When I told my friend, Michael, I was heading to Puerto Rico for business, he practically lept through the phone telling me I had to visit Corky on Vieques while I was there! "You'll love it there, Shannon! And Corky's the best. I grew up with her kids and she taught me how to drive a jeep out there by her retreat, La Finca. I'm calling her right now and setting you up!"
You can't you beat both a referral and hook up like that?! So I booked my ticket to Old San Juan and started figuring out how to get to this quiet little island, Vieques. I was nervous to travel alone to such an unknown and exotic spot. But Corky assured me the trip would be worthwhile. She was sooo right!
[caption id="attachment_1694" align="aligncenter" width="478" caption="I landed in one piece and quickly found a cab who knew La Finca by name, not address. I made it here only to be greeted by Corky, her husband, Bill and a Vietnamese wedding part just wrapping up their ceremony!"][/caption]
No valet, no fancy lobby, no bell boy- just an open air guest house tucked alongside a banana grove, twinkling lights along rustic paths to cabanas and casitas, a salt water pool and warm wonderful people. It was the experience of a lifetime. I wanted to know how Corky created such a magical place with such simple tools and natural surroundings.
SK: Corky, how long ago did you buy La Finca? You live in Seattle, why Vieques?
Corky: It's a long story, but to keep it simple, I found La Finca almost 15 years ago. When I turned 40, I starting looking ahead- I could see my kids leaving the nest and me escaping the pacific northwest, wet and grey, at least for part of the year. I started looking around, casually, and this gorgeous property came up almost immediately!
SK: Did you have the vision for what this retreat has become?
Corky: Yes, I really did -- and for the most part amazingly enough, this is what I imagined! It's a unique and magical oasis - natural beauty, unpretentious and casual, the way I believe the Caribbean is supposed to be experienced. It's also a great escape from the "rat race", the consumerism that me and our guests to leave behind as we take in the sunshine and palm trees.
SK: The amenities are spare and the accommodations rustic. And yet, I felt completely pampered the whole visit. How have you managed to create that?
Corky: I have no idea. I think it's really mother nature doing the pampering. We are blessed with this wonderful setting-- and bounty; the trees on the property give us bananas, mangoes, cocos, limones, starfruit throughout the year. We love sharing those, and everything else La Finca offers, with our guests. I'm passionate about sharing so this is the perfect setting for me.
[caption id="attachment_1650" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Here is a cassita (the little orange house) and cabana (the multi-room house to the left with an outdoor shower and porch) During my stay, honeymooners were staying in the cassita while a wedding party shared the cabana. They held an intimate vietnamese wedding ceremony in the main house that included La Finca guests. I arrived just as the ceremony ended and the two families headed to the beach."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1671" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Each little house is unique- some accomodate 1-2 people while others like this one can accommodate a family or any other traveling group"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1665" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="My first night here I decided to cook for Corki and Bill to thank them for taking me in. The night turned into a communal dinner party with others bringing their edible offerings. We sat around the table sharing stories and sustenance as Coqui frogs serenaded us. We became instant family for the remainder of my trip."][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1679" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="I napped on this swing my first afternoon there- I don't think I've slept so soundly before or since. I woke up to a family quietly preparing their food in the communal kitchen so as not to disturb me. The invited me for a bit and I enjoyed every bit. I told you- this place is magical."][/caption]