If you are looking for an adventure that you can do over a long weekend. This is the place for you. Of course you could go all out and stay for a month and really experience tropical paradise. Believe me when you get there you will wish that you had figured that out before you left. I love Puerto Rico. It is close by, fairly inexpensive to get to, there is no language barrier, you can use your cell phone, and there is a Walgreens on every major road. Plus the roads are amazing. Ok that is in relation to going to Central America where my rule of thumb is “never assume that the road it there”. I really felt it was half way between Florida and Costa Rica. Tropical plants, warm, beautiful water, gorgeous beaches, and everything that you forgot to bring is just down the street. I also really enjoyed the latin american feel of brightly colored houses, street vendors, and salsa music.
January and February are birthday months in my house. My two daughters as well as myself all have birthday celebrations and this year we had a great opportunity to visit Puerto Rico so we jumped on it. I had no idea what to expect from Puerto Rico and every person I told said “you better be careful”. I have to say every single person I spoke to in Puerto Rico went out of their way to be helpful. I am personally making it my mission to tell people how wonderful it is there. We flew into San Juan and drove straight to Rincon which is on the west side of the Island. You can fly to Mayaguez which is closer but this worked and we had no plans before arriving so that left everything open for options. I have to say we were so lucky to have been invited to Rincon because I think we landed in the best spot on the island. It is the coolest little surf town which hosts many surf competitions every year. The water is picture perfect and the beaches are clean and beautiful. There are waves of all shapes and sizes depending on which beach you go to plus snorkeling on amazing reefs. Next time I will be sure to bring snorkel gear because you can go right off the beach and see brain corals that are 2-3′ across. My daughter Maya saw a small octopus. And no wet suit needed the water is warm.
Ok so the place is amazing but I also came to see big bamboo. I am kind of geeky like that. I drag my kids to nurseries and farms where we go anywhere. I was fortunate enough to get an email with two bamboo suggestions for the island and as luck would have it they were both right where we were. This is how we met Jo Scheer owner of Tropical Treehouse. What a find. We called him up and asked if we could stop by and he very graciously said he would show us around. Like most latin regions getting directions is different than the US. So here a person will use street names to guide you to the place in latin america people use physical references. So directions might go like this. Follow this road until you see the gas station then turn left, go a bit until you see the big mango tree and take a right, follow that up a hill until you see the pink house with the cow and take another right. If you have ever traveled in latin america you know what I mean. In San Jose, Costa Rica all directions are based around a Coca cola factory that was torn down years ago. I have to say in Puerto Rico the major roads have signs and GPS generally works. But I like to go off the beaten trail and then you have to rely on directions from locals. Jo’s place is right off of a main road so that was lucky and he stayed on the line as I drove past land marks to find the turn. From there it was up, up, up a steep, winding road that was about 1 1/2 cars wide. We recognized his place by the bamboos at the entrance and a little sign that said TT. Actually we drove past it the first time but decided that had to be it.
We drove down the shaded drive to a bamboo entrance structure with a small hand bell. We were standing on the side of a hill. A flattened surface carved into the hillside with bamboos all around us. It was shaded and cool under the canopy and we could see glimpses of the blue sea far below. Jo met us there. Jo is a great guy and I could tell that if you stayed at his place half of the experience would be getting to know him. He is personable, unassuming, very knowledgeable about plants and specifically bamboos, he is a master craftsman of bamboo, and has had experiences that most will only read about.
The finca (farm in spanish) is 12 acres and sits almost at the top of a small mountain or large hill. It is planted with bamboos and fruit trees. Jo and his wife have groves of Guadua angustifolia, Dendrocalamus asper, Bambusa textilis, B. tulda, B. stricta, B. ventricosa as well as an interesting native bamboo that flowers yearly. You can walk through the farm on trails that wind you through the groves and gardens. When they bought it there was part of an original structure on the property which they built into a two story house where they live. It is full of Jo’s creative passion for bamboo. From the window frames to planters, silverware holders to shelving bamboo is in every corner of the house. This is also where the workshop is and Jo said that he and his wife road out a category 3 hurricane here.
From there Jo took us on a walking tour of his property and the magical tree houses that we were so eager to see. These are fully functional structures designed and built by Jo out of bamboo grown on the farm. They have solar panels and solar heated water. They have a propane burner to cook on so you can make all of your own meals. If you love meat and starch then Puerto Rico is the place for you but if you are a vegetarian then you are going to need to go a different route. So vegetables in latin america are really just for garnish and if you order a salad they will try to talk you out of it. Rice and beans is always an option but I kept getting salted red beans and white rice not my favorite option. There are plenty of fruit stands with all sorts of seasonal vegetables and fruit. The best bananas ever are $1 a bunch and on Sundays there is a farmer’s market in Rincon with local farmers selling everything from arugula to fermented beet juice. So having a place that you can cook is key.
The bathrooms are fully functional with hot water from a solar water heating system. You can literally experience sleeping in a tree or should I say a bamboo! From the top you can view the ocean. The structure is open aired – no mosquitos in Puerto Rico and for extra sleeping room there are bamboo hammocks nearby. If you are interested in building out of bamboo this is a must see. I love that the structures are simple and strong.
The experience of sleeping in the open is a once in a life time event. I was so jealous of no windows or screens. Here in Florida we practically have to walk around in bug nets to keep the mosquitos from carrying us off. The spare bedroom is a mattress on a bamboo platform or a bamboo hammock of sorts. It has a roof and some optional netting and is located near the bamboo hooch. This is a great space for afternoon siestas or the friend who wants to come and join the fun. My girls loved them and I could see them reading, coloring, or just having a secret get away in the beautiful space.
There are three different tree houses to choose from so you could even do a several family get away and all stay there. What fun that would be. Jo says he loves that he gets so many interesting people who come to stay. I think when you do things out of the ordinary it attracts like minded individuals which makes the experience even richer. We love what we do but really it is the connection that we are always looking for and Jo’s place is a space of beauty and peace. A place to live in nature, learn about bamboo, or simply get away from it all. It’s easy and fast to get to and puts you in another dimension which is often just the thing we need!