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10 Outstanding Outdoor Activities in Puerto Rico

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: one of the best things about Puerto Rico is the diversity of experiences that it offers to tourists.

1. Explore El Yunque

Photo © Zain Deane

Among the most popular and beloved destinations in Puerto Rico is El Yunque, the island's gentle rainforest and the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service. An easy day-trip from San Juan (it's about 45 minutes from the city, depending on traffic), the forest offers a network of hiking trails ranging from easy to expert, with the La Mina Trail leading to a waterfall that invites you in for a dip. Secluded pools, panoramic vistas and beautiful trails abound.

Of course, a day might not be enough in El Yunque. For those who want to prolong their time in this verdant oasis, there are several lovely inns that will welcome you.

2. Hit the Beaches

Photo © Zain Deane

This may come as no surprise, but Puerto Rico has beaches. Miles of them. Over 270, in fact. So which beach is the perfect beach for you? I can't cover all of them, but I've got a handy guide that may help you decide where to go.

Getting to the beach is the reason millions of tourists flock to Puerto Rico each year, and it's certainly the most indolent way of getting out of your hotel room ... unless you're going to surf or enjoy other watersports.

3. Zip Through the Air

Photo © Zain Deane

If your idea of getting outdoors involves swinging from a steel cable and flying through the air across a forest valley (or even an underground chasm across a subterranean river), then try out one of the many zip-line parks in Puerto Rico.

My favorite of all the parks I've been to is Toro Verde, home to "The Beast" (a worthy name for a worthy ride through the sky).

4. Board Your Kite

Photo © 15 Knots
Ever try kiteboarding? Well if you're visiting Puerto Rico, you can put it on your to-do list. The good folks at 15 Knots will teach you how. I have to admit I'm looking forward to trying it, and who better than Carlos Morales, who has been around the sport longer than anyone else on the island?

Kiteboarding is a combination of waterskiing, windsurfing and paragliding. The waves, currents and adrenaline rush make it a great afternoon out.

5. Glide Among the Clouds

Photo © Clay Humphrey
For a different kind of aerial adventure, call Team Spirit and book yourself a hang gliding adventure over the canopy of the El Yunque rainforest. You might find the thought of hang gliding absolutely terrifying, but in truth, it's a surprisingly graceful and relaxing experience.

And if you're worried you won't know what to do up there, you'll be in safe hands; every beginner goes on a tandem ride with an instructor.

6. Tee Off

Photo © Wyndham Rio Mar

I don't think Puerto Rico gets the credit it deserves for its outstanding golf courses. Many of these were designed by the game's greats. People like Tom Kite, Arthur Hills and Greg Norman have put their fingerprints on courses throughout the island, and Puerto Rico's famed East Course was recently reopened following a major renovation.

Add the stunning views of ocean and/or forest, the near-perfect weather most of the year, and the outstanding service you find here, and you'll find that golf in Puerto Rico makes for a great way to enjoy the outdoors.

7. Glow in the Dark

Photo © Erin Go Bragh
If you want to experience the outdoors in a truly unique way, book a kayak tour to a bioluminescent bay, or biobay. Puerto Rico has three of them, in itself a natural phenomenon unparalleled in the world. One of these, Mosquito Bay is recognized as the most brilliant biobay in the world, but the bay at Fajardo is nothing to sneeze at. As for what a biobay is, imagine water that glows neon green whenever it comes in contact with another object, like a darting fish, the oar of a kayak, or a human hand.

8. Go Dry

El Yunque might get most of the credit for being Puerto Rico's most amazing forest, but don't discount the wanders of the Guánica Dry Forest. A United Nations International Biosphere Reserve, the dry forest is an ecosystem that is vastly different from the humid environment of the rainforest. Trails run through the forest, past over 600 plant and animal species, some 48 of which are endangered.

The dry forest is a highlight of visiting the Porta Caribe region of Puerto Rico, and is worth for anyone who likes to spend the day hiking amid unique natural beauty.

9. Go Where the Coffee Grows

Photo © Zain Deane

The verdant foothills and highlands of Puerto Rico happen to be the perfect grounds for growing coffee. This once-vibrant industry was considered a luxury good, so much so that Puerto Rican coffee was once the preferred choice of the pope!

After experiencing a decline, the island's artisanal coffee industry is enjoying something of a resurgence, and one way to experience its coffee roots is to take a tour of a coffee plantation. There are several to choose from, and one that I recommend is Hacienda Buena Vista, a 19th century wonder that will show you one of the few remaining coffee plantations to run on water power.

10. Go All Out

Photo © Aventuras Tierra Adentro

Finally, there's going outdoors, and then there's going outdoors with Rossano and his crew at Aventuras Tierra Adentro. There are a few excellent eco-tour operators in Puerto Rico, and Aventuras Tierra Adentro ranks among the best of them.

So if your idea of spending a day outdoors involves rappelling, zip-lining, caving, hiking, and a via ferrata climb up the side of a rainforest chasm, then you'll want to give Rossano a call, and pump yourself up for an adrenaline-filled day outdoors.

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