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Reviews are never edited or deleted unless the content does not comply with EF and Bazaarvoice's™ terms and conditions, which prohibit the use of such things as personal information and inappropriate language. On 8/6/2013, our name changed from EF Smithsonian Student Travel to EF Explore America, thus any mention of our previous name can be considered EF Explore America.
Amazing ExpierenceThe tour was great, I really enjoyed. The tour guide was great and she helped make the expierence as fun as possible. I had a great time and would travel again through EF America.
Great Taste of Culture/Adventures!Our Tour Guide was wonderful and full of energy. Alicia had each day packed just right with visits, trips, tours, and a bit of free time. Loved the food and opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine. Would love to visit Puerto Rico again.
Great Peek at a Beautiful TerritoryOur guide, Astacio was great. He threw in a few extras along the way: a smaller cavern, a stop at a small market. He was also very knowledgeable of Puerto Rico's natural and historical information, which was great given ours was a school field trip. Loved the addition of the Hacienda Ochoa but missed the coffee plantation, snorkeling and make your own dinner, which I believe are on the longer 7-day tour. Would love if breakfast were more Puerto Rican.
Great Balance of Education and AdventureThis was my third trip with EF, the second as a group leader, and it was a perfect mix of education and outdoor/adventure activities for the students.
On our first day, we arrived in San Juan around lunch and had a couple of hours of free time to unpack and hang out at the hotel swimming pool before heading off to supper and salsa lessons! My students, aged 14 to 21, loved the salsa lessons! Two nights later, at the hotel pool, the DJ turned on salsa music and they were able to have a salsa dance party at the pool.
The next day we headed to a ranch where students were rotated through three stations: horses, crafts, and gardening. Each station lasted about 45 minutes to an hour. During the horse station, students were taught about the types of horses that are found in Puerto Rico, then allowed to pet several different horses before going to a wash station to bathe horses. During the craft lesson, students were allowed to select their materials (leather, hemp, wire, beads, etc.) and create their own necklaces, bracelets, rings, or anklets. The lady leading the craft rotation was very good at jewelry crafts and helped students create something special to keep as a reminder of their visit.
The gardening rotation was my least favorite because I am not really into gardening, but the students seemed to enjoy it. At this station, students were taught about composting, how to properly plant seeds, how to water plants, etc. Students were also shown several varieties of plants that are commonly used in Puerto Rican cooking.
Although sports were not part of the scheduled activities, my students noticed a tetherball and couldn't resist trying it out while waiting for lunch to be served. The hosts were very laid back and did not mind that the students were playing games. Lunch was prepared on site and was very good.
On the afternoon of the second day, we had time to hang out at the beach for a couple hours before supper and sightseeing.
The third day was our busiest day and involved the most physical activity. We started out at El Yunque National Forest where we walked 98 steps to the top of the tower, then spent about two hours walking the trails and checking out the waterfalls. The rainforest was beautiful! If I had one recommendation for the trip, it would be that we had more time to spend in the rainforest. There were lots of small swimming pools and numerous small waterfalls that we simply did not have time to stop and enjoy.
After leaving the rainforest, we ate lunch at a roadside smoothie stand, then headed to Luquillo Beach for about two and a half hours of swimming and sun. The beach was sparsely populated and the waters were crystal clear! Students relaxed, floated on their backs in the wave-less waters, and drank virgin Pina Colado's from the snack stand.
After supper that night, we traveled to Fajardo for kayaking through the mangrove trees into a bioluminescent bay. Honestly, the bay was beautiful in itself with the lighthouse on one shore and the shimmering lights of houses and resorts on the opposite shore, which was a good thing since the bioluminescence was less than spectacular. Our guides had us cover up with large tarps to help us see the bioluminescence better, but it was still not as magnificent as we had expected it to be. Regardless, my students love being outdoors, so no one complained and everyone enjoyed the kayaking.
Just as a note to people who are considering this trip: everyday I logged over 15,000 steps on my FitBit, but on this particular day I logged over 19,000 steps. That's a lot of walking! So my advice would be to make sure your students understand that this is an active trip.
On our fourth day, we visited the Camuy Rive Cave Park. This also involved a lot of walking on uneven, sometimes slippery ground. However, it was worth it! The cave was beautiful and the guide did a wonderful job explaining the caves and the animals that live there.
Afterward, we traveled to Old San Juan. We arrived there at approximately 1 pm, and it was very, very hot and humid. Luckily there were shaded areas and street vendors selling water, cola, and ice cream. There were several cruise ships in the harbor and that was exciting for some of my students to see. The cobblestone streets and the colors of the shops were beautiful. We visited El Morro, and before we descended down the 300 steps to the bottom of the fort, our tour guide offered to take the kids without the adults if any of the adults were too tired to take the 300 steps. Because the previous day's trek through the rainforest had done my knees in, I decided to stay on the upper levels of El Morro. The views were incredible -- absolutely some of the most beautiful views of the ocean I have ever seen!
After supper that night, we stayed in Old San Juan until 9pm so that the kids would have time to shop for souvenirs. Because there were sixteen of us, we broke up into 4 groups of 4. Our tour director gave each group a map of Old San Juan and told us where to meet her at 9, then set us free. My students appreciated this time to do their own thing. All of them enjoyed the shops and many of them visited local bars to buy virgin drinks.
Our fifth and final day was perhaps our very best! We didn't have to be at the airport until 2:30 (for a 4:45pm flight), so we went to a local beach where we met three surf instructors from Pine Grove Surf Club. These three instructors taught my students the basics of surfing. The lessons were scheduled to last about three hours, but after about two hours some of the kids were worn out. Fortunately, the instructors also brought kayaks and SUP boards with them, so our group of 16 broke up into three groups. One group went with one of the instructors on paddle boards to a nearby island. One group went kayaking. And one group continued to practice surfing. The instructors were FABULOUS! They were very patient with my students and continued teaching and giving helpful hints the entire time. All of my students eventually were able to hang ten! Before we left the beach, the instructors opened up a cooler filled with chilled coconuts, sliced off the tops, and gave the kids coconut milk to drink. It was an unexpected and greatly appreciated way to end their surfing lessons. Almost all of my students said that the surfing lessons were the highlight of their trip, so, if possible, I would recommend that groups try to do this. You will have to arrange it independently of EF because EF will not assume the liability for it, but it is definitely worth the planning!
I have heard other people (adults) discuss the heat and humidity in Puerto Rico, but being from the south (North Carolina), we were already used to heat and humidity and it did not affect us any more in Puerto Rico than it would have at home. Students did not complain about the heat to me. Our tour director did remind us to carry water with us and to drink water frequently, which we did.
The food, other than breakfast, was mostly white rice, yellow rice, fried plantains, chicken, pork, and beef. Students generally cleaned their plates! No students complained to me about the food, although I personally did get a little tired of rice after several days.
All groups are different, so I can't predict how other students may or may not feel, but my students loved this trip. My students are fairly adventuresome and love being outdoors -- as do I -- so this trip was perfect for them.
None of my students wanted to leave Puerto Rico!
I would give this trip five out of five stars because our tour director was fun and informative, our hotel was perfectly fine, breakfasts were incredible at the hotel with lots of options, our bus driver did a fantastic job, over-night security was an obvious presence on our hall in the hotel, the beaches were clean, the people were friendly, and the activities were the perfect balance between education and adventure. If I could go back tomorrow, I would!
fantastic experienceIt would be hard to say what I enjoyed the most. I'm ready for another tour. The bioluminescent bay was amazing. I have never seen anything like this before, it looks like stars from heaven glowing in the water.
Loved itI'm so glad I went on this tour it showed me that everyone needs to get out in the world and travel
GoodThe food was good but the tour guy didn't always have everything together I think they should include more things that kids want to do
Great Vacation ExperienceOur objective was to practice speaking Spanish, but we spoke no Spanish at all... in fact the others that we were traveling with had completely different objectives, which they better succeeded with. But overall, the trip was fantastic and well worth it. I love exploring other places and making new friends.
AwesomeJam packed experience of everything San Juan has to offer. Could have done without the walking tour of El Morro and had more beach time, but overall an amazing experience with students!
Lots of fun!Despite it raining almost everyday it was tons of fun! And the city was beautiful!