This past week my family and I took a three-night trip to Puerto Rico. It was our first time visiting this U.S. territory located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, and given that our kids were off from school on Thursday and Friday, it seemed like an opportune time for an early spring-break trip.
We’ve had this vacation in the works for a couple of months, and I had started to plan a BMW-related activity during our stay. I reached out to Emil Flecha, whom I follow on Instagram, in an effort to meet up with a fellow E30 owner and see his tastefully modded 1990 Brilliantrot 325i. Unfortunately, this didn’t pan out; Flecha was called away for work and flew out about an hour after we landed on the island. What are the chances?This was probably for the best, since we were there for less than four days, and it would be prudent to maximize time with my wife and kids. (I know that they’re already aware that when I say I’ll be gone for a couple of hours for something BMW-related, I sometimes lose track of time, and—well, I’m sure we’ve all been down that road.)
For this trip, I brought my Nikon D5600. I didn’t really have a choice, since it’s my only camera body, and with over 75,000 shutters, I know it well. For a lens, instead of bringing my hefty and sizable Nikon 24-70-mm 2.8 lens, I brought my lightweight, compact Nikon 35-mm 1.8. The 35-mm is my cheapest lens by far ($100 on Facebook Marketplace), and requires some shot planning, since there is no zoom, but it takes lovely photos—and my shoulder would thank me for not lugging around the heavy 24-70-mm lens for twelve hours a day.
After landing on Wednesday, we picked up a Mitsubishi Mirage G4, our absolutely terrible rental chariot. I felt like I was in an automotive daze until we arrived at our Airbnb, where we were greeted by a beautiful M2 in the building’s parking garage. This sparked an idea for a street-photography-style BMW scavenger hunt of sorts.
Sure, I could’ve just driven twenty minutes to Autogermana BMW, the BMW dealer in San Juan, to see BMWs, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, I’d take photos of BMWs that I spotted as we explored the island’s vibrant towns, rich in history. Just as in other places in the U.S., there were many other high-end German vehicles—plenty of Porsches, masses of Mercedes, and an abundance of Audis—but the focus (Whah—see what I did there?!) for this vacation “side quest” would be BMWs, giving me a unique opportunity to shoot them in a not-so-typical setting. It’s not often I get photograph cars in a rainforest national park or a 500-year-old town.
Day One concluded with some family time on the beach and by the pool, before grabbing some food in our swimsuits at a highly rated dinner spot across the street. We started off our second day by going to breakfast at Panadería España. After stuffing ourselves with various pastries, oatmeal, and café con leche, we spotted a 3 Series and X1 parked in front of the restaurant. Let the games begin!
The next item on our itinerary took us to El Yunque Rainforest. The hour-long drive on our Mirage G4’s 165-width tires and floaty suspension, combined with the noisy automatic transmission, inspired no confidence whatsoever, but we made it to our first destination. Along the way, I spotted a number of clean BMWs—mostly X5s. Here’s a twofer of a Z4 and an X3 M Sport together.
El Yunque Rainforest was quite amazing. We spent the majority of the day in the national park driving to and from various overlooks and hiking trailheads—we even waded in a natural pool below a waterfall.
Our hike to Mt. Britton Tower was longer than anticipated due to a road closure, but absolutely worth it. The Mirage G4 was a bit down on power, but at least it was a slicktop—no sunroof (bro)—so the reduced weight added to its abysmally low coolness factor. We did see a nicely modified 3 Series while parked at a rest area.
It was late in the day, so after a quick stop for dinner, we headed to the northeast part of the island for a bioluminescent boat tour of Laguna Grande. En route, I spotted a 1991 318iS and a E24 6 Series with M System wheels (perhaps an M6?). Since there was no one behind us, I made a quick stop for a photo and then continued. My wife said the gentleman across the street gave us a smile, but I was too focused on the cars to notice. Had I known, I would’ve pulled over for a chat; I’m guessing that they were his cars. We’ll file this under “missed connections.”
This tour of Laguna Grande was absolutely incredible. Our tour guide not only gave us a complete history of the area and the science behind the bioluminescence, but also pointed out numerous planets and constellations with a high-power laser pointer in the clear sky, free of the light pollution I’m used to at home.
In the parking lot, I spotted two 1 Series: a 128i and an X1.
After the tour, it was a late trip back to our lodgings.
On Day Three, we headed into Old San Juan to explore the town and the two large forts: Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. We parked in a garage that was a treasure trove of BMWs, but it didn’t provide any interesting photos. However, the colorful old buildings and stone roads of the town provided a picturesque setting for capturing cars with my camera.
Before flying home on Saturday evening, we spent another day in Old San Juan enjoying the food, sights, and shops. We saw many X-vehicles and Minis throughout the day. (There were several Minis with luggage racks, but none that were made from umbrella sticks, so it would appear that Satch Carlson’s side business, Racks by Satch, hasn’t made it to this island yet.)
After returning our rental Mirage G4 (good riddance), we headed to the airport in a shuttle. The Mirage G4 served its purpose as a transportation appliance and was decent on gas, but that’s the only praise I’ll give it.
At the airport, I finally saw my first E46 3 Series Touring of the trip—in M3 guise, no less. It was a bit of a scramble to get my camera out and attempt to get a shot from within the moving shuttle, but here it is.
For this BMW-themed photo scavenger hunt, I managed to get all of the series numbers, in X format or otherwise, except for the 8 Series. I’d like to think that this “side quest” provided additional entertainment for the whole family, since even my kids were calling out BMW models that I didn’t see, directing me to take photos of them.
And believe me when I say that there were lots of BMW photos, the majority of which I didn’t include in this story. It was an unforgettable trip with amazing landscapes, friendly people, great food, cool cars, and perhaps the start of a new family trip tradition: the BMW scavenger hunt.—Mike Bevels