There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule out there that “real” travelers avoid 4 star hotels and all the luxuries that go along with it. I suppose it makes some sort of sense to spend money wisely and if all you are looking for is a place to rest your head then why not go for the $20 a night hostel as opposed to the $200 a night Hilton?
But sometimes the splurge is oh so worth it!
My only intent in making a reservation at the El Conquistador Resort & Spa in Fajardo, Puerto Rico was to visit Palomino Island, which I had been assured both (unofficially) through rumors on the Internet and (officially) through employees at the resort had a clothing optional beach. The bonus turned out to be the hotel itself.
I arrived later than intended after a late start in San Juan, GPS misguidance, lunch, and visiting other beaches. So it was dark when I finally arrived and there was a long wait to get my room. From there things went wonderfully. I had pondered whether to visit Palomino Island, where the nude beach was, the day of check-in or the morning I checked out. Each option gave me a limited amount of time on the beach as the island operates from 9-6 and check in is at 4pm, check out at 11 am. I probably shouldn’t point this out since I’m not sure if it’s standard procedure but the man checking me in offered me an extended stay until 2pm for free even though it normally runs $60. You should just try asking at check-in. So I ended up paying “only” about $370 (which includes the taxes and “resort fee”).
The resort is so big that you literally have to use the services of a bell boy to take you to your room, lest you get completely lost. We passed by several high end shops, bars (where I had a delicious pizza and mai tai later on underneath an umbrella in the rain), a casino (where I later won $5!), and a Starbucks (which is another supposed traveling no-no but screw it…I’m addicted).
The room itself was quite a bit more chic than any hotel I’ve been to…not that I’m an expert. But it felt delicious sleeping there, especially knowing that in only a few hours I’d be lying nude on a beach. It was dark when I took these so forgive the quality:
My room overlooked one of the pools and the ocean:
I could also see Palomino Island from my room:
In the morning after my Chai Tea latte (shut up!) I packed everything I thought I’d need and headed down the tram to the catamaran dock.
The catamaran takes about 5 minutes to get to Palomino Island.
At 10 we had to wait a bit while they loaded food and supplies up. Note: none of the restaurants on the island open until about 11:30, and generally it’s really in your best interest to bring your own food and liquids. I and one other guy had to plead with the bar tender to sell us bottled water early, which he generously did.
I checked with the guy in charge of horse rides to get directions to the “nude beach.” I was disappointed when he informed me that I really couldn’t go right now since the trail was full of bushes. I told him I didn’t care and he shrugged and pointed me in the direction of a trail leading up a large hill, making sure to point out that I was going at my own risk. Little did I know then that “bushes” meant spike infested DEATH TRAPS. But more on that later.
This is the point at which I tell you exactly what you need to bring with you to Palomino Island:
- Bottled water: for some reason nudism brings on the dehydration. Maybe because it’s usually such a trek to get to nude beaches, or because you have more pores exposed to the elements. Trust me…you don’t want to depend on the good graces of a bar tender opening shop early.
- Food: not really necessary, especially if you are only sunning for a little while. But if you get the munchies it’s a long and treacherous trek back to civilization.
- Towel: The resort offers you your own which is good enough. Bring it. If the bushes are as overgrown as they were with me, you can use it to cover them and push them away like I did. Plus, you don’t want to lie on the dinky abandoned chairs offered on the nude beach without one. Who knows who else had their nude ass on that very chair.
- Thick soled, close-toed shoes:I wore these flimsy flats from Payless and one of the spikes from a branch on the ground went right through the sole and into my foot. So make sure you are protected!
- Entertainment: When I got there I was alone for a good 2 hours. If you enjoy the quiet and solitude then fine, otherwise you’ll get bored. So a book, puzzle book, newspaper, magazine, ipod, etc. may come in handy.
The path up:
There was a small little chapel and altar at the top, obviously meant for wedding ceremonies. I thought about the stories I’d heard of nude weddings and had a chuckle. Still, how ideal would it be to have a nude wedding and then make your way down to a nude beach right there! Something to consider should I ever take the leap.
Making my way down to the beach is where I began to encounter trouble…in the form of nasty spiked bushes blocking the way. It was even worse because I also had to watch my step considering the incident with my shoe.
But eventually I saw the opening and was happy to find the beach was all mine.
There were a few well used lounge chairs that looked as though they’d been brought there at the opening of the resort and left alone since then. Half of them were unusable (causing one couple later on to give up and go back). But I found one that was in decent shape and dragged it away from the others. I had heard an exchange between two men on the way in about “hiking to a beach” and had no desire to be the object of a couple of oglers up close and personal.
For several hours the beach was all mine and I wandered around collecting sand, sea glass, and shells (I found a very big one in perfect condition), and walking in the water. The water itself was not very swimmable, being quite shallow and filled with rocks. There was another level to the beach further on above some rocks with sand that was a bright red color. I nearly broke my ankle collecting some. You can see the contrast here:
Later on as I was turning on my stomach a couple came down the path. The man was holding a video camera and I think he was surprised to find me as he panned around. I gave him a hard stare until he realized he still had the camera up and brought it down giving me a wave. I was far enough away and had sunglasses and a hat on so I wasn’t too upset, especially since he obviously wasn’t expecting to capture me on film when he made his way around the corner. So I politely waved back. Something fun for the folks back home I guess. Still, it’s a well understood rule that cameras are a big no-no on nude beaches.
Of course both of them stayed in their swimsuits, but they at least left me alone. Eventually it was nearing my 2pm check out time and I still had to get back to the mainland, shower, change and pack, so I called it a day and left the two textiled indivuals on their own. Despite it all it had been a gloriously nude day!