Landing on the tropical island of Puerto Rico immediately brings on my island time and chill vibe. It is one of my favorite long weekend destinations. Puerto Rico has the feeling of an international destination even though it is a U.S. territory — no passport is needed. Adventurous travelers will love all the outdoor activities available in and around the capital of San Juan.
More than just party central, Puerto Rico offers miles of coastline, beautiful verdant mountains, an intriguing tropical rainforest, and plenty of other areas to test your outdoor fortitude. Whether you are a somewhat timid outdoor enthusiast or a full-on action-packed junkie, there is a long list of top outdoor activities for every visitor.
Pro Tip: Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, peaking in August and September — plan your adventures accordingly.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Manatee Caretaker For A Day
Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center, Bayamón
Manatees are beautiful docile creatures that are facing difficult times. With the changing water composition, their food source is shrinking. Additionally, they often fall victim to motorboat strikes. The Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing these fascinating mammals.
Guests can experience an afternoon at the Conservation Center by joining the Be a Caretaker Tour. You will learn about the manatee’s habitat, environmental threats, and how the center is rehabilitating its guests. Caretakers prepare some of the copious amounts of food that manatees eat. They also interact with the permanent residents. Part of the Caribbean Stranding Network and the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, the center is a busy hive of research run by dedicated, compassionate scientists, staff, and volunteers.
Other guests at the center include sea turtles and pelicans in need of help.
Pro Tip: The Caribe Hilton has a partnership with the Caribbean Manatee Conservation Center offering volunteer opportunities to hotel guests. The hotel concierge can assist you in setting up a visit.
2. El Yunque National Forest
Puerto Rico’s tropical playground, El Yunque National Forest, is a popular outdoor destination for local families and visitors. Enjoy an easy to moderate hike — rough and varied terrain — down Angelito Trail to the Mameyes River. It is a perfect spot to sit on a rock and soak your feet in the cool, clear water. Explorers will love to scramble over the rocks or simply sink into the water swimming away the day.
If you are looking for a more intrepid adventure, check out Hidden Excursions PR small group tours. They will take you on a rainforest adventure like no other. Hike, swim, rope climb, cliff jump, and more in this beautiful outdoor preserve.
Pro Tip: Wear hiking shoes and pack water shoes and a beach towel when visiting El Yunque National Forest.
3. Sea Trek
Aqua Adventures, San Juan
Don a bubble helmet and walk across the bottom of Laguna del Condado with Aqua Adventures. Going on a Sea Trek was a new experience for me — it took some internal fortitude to put the heavy helmet on.
Air is pumped into the spaceman-like bubble helmet from a tank resting on a surface float. This allows you to breathe naturally without any apparatus. The helmet is heavy, about 70 pounds, but the weight is mitigated once you are submerged. The heavy helmet allows you to walk along the sandy bottom of the lagoon. The average depth of Laguna del Condado is about 10 feet. With the Sea Trek equipment and your underwater guide, you can enjoy all the sea life on the ground floor, something that isn’t possible with snorkeling.
Pro Tip: Located at the Caribe Hilton, guests can swim, scuba, and trek in Condado Lagoon.
4. Kayak On A Bioluminescent Bay
Laguna Grande, Fajardo
When the light is right, Laguna Grande shows off a glow-in-the-dark water display.
You begin the journey in a double kayak at twilight. As your group sets off, kayaking in a long snakelike procession, your paddling skills are severely tested. You must keep close to the kayak in front along the narrow passageway from the launch to the lagoon. Veer out of line and you will be tangled in outstretching tree branches on one side and oncoming kayaks on the other.
Once in the lagoon, your kayaks are strung together for the “light show.” Since there is a large amount of light pollution from the city, the bay only glows if everything is perfect. However, you can view the dinoflagellates (the plankton that creates the glow) with a little special maneuvering. In turn, each kayak pair hauls a heavy tarp over their heads covering the kayak to create total darkness. Then you can splash at the water and see the bioluminescent bay’s gift — tiny lights dancing across the water droplets.
Utilizing the tarp and splashing method is less dramatic than the photos of water glowing around kayakers. A little underwhelming, but a fun experience nonetheless. Kayaking back during the cover of darkness — no flashlights allowed — is a challenge. For me, the nighttime kayaking was the best part of the experience.
Pro Tip: Inexperienced kayakers should pair up with a friend that can navigate their rig lest you end up ramming other rowers. Or worse, taking a swim in the night black water.
Immerse yourself in Mother Nature by exploring the hiking trails through the forest of central Puerto Rico. It is one of the best places to find your inner peace. Wandering through the woodlands is one of the best outdoor activities for your mind and body.
Exploring the mountainous trails of central Puerto Rico is best done with an experienced local guide like Jibaro Aventurero. Center your soul in the beautiful countryside of Ciales. Discover hidden gems like natural limestone caves, underground waterways, and natural pools all while having tons of fun in the great outdoors.
A perfect option for your adventure headquarters is Hacienda Negron; a family-friendly resort tucked away in the hills of Ciales. After a day of exploring, relax in the pool or enjoy a quiet stroll along the grounds.
Pro Tip: While enjoying all of central Puerto Rico’s gifts, be sure to stop along the Ruta del Lechón — the infamous Pork Route — and taste the best roast pork of your life.
6. Rock Climbing
For the outdoor-loving adventurer, take a stab at this heart-pumping adventure — rock climbing. Chalk up and visit Aventuras Tierra Adentro for all your rock climbing needs for navigating your way across Puerto Rico’s towering cliffs.
Pro Tip: February and March are the perfect months for climbing. Moderate temperatures, little rain, and low humidity come together forming a climber’s dream weather conditions.
TOROVERDE Urban Park, San Juan
What do you get when you combine an outdoor adventure that flies over an indoor event venue — TOROVERDE Urban Park in the Distrito T-Mobile. Harness up and sail high above the Times Square-like light show below. Connecting zipline towers allow riders to zigzag above the entertainment complex and become part of the show. Conquer the green bull by traversing this urban park concept experience.
Pro Tip: You can store your accessories in a locker, but you will have to walk back to pick them up. If you have a non-rider in your group, ask them to carry your things and meet you at La Central by Mario Pagan for an adult beverage. You can watch the final zipline ride from their outside bar.
8. Sunset Sail
Perhaps not the most strenuous outdoor activity, but there is something special about a sunset sail. Watching the sun sink slowly over the water with a splash of cool Caribbean sea spray is the perfect ending to a day of exploring. Sail San Juan Bay offers day and sunset sails — you can even rent out the entire boat for a private sailing jaunt.
Pro Tip: Ditch the heels and flip-flops for comfy boat shoes or sturdy sandals — no one wants to end up overboard.
You can enjoy a wonderful variety of snorkeling experiences in Puerto Rico. From the gently protected Laguna del Condado to the colorful reefs of Culebra, there is a snorkel experience for every level of water.
Culebra Scuba Diving and Snorkeling will take you on a multi-location, underwater adventure. A day trip outing filled with boating, snorkeling, and beach time. Certified divers can join in the fun too.
Pro Tip: Pick up some reef-safe sunscreen before you go. It’s a simple thing we can do to protect the environment.
For more information on traveling to Puerto Rico, check out these articles: