Sipping on my cup of coffee that first morning on my balcony overlooking the green mountains of Coamo, the crisp mountain air in my face. I shuddered a little and wrapped the sweater around my body tighter. I looked down at the heated pool below. Yes, I will be spending most of my time in there. I tried to grasp that I was still in Puerto Rico, that this was still the Caribbean and I pinched myself. No, I wasn’t dreaming. I was really at Milly’s in Aibonto.
Do you believe in the universe? I do. Even more so after my encounter with Milly and her family.
I have been wanting to explore the rest of Puerto Rico for quite a while. For the past three years a solo trip to this latin island was on the top of my bucket list. I wanted to discover its hidden beaches and chase its waterfalls. Then, the perfect opportunity arose. My own Boss Women Retreat was going to be in San Juan in November of 2018. After the 4 days with the girls I planned on finally discovering other parts of Puerto Rico besides its capital of San Juan, which I have visited countless of times before. I knew the sites I wanted to see and the things I wanted to experience. I googled for posts written by other bloggers, I scanned Instagram for pictures of waterfalls and beautiful sandy beaches and I reached out to others who have been there before me.
What I found is that Puerto Rico is big. Much bigger than my tiny island home of St. Maarten and much unlike my tiny paradise, there is no public transport between the different villages and cities of the island, none that I could find anyway. Renting a car seemed like the only option but I have experienced the driving in San Juan. No way, Jose. I don’t think my heart would be able to take it. Exploring other parts of Puerto Rico was going to be a challenge.
In comes a message request from a @millys.pr on my Instagram. I opened it and read. She introduced herself and asked me if I would be interested in seeing more than just San Juan on my Puerto Rico trip (seriously? was this woman reading my mind?) and she proceeded to tell me a bit about the town in the mountains where she has an Airbnb and how there is a lot of hiking there and….waterfalls. I don’t even remember if I ever finished reading her message before I hit reply and told her I was on my way. Milly and I have this connection. It’s like we were destined to meet.
I made it to Aibinito the same day I said goodbye to the girls who joined me in San Juan for the retreat. By the time I got to my Airbnb it was already dusk. I was just in time to see the sun shine its final rays onto the mountains, before Milly took me upstairs to show me the apartment I was going to stay in.
Located on the second floor of Milly’s beautiful home, is a cozy one bedroom apartment complete with a large bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, a pull up couch in the living room, a tv and magnificent views.
The bedroom is painted in an olive green and the week before my arrival, Milly’s oldest son painted a beautiful mural on the wall behind the bed. The bed was soft and comfortable, the ceiling fan made sure you would never be hot in the bedroom, which is next to impossible anyway. I found the mountains of Puerto Rico to be quite chilly in the mornings and in the evenings.
The bathroom had everything one could ever need and so did the kitchen. In the fridge were two containers of drinking water and on the counter a coffee maker with fresh coffee in a glass container. I was super happy to see that I could start my mornings with a cup of fresh brew before going on my adventures in Aibonito.
On the coffee table in the living room was a book with reviews from other guests and a map to a sacred tree called Elena, located on Milly’s vast property. Speaking of her property, she has a private bedroom attached to her house downstairs that is also rented out to guests and down the slope by her house is a camp site, complete with outdoor house.
Out in the front of the apartment was a large deck, with views over the mountains and the heated pool below. Yes, you read that right. Milly has a heated pool in her back yard that is completely open to guests. Milly and her family even have a rule about the pool. No family or dogs allowed on the pool deck, when guests are in the pool. Unless of course they are part of the party.
There was so much to do in Aibonito that I didn’t get a chance to truly enjoy this pool until the last night of my stay at Milly’s. Milly, her husband Alexis and I enjoyed true talks, copious amounts of wine and great laughs in that pool as we watched the sun go down on my last day in Aibonito. I also did not get to use the awesome outdoor bar or explore the other trails around the property. Seriously, 4 days is not near enough days to stay at Milly’s.
The hike to meet Elena the tree was challenging, to say the least but that was mainly due to my poor stamina. I really got to consider drinking less and no more fries and burgers. I huffed and I puffed my way through the green trail, ignoring the sound of lizards scurrying in the grass around me. Have I mentioned that I have a legit phobia for lizards and geckos? Milly’s dogs who were serving as my guides to the tree, started to grow impatient with me. One of them even laid down a few meters in front of me, watched me with bored eyes and yawned as I was making my way to him. The dog actually yawned. I felt judged and slow.
Then the dogs and I finally reached her sacredness. She was beautiful, magnificent and grand. This tree has an energy like nothing I have ever felt before. The space around her was recovering from the major hurricane. All around her were fallen trees. Her fallen comrades but she stood tall and proud in the middle if this clearing.
She is named after Milly’s great grandmother who lived on the property years ago. She was a strong and independent woman and her soul is believed to be living on in the tree. Perhaps I was out of oxygen, slowly losing my mind because of the “hard” hike I just did, but I could feel her presence. There was such a positivity radiating all around her.
Aibonito is a small, charming little town. It is famous for its festivities of El Padial and for a corner building painted in the colors of the Puerto Rican flag. It is also known for its Chinchorreo, when locals and visitors alike visit all the road side drinking holes in the weekend and party till the wee hours of the morning. It’s like a pub crawl only better, with mojitos, latin music and so much more pizzaz.
Milly and her family
Milly, her husband Alexis , their two sons, their three dogs and their parrot are the best hosts anybody could ask for. Maybe except for the parrot. She and I had a difficult time bonding. I like to integrate with locals when I travel and Milly took the time to show me her world but she also knew when to back off and let me get some zzz’s. Damn, that woman is like the energizer bunny. Such energy. No wonder her dogs were so “judgy” towards me.
Going back to that book filled with reviews, I quickly learned after reading a few pages that Milly extended this hospitality to all of her guests. I must admit, I was a little sad and hurt that I was not the only one. At Milly’s place you truly arrive as strangers and leave as friends.
I found a true friend in Milly. One that shares, that listens, that adventures, that parties and that embraces life like I do. She and I still talk at least once a week, just like I’ve seen her keep in touch with some of her former guests when I was there.
Her place is meticulously clean. She really thinks of everything and her greatest pleasure in life is to see her guests leave happy. No wonder she has a lot of repeat customers.
She also takes her love for her little town seriously and wants her guests to get to know the Aibonito she loves so much. She has a way of showing everything that is special in her town and surroundings until you find yourself leaving Puerto Rico with tears trickling down your face, content yet shocked that a place so beautiful could ever exist.
If you’ve paid attention to my posts on social media you know by now how special the town of Aibonito and the nearby villages in the mountains of Puerto Rico are to me, but what you probably don’t know is that it’s all because of Milly.