Since we couldn’t do much more work on the house until our next visit, we made an executive decision to spend a day at the beach. A whole day.
About time, right?
So we set off along a back road Jane had told us about several months earlier—a road that snakes across the ridge of hills that lay like a spine along the east/west axis of the island—past houses that look like they’ve been there for decades, shoved up against houses that have barely been begun.
The island was definitely in transition mode.
This twisty lane eventually spilled out onto the main road connecting Isabel and Esperanza. All we had to do now was turn right and head toward Camp Garcia, the old Navy base that is home to many of the best beaches on the island.
On the left we noticed a huge, overgrown concrete structure we’d heard about (and driven past many times) but had never really focused on—a vast, unfinished shell of a stadium conceived twenty years earlier as a world-class athletic compound for training and competition. Before the project was abandoned, the groundwork had been laid for a huge pool, a gym, and stadiums for both softball and baseball.
We were told that the place is now swarming with pigeons and bats. Nary an athlete in sight, not even a ghostly one. Sadly, since the stadium was never used, it doesn’t even qualify as a ruin. It’s more like an unrealized dream.
Beyond this melancholy monument the road twisted and turned south past abandoned cars and ramshackle houses and a charming-looking nursery (one that we would later visit and learn to love) until we reached the sprawling, untidy gates of Camp Garcia, its entrance flanked by a food cart selling empanadas and, surprisingly, spaghetti.
The broad gravel road leading into the camp was rutted and bumpy…
…giving our already-clanky Vitara a brisk workout. I was amused to see that I could glimpse the road through a good-sized hole in the floor. Exactly what was the daily rate for this jalopy anyway?
But who cared? The sun was shining, a light, fragrant breeze tickled the trees, and we were about to explore some of the most unspoiled beaches in the Caribbean.
Our destination was Secret Beach, also known locally as “Pata Prieta.”
Yes, we’d been there many times before, but it was so beautiful we couldn’t resist visiting again.
You’d have to see it to understand.
Reached along a meandering lane punctuated by seemingly-bottomless potholes and a hair-raising final descent along a narrow swath of sharply contoured rocks…
…the beach is as romantic as it is secluded—a lazy crescent of white sand enveloping a shallow cove of aquamarine sea.
The water is warm and still and utterly transparent.
We call it “the big bathtub”: sheer bliss for soaking away your cares.
The best spot, in our opinion, is at the far end of the loop, where the beach swoops to a graceful finish in a tumble of slate-gray boulders cascading down into the water. Fringed by an ancient, gnarled tree, it’s a natural refuge—no beach umbrella needed.
Today we were lucky. The beach was totally empty. Within five minutes we had claimed our coveted spot. We ate our sandwiches from the bakery in Isabel, sipped our sodas, and gazed in wonder across the still blue water.