Day three of our Puerto Rico adventures brought us up close with big lizards, big ships, and first-hand survival stories of one of the biggest storms in history.

After a great experience on Monday with our catamaran and snorkeling tour of the islands around Fajardo, we decided to try another boat here in San Juan. Just before sunset, the three-master schooner tall ship Amazing Grace took us out into Old San Juan harbor for a tour of the historic and original entryway into the city.

Ryan Gavin

We got to see Castillo San Felipe del Morro, even older than Fort San Cristóbal (where we visited yesterday), at the entrance to the harbor, and really feel what it must have been like to enter the walled city by ship 300 or even 400 years ago.

Ryan Gavin

Along the trip, we got to see Ponce de Leon’s mansion, the convent where they filmed the Flying Nun, and the world-Famous Bacardi plant, where they make hundreds of thousands of gallons of Puerto Rican rum... every day.

We also got to talk to several of our tour guides, many of whom were native Puerto Ricans who survived hurricane Maria last fall. The stories of destruction and continued recovery are nothing short of incredible, and they’re not out of the woods yet.

Two of the tour guides, a husband and wife team, told us that they had to leave the island for months after the storm. They live in the middle of the island, about 45 minutes away from the city of San Juan on the coast, and the destruction at their home was astounding. Just trying to get to their parent’s house took an army of people with trucks and machetes to cut down overturned trees and move parts of fallen buildings out of major roadways. Following the storm, there was a curfew in place, restrictions on travel and fuel, and many people had to wait months, or are even still waiting, for power and water utilities to return.

But the message from Hiram, one of the guides who just returned to Puerto Rico after spending months working in Pittsburgh after the storm, was pretty hopeful. He told us that he took the whole experience as a positive one to learn from, and that he wanted us to spread the news: Puerto Rico is getting back up on its feet, and they’re ready to welcome visitors again with open arms.

Ryan Gavin

And before we disembarked from the schooner Amazing Grace, we were treated to another pretty cool sight... one of the world’s biggest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, was docked right next to us when we came back into the harbor. The Anthem of the Seas makes summer trips to Portland too!

Ryan Gavin

So, one more story of today’s fun times in the warm, not-snowing, beautiful island of Puerto Rico...

As we’re sitting at the swim-up bar, enjoying a nice coconut rum something, I look over... and this guy is sitting right next to us! Iguanas are everywhere down here, and the ones at our hotel totally don’t mind people at all. See ya tomorrow!