Turn Right at the Blue Trash Cans (Directions in Puerto Rico)

If your directions start something like this, you are probably in trouble.

“When you come into town, pass the fountain on your right, then go through 4 traffic lights, and make a left after the abandoned gas station.”

Puerto Rico 2012

Puerto Rico, the land of no clocks or street signs, makes it rather difficult to get anywhere you are trying to go successfully, and in a timely fashion.  So, when in this US Territory, you’ll need to understand that driving directions do not include actual addresses or streets – instead be prepared to get around via landmarks.

As an example, I’m offering up a few hours of the day before my friend Alayna‘s wedding.

The ceremony was to be at Hacienda Siesta Allegre, in the rainforest of El Yunque.  The night before we would all stay in a house down the road, a property also available through Hacienda Siesta Allegre.  The first car was supposed to pick up flowers and head up in the morning to put together the arrangements.  But like most weddings (and most days in Puerto Rico), the schedule went unobserved.

Leaving finally around 5:00 pm, we piled in the car to pickup the flowers and get on our way.  The directions to the florist’s shop went something like this:

“When you come into town, pass the fountain on your right, then go through 4 traffic lights, and make a left after the abandoned gas station.”

Once we had passed, not one, but three fountains and had driven probably a mile afterwards, it was time to phone the shop to ask for updated directions.  Vergi (from Peru) spoke with the florist in Spanish in the hopes of actually finding this place.  “After the fountain go through the lights and make a left at the gas station,” he persisted, “then you will see a school and make another turn”.  While trying to procure the actual street address to be put into a GPS to find the location, she was told multiple times to shut up and listen before being hung up on (twice).  How rude, we all thought, while driving around in circles (passing even more fountains in the process).  At some point we passed Puerto Rico 2012a gas station that had been converted into a store, at which point I said “I mean, it’s not abandoned, but that’s an old gas station”.  Making the quick left, we found the school.  Making another quick turn, we actually did find the shop.  As it turns out, there was no number on the building, and no street sign to be seen for blocks.  He couldn’t have given us an address if he tried.  Also, try Google searching “wholesale florist” in the vicinity while in PR…it’s great fun.

Ultimately, the directions weren’t so off, just missing a step between the fountain and the gas station – though if we had come into town from the opposite direction, the step would not have been missing.

Moving on from the flower pickup production, we were now in a race to get up the mountain and into the rainforest before dark.  We knew we would have to find the place, and guide everyone else heading up (also in the dark).  This task entailed siting landmarks to direct people through the back-roads.  Getting off the highway exit, we turned left onto the first dirt road, and I began to write the instruction.  Here’s what we came up with:

“About 3/4 of a mile after turning onto the dirt road you will see a political billboard with the face of Edward something-or-other, make a right before that sign.  When you come over the hill of that turn the road will split, and you will fork left.  Keep going until you see another fork with two blue trash cans, and bear left through the columns.  Go straight up the hill until you reach the house.”

Puerto Rico 2012

Puerto Rico 2012The intrinsic problem with these directions is that, well, every Puerto Rican resident has two blue trash cans.  While everyone made it to the house at some point, many had turned into the first driveway at the political billboard, rather than the fork just after that; or missed the billboard completely; or passed the first fork; or missed the fork with the blue trash cans because they had been removed.  Some didn’t even have the correct turn onto the dirt road from the highway.  Those who did make the correct turns ended up getting stuck in the dirt repeatedly (with a truck) because they couldn’t see the path.  It was a production to say the least, though adventure might be a better term for it.

There’s a joke that I tend to think describes the overall energy in Puerto Rico quite well:

“Three men arrive at the gates of Heaven, and are told that before entry they must repent for their sins.  The first was sentenced to shovel snow in Antarctica for a year.  The second to shovel sand in the Sahara for a year; and the third to Puerto Rico to shovel shit for a year.  At the end of the year long period, the men returned to the gates and asked what they learned.  Both the man who had shoveled snow in Antarctica, and sand in the Sahara, had strained themselves shoveling unending piles and had repented.  When the man who was sent to Puerto Rico was asked how his year had commenced he responded, ‘Oh, it was great.  On the days that there was shit, there was no shovel.  On the days there was a shovel, there was no shit.  And on the days that there were both shit and a shovel, it was a holiday’!”

The point of all this?  When in Puerto Rico, just relax and go with the flow, you’ll make it to where you need to be at some point…even if there is a bit of confusion (or some sort of obstacle) along the way.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean March 19, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I simply have to object to this post for one clear and important reason. Nowhere in your directions do you include a Burger King as a reference point.

Any local worth their salt will always use a Burger King as a reference, or more than one if you are lucky.



Katrina March 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm


That’s great! In this particular case there was no Burger King, but I totally see where you are going with that. If you know of any BKs in El Yunque, I would love to see a pic. hehe 😉


Susie Rush March 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

You are on target with this ! One additional note, the best thing in Puerto Rico that we found is that you can get a Police Escort when you get lost and if you are staying near Pizza Cono the cops all know how to get you home. That was our experience!


Katrina March 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Ha! Yeah, by our last night there Damany and I actually said, “there’s a deli caddy corner to the gas station, and a gate house to the right,” to direct the driver to our hotel!


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