Puerto Rican Outdoor Adventures

From caving to zip-lining, this small island has enough adventure for everyone.
By: Erica Walsh

The unique island of Puerto Rico is home to diversified climates and distinct terrains. Lush jungles and rivers meet mountains, dry forests and miles of beautiful coastline, making this the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts. From caving to zip-lining, this small island has enough adventure for everyone.

Much of Puerto Rico's geologic landscape consists of soft limestone, ideal for cave formation. Two of the island's best-known caves are Angels Cave and Ro Camuy Cave Park; both are large and perfect for spelunking. Angels Cave is home to natural pools and striking calcite formations. Thrill seekers can begin their exploration with a 200-foot rappel down Angel's Sinkhole.

Camuy Caves is one of the world's largest, most dramatic cave systems. Only a small part of this preserve is open to the public, consisting of 3 sinkholes and 2 caves. However this subterranean labyrinth is full of breathtaking beauty: an underground river, dense tropical vegetation climbing toward the sunlight and the dramatic Clara Cave. While many choose to explore on foot, all of this is comfortably visible from the park's trolley system. The grounds also include a cafeteria, picnic area, gift shop, walking trail and an exhibition hall. Advanced explorers can arrange for special tours and rappelling trips through other sections of the park.

There are many travel agencies that offer adventurous caving programs. Aventuras Tierra Adentro and Adventours provide private tours, transportation, equipment, knowledgeable guides and safety instructions.

Sail and Snorkel
Puerto Rico offers spectacular snorkeling; when the conditions are right, visibility extends from 50 to 75 feet. Mona Island, Caja de Muertos and Fajardo are some of the island's best locations for undersea exploration.

Off the shore of remote Mona Island, reefs are alive with rainbow-hued fish, moray eels, turtles, clownfish and octopuses -- it's the single largest concentration of reef fish life in Puerto Rico. Bring your own snorkeling equipment (most hotels will rent them) because none is available on the island.

Off the city of Ponce's coast, Caja de Muertos offers some of the best snorkeling in the Southern Coastal Plain region. Several adventure outfits, like Island Venture Water Excursions, will transport you to this remote spot for a full day of snorkeling. On Puerto Rico's eastern coast, the crystal clear waters along the Fajardo beachfront are mainland Puerto Rico's best snorkeling spots.

Companies like The Sailing Catamaran will sail you to any of these remote Puerto Rico islands for a full day in the sun. Ground transportation to and from the boat can be arranged; a delicious, fresh lunch buffet is served; beer and mixed drinks are readily available and, of course, snorkeling equipment is provided.

Companies like Puerto Rico's Acampa offer a bevy of adventure tours, chief among them being a trek and zip-line through the Toro Negro rainforest. Located in Cordillera Central, the Toro Negro rainforest is much less visited and 1,000 feet higher than the El Yunque rainforest. Transportation to this remote ecosystem is included in the tour; then trekkers will hike down through a coffee plantation to enter Quebrada Rosa, a beautiful and unspoiled creek. From here, adventurers will climb and rappel down a waterfall, enjoy a meal prepared by a local family, and zip-line back through the forest above waterfalls, canyons and lush forests.

Hike El Yunque
In Puerto Rico's humid interior, the Caribbean National Forest, known more commonly as El Yunque, covers 28,000 acres of mountainous rainforest terrain. The trails here are cloaked in tropical ferns and palm trees; some lead to hidden waterfalls where hikers are encouraged to cool off. Other more aggressive trails climb to mountain summits -- these are recommended for active hikers only. The trails here are rigorously managed by the US Forest Service, as are the picnic facilities and paved trails for those who need assistance.

Island Walkers is a small outfit that offers guided tours through this magnificent array of ecosystems. Your guide is owner, John Druit, who vowed after visiting El Yunque on an ethnobotanical expedition in the 1970s to protect the jungle from deforestation. His passion and knowledge are both unmatched and contagious.

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