In February 2019, my partner and I had the pleasure of 3 tours with Ellis. We are usually independent travellers, so why choose a tour?
Well, frankly, we did not want to have the hassle of renting a car nor cope with the challenges of driving and navigating in unknown territory.
Why choose a personal tour instead of going with a group? We wanted the schedule flexibility offered by a personal tour arrangement, and the ability to tailor destinations to our interests.
Why choose Ellis? We read the reviews, looked at the website, and corresponded with him directly. The reviews were enthusiastic, the website was informative, and Ellis always responded quickly and helpfully to our many emails and questions. And his prices were competitive.
Where did we go first? We went to the spectacular El Yunque forest only days after the interior roads re-opened. This tour had many beautiful view points...one was an old lighthouse with a tiny museum, overlooking the ocean where an ancient casuarina still struggled to survive. This tour also included a short hike on a well-marked trail to an ice-cold swimming hole where local lads jumped into deep clear fresh water (and we nervous tourists picked our way over stones to the same place!). Ellis’ vehicle was comfortable, air-conditioned, and Ellis was a super driver for these twisty tiny roads.
Our second tour was the ‘Mango Daiquiri tour’. Again, many beautiful look-outs, stops at road side snack bars for delicious daiquiris and snacks.
We were impressed that wherever we stopped, Ellis was known and clearly popular. Among other places, this tour took us to the village of Guavate. We arrived on the day of one of the famous ‘pig roasts’...savoury aromas throughout the village and salsa music filled the air.
Our third tour was to see the part of the island hardest hit by Hurricane Maria. It was a real eye-opener. While San Juan is mostly recovered, the hinterland where Ellis lives is still clawing its way back. Ellis shared his experiences of survival during this time, and told us of the community spirit that helped people pull through. We ended this tour day with a few hours at one of Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches.
As a guide, Ellis was informative, thoughtful and very caring. We never felt rushed. We also saw a bit of his tender side...at one stop, he brought some food for a stray dog that he knew had been living there.
We plan to return to Puerto Rico and will definitely be touring with Ellis again.
We went on one other tour with a different tour agency to a destination not offered by Ellis. This was a small group tour. The tour guide was hopeless and really little more than a chauffeur (although a very good one). He seemed to know very little of the history, politics or economy of the country (in fact we ended up sharing with our little group information we had learned from Ellis).
Our only regret is that it took so long to write this review and share our wonderful experiences with others!