One of the main reasons we picked Puerto Rico as our big trip for 2014 was the ability to relax but also have a real chance to explore and fit in a little adventure. Puerto Rico has a wide variety of unique destinations from the rainforest to the ocean. And the island did not disappoint, we spent even more time on and in the water than I could have imagined and the bioluminescent bay can only be explained as out of this world.
While I wish this could be a comprehensive list of the whole country we focused mainly on the Northeastern side of the island. Next time we might have to make it a two week trip so we can explore the other sides but still come back and try these again. With that, here are my top must do nature adventures in Puerto Rico.
El Yunque Rainforest
The only tropic rainforest in the United States makes the El Yunque a unique experience. I have been in a variety of terrain, but this was like nothing I’ve seen before. From the crazy variety of plants to the sounds of birds and frogs it felt like you must have traveled much further away than just two hours off the coast of Florida.
You can easily visit the rainforest if you have a rental car and the main road is an easy drive with great sites. Otherwise, there are tours that head out of San Juan and Fajardo. We had a rental car so we could hike as long as we felt like and stay as short at other spots.
We didn’t find it very necessary to stop by the visitors center as long as you prepare ahead with a little history and the trail map which you can find here.
The one thing you cannot miss is a hike down to Miner Fall. There are two hikes down to this fall, one more strenuous than the other. We took the easy route since while we wanted to get out and walk we didn’t want to exert too much effort. This one is the path from south of the fall at the Big Tree Fall stop.
It was awe-inspiring to swim in the waterfall once you made the hike down. Definitely a memory I won’t ever forget. Beyond Miner Fall, there’s wide variety of trails whether you want to add a five minute hike or a couple hours. We enjoyed a few short ones so we still had a chance to stop by a beach before dinner.
Kayak the Bioluminescent Bay
If you are looking for an experience where you feel like you have traveled to another world this is where you need to go. You arrive after sunset down in Fajardo and a surrounded by booths set up by all the different tour groups. We had booked with Pure Adventure and I would highly recommend them.
Our friendly guides went over the basics of kayaking and what we should expect. Be ready to get pretty wet since you will get splashed and you don’t want a car ride home in wet pants.
Once we got in the water the boyfriend and I realized this was something we were not compatible in but spent most of the adventure bumping into things and laughing about it. Eventually, we started to get more in sync but that was an adventure in itself.
You paddle up a little waterway under trees and vines and the closer you get you can begin to see the water lightly glow with you paddle or a fish swimming away. It is completely captivating, this neon blue.
Once you get to the bay our guides pulled us all together and explained about the plankton that causes the glow, the history of the bio-bays in Puerto Rico and what people are doing to save them. Afterward, we had a little time to paddle around the bay and explore. The most amazing part was paddling along and these fish would start hopping along the water trying to skirt away from you glowing completely.
The top reason I would recommend Pure Adventure over the other tour groups was they had staggered tour times. We got to be the only group in the bay and on the other hand as we paddled out three other groups were heading into together. So instead of sharing the experience with ten other kayaks it was thirty.
My only regret is we didn’t have a waterproof camera to take photos with. If you go to Puerto Rico kayaking through one of the three bio-bays on the island is a must do. At $40 a person you can’t miss this.
Catamaran Trip to Icacos
An adventure we decided to do last minute was to hop on a catamaran out to the tiny island of Icacos. I am a huge water lover and nothing beats the ocean, so getting to spend a day sailing around and snorkeling on a tiny island sounded like bliss from the start.
You take off from the main island with your feet dangling over nets as you sail around the Caribbean. As you pull away you continue to get a better view of Puerto Rico and the smaller islands around it. With the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, there can’t be anything better.
We arrived at Icacos and first docked on shore to walk the beach and snorkel a little in the waves. We stayed here for lunch as well. You could take a ride on the slide right off into the ocean which was actually a fun bit of excitement. Next, we headed out to the reef where we spent an hour snorkeling and feeding the fish. You got a chance to explore the reef and get up close and personal with the sea life.
At the end of the day, the ride home was nice and relaxing. We were wiped out by the time we made it back to the hotel. My one piece of advice is to bring sunblock and be careful how you apply it! If you’re spending a couple hours snorkeling you will get burnt. When I applied it the second time I jumped back into the water too quickly and came out looking like a lobster!
We booked with East Island Excursions and the whole day was covered for the $69 per person fee. They had a continental breakfast, lunch and drinks all provided. They also provided snorkeling equipment if you didn’t bring your own, and bread to feed the fish on the reef with. With a cheap dinner, we still stayed under budget for the day.
Snorkeling at Tamarindo Beach in Culebra
Possibly the best day trip of them all was taking the ferry over to Culebra. Many people do this to go spend the day at Flamenco Beach, which is by far the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen, but you miss out if that is all you do. We joined with one of the tour companies and also took two hours of our day to head over to Tamarindo Beach to go snorkeling.
This beach is a short hop away, but you do need transportation. Also if you’ve never been I would recommend snorkeling with a guide since they know exactly where to head to find the sea life. We toured with Snorkeling Culebra (they don’t have a website, but you can find them when you get off the ferry, you don’t need a reservation). Their guides were great, and they had professional quality snorkeling equipment.
Tamarindo is where we got to swim up to some sea turtles, see the sting rays floating around and even more fish. It felt great to be out in the water with these creatures and was a very different place from the reef off Icacos even though we weren’t far away at all. The trip to Culebra would not have been the same without it, learn more about the logistics and our day on the island here.
Get out of San Juan & Explore
Too many people that I hear about visiting Puerto Rico never leave San Juan and in doing so miss out on so much that the island has to offer. Our few days on the island brought some of the most breathtaking things we have done to date and I would hate to have any of you miss out on them. So when you head to Puerto Rico make sure to take the time to get out and experience all that nature on the island has to offer.
If you’re planning your trip and looking for places to stay, things to do, and where to eat make sure to check out my Top Things To Do In Puerto Rico.
Traveling to Puerto Rico Soon?
Whether you’re staying a few days or a few weeks in Puerto Rico to check of these activities and more you’ll want to book great places to stay. Learn more about and book more fantastic hotels in Puerto Rico on Priceline and TripAdvisor.