Isabela is a place for peace and tranquillity – and perfect for surfing
My City: Isabela, Puerto Rico
Name: Maureen Shannon
Profession: I’m a sommelier, or a wine and drinks expert. I use my expertise to help local bars and restaurants being a little bit more up to date.
Puerto Rico: The town of Isabela on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico is known for its splendid natural beauty, beaches, forest and perfect conditions for surfing. We have been to the “Garden of the Northwest” and met Maureen, a tall and tattooed local from Texas.
Where do you live? Austin, Texas / Isabela, Puerto Rico
Here I grew up: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Why I visit Isabela: For me Isabela is a place for peace and tranquillity. Here I can be myself, using my profession helping the local people upgrade their businesses, or just relaxing at miles of sandy beaches. Here I experience a non-tourist life, and that is essential. If I want a big city, San Juan is only two hours away.
My first memory: I came here to meet a friend who is a chef and I almost run him over with my car looking for the right location of his restaurant. There were some old men playing dominoes on the sidewalk, everything was quiet, and I just felt that this is where I want to stay. I ended up buying a house close to the plaza and I love it.
How to find the best places to eat when you travel? I try to avoid the billboard or tourist advertised places, and rather looks to where the locals eat. It never fails. I’m also very found of street-food and what they sell everywhere along the highways here.
You are also an Airbnb hostess? I have always been travelling myself, and this is a fantastic way to meet interesting people and at the same time earn some money.
You have a dog, how did that happen? I love animals and especially dogs. Back in Texas I have a Mastiff, and I really didn’t plan on having a dog down here. There is a lot of abandoned street-dogs here, and one day when I woke up and went out into the garden I found the tiniest, charming, and confused little puppy there. I realised I had a dog, and I named him Benito.
Saveasato.org is a non-profit, all volunteer organisation dedicated to easing the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and abused animals. “Sato” is slang for street dog. We rescue Satos from the streets and beaches; give them medical care, food and finally a loving home.
My favourite place to eat: Restaurant CLMDO,Calle Manuel Corchado Juarbe, Isabela. The best place to eat in Isabela.
What do you eat there? Pork Tenderloin with seasonal vegetables and black rice. It’s a good mix of Mediterranean and Caribbean cuisine.
Typical local food? Plantains are the potatoes of Puerto Rico. Apart from that I love the Tamales, which is any kind of meat or fish mixed with vegetables, wrapped in a banana or corn leaf. Fried Empanadas with fish, meat or chicken is also very popular. Mofongo is a famous Puerto Rican dish, which is fried, and mashed plantains, formed as a bowl, filled with your choice of fish, pork or chicken. It varies a lot from place to place around the island, and it can be hard to find the real stuff. Then of course you have fresh fish and squids.
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Meet the locals: One Boutique on the Plaza in Isabela and Jobos beach-bar to meet the surf-crowd
My favourite bar: La Factoria, Old San Juan, 148 Calle San Sebastián, San Juan. Factoria is a great place and it is selected among the 50 best bars in the world! Nice music, friendly staff, fabulous cocktails and delicious food. The prices are more than reasonable and the atmosphere nice and relaxed.
Best place for a first date? Eclipse Bar in Villa Montana, Villa Montaña, Carr PR-4466 km 1.9, Bo Montaña, Aguadilla
My secret place: Playa Teredoro. That’s where I go if I really want to get lost. Very few people, some rock formations, and a nice tidal pool, with crystal clear water and you can see a lot of fish there while snorkelling. You want even find it on the map.
How do the local men react to a single, tall and tattooed woman travelling alone? Well, Puerto Rico is a pretty conservative place, and you want find many single women venturing out unaccompanied. Me, very tall and with a lot of tattoos, I think the men get a little bit intimidated, and they tend to leave me alone. Puerto Ricans are normally very polite and easygoing people, and so far I have had no problems.
My best advice: Rent a car. The geography change a lot throughout the island.
My favourite shop: I’m not much into traditional shopping. I prefer to explore flea markets and antique shops, looking for the unexpected treasure.
My favourite Event: A lot going on around the island and in-between Christmas and New Year you’ll find parties almost everywhere.
Taxi or other local transport: You have a car, or you take a taxi.
Keep away of: Stay away from Sea Urchins. Step on one, and your vacations are spoiled. Be street-smart, don’t carry around big purses and be where there are other people.
Why do you travel? I have always been travelling, and I have learned to travel alone. That way I meet people; get to know interesting places and no stress. I travel as much as I can.