Ponce, El Cocal, Rio Grande
Today is all about getting to Rio Grande in the northeast by 3pm, so we take the long and scenic route anticlockwise around the coastline. There are parts where we’re driving on the Routa Panoramica, but the best part is finding a ridiculously steep road that takes us down to a gorgeous beach called El Cocal. Unbelievably, we’re the only people on the entire beach, and the beautifully soft sand stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions, with a row of palm trees rustling in the gentle breeze.
The waves are reasonably strong, so it’s fun to play in the warm water and then dry under the scorching sun as tiny crabs peak their heads out of small holes all around me.
A few hours later we approach Rio Grande on the northern coast and I spot the sign for the St. Regis Bahia Resort. From tonight onwards, the accommodation is in this ultra luxurious resort, which impresses from the moment I drive through the main gates. It’s set in a huge complex that includes all the usual beach resort luxuries (golf course, beach, lakes) but also happens to be surrounded by a huge tropical nature reserve.
Upon arrival, we’re treated to a five-star welcome and I also spot a few colleagues who have arrived to Puerto Rico today. The room is amazing: The shower room is nearly as large as my bedroom in London and even the bathroom mirror has a built-in tv hidden into it! It’s a relaxing dinner at one of the hotel’s private bars, before a well needed rest in preparation for tomorrow’s early start.