of seeing things completely new to us. So during Henry's fall break (plus a couple of extra days, oops) we set off to visit Puerto Rico and were dubbed the "#zikazuills" by our quick-witted Gilliam friends.
Our weekend trip to Ohio in September made it crystal clear that my precious good-sleeping Charlie turns into up-every-hour-or-two Charlie when she's away from home. She also hates travel cribs. You can imagine where she ended up sleeping every night. Strong willed, this one. Cute too.
When we left Tennessee the weather was finally beginning to have mercy on our poor souls and giving us temperatures in the 70s and 80s! Landing in San Juan was like an August flashback! It was right around 90 degrees in Puerto Rico the entire time we were there. Mr. Zuill was in internal thermostat heaven. We stayed at a hotel in San Juan. Henry adored it. The hotel presented so many out of the ordinary 5 year old delights - elevator buttons, a little private beach, swimming pools, a fish feeding dock, morning cartoons, & pancakes. Henry heaven.
While we did spend some time at the hotel playing in the pool and building a good sandcastle (and feeding the fish every day), most of our time was spent out exploring.
Our first full day there we drove the rental car a few miles away to Old San Juan to visit Castillo San Cristóbal. It was amazing. Even at the very end of our trip, Henry still proclaimed it as his favorite part of our vacation. No kid can resist secret tunnels and free roaming iguanas.
You can't even imagine how stinky and sweaty we were by the time we'd explored the whole fort. But that didn't stop us from trekking another mile or so down the coastline to visit fort #2. Old San Juan was so busy on a Saturday. Locals and tourists alike filled the streets with energy. (p.s. Those ice cream carts sell the most delicious passionfruit ice cream known to mankind.)
By the time we made it down to the other fort we were hot and pretty exhausted, so that fort tour wasn't quite as lengthy. Luckily we conserved enough energy to fly a kite (along with hundreds of other people) in the field of El Morro in front of the fort. What a cool experience and awesome first day in Old San Juan!
On day two we took a little diversion from outside sightseeing and drove to the Museo del Niño de Carolina. It was by far the coolest children't museum we've ever been to! We all happily spent a few hours in their glorious air conditioning (ha) and explored and played together. It really was such a fun family day!
Day three took us back outside again. This time we were off to the rainforest! We hopped in the car for a 45 minute drive that took us to the El Yunque National Rainforest. We immediately saw a beautiful waterfall and then climbed spiral stairs to the top of the viewing tower. Just beautiful!
Back to the car we went to drive just a little further up the park road so that we could explore a different area. I don't think Henry took more than ten steps at a time without pulling out the trusty binoculars he got the day before at the children's museum.
Henry hiked that trail like a champ. The hike into that part of the rainforest was downhill and pretty leisurely. With my additional (and adorable) weight I didn't even feel bad for missing Jillian workouts for the week (especially after the mile hike back UP!). What a prize for our perserverence.
Day four was the day we chose to further explore Old San Juan. We parked the car and then proceeded to spend the next few hours walking on blue cobblestone streets (yes, blue! amazing!) & among the banyan trees. It was just gorgeous and there was so much so see, including the cats that roam the streets like true free spirits. The cats were so loved by the local folks there!
As usual, Charlie was thoroughly impressed.
Eventually all the street walking plus the heat got to us, so we found the perfect spot to cool off (thanks to my friend Mel's recent trip and recommendation). This spot came with treats like milkshakes bigger than your head and (brace yourself) chocolate grilled cheese!
Our last full day in Puerto Rico and we definitely saved something amazing until the end! A 45 minute drive took us to the Rio Camuy Cave Park. They take people into the cave in groups and we had a little extra time to kill before the tram left for the tour, so while we waited-
The ride down to the caves was fantastic and really set the mood!
The cave was really one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The rock formations were amazing as was the waterfall! The water allegedly gives the gift of youth if you drink from it, as I'm sure you'll notice the next time you see us! ha!
We were all happily exhausted afterward. Both kids nearly immediately fell asleep once we got back to the car, which gave us some peaceful time to take in the scenery on the way back to the hotel. I loved all the roadside stands and restaurants in Puerto Rico!
The next day it was time to go home. We packed up and made one last trek down to the dock to feed those beautiful fish, then back to the airport we went. We had (mostly) uneventful and tear-free travel on the flight back. We had such a great vacation, but it was so sweet to be back home!