Full disclosure, the early part of our adventures in Puerto Rico was a little bit rough for me. We had an incredibly early flight to get from Richmond to the Caribbean. Add to that, on the way out the door, I managed to slip down our stairs and bash my elbow and hip. So, even though we didn’t arrive too terribly late, we spent our first afternoon poking around and getting settled. And I was a little bit whiny (Luke says the right word there is “very”).
One thing to be aware of is that there are frogs in PR. Not regular ol’ frogs, coquí frogs. They’re famous on the island, but know this: if you end up with one of those little guys outside your window, it’s like trying to sleep with a very enthusiastic bird singing next to your head. Listen for yourself.
So, sleep-deprived and achy (on my part, anyway), we dragged ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn and headed out to meet our guides for adventure #1.
And then the fun began!
Two of our guides, Bryant and Xavier, picked us up outside a nearby resort, and added us to their already-full van. During the moderately long ride to our “basecamp,” they sang, chatted, and gave us all a chance to laugh and get to know each other. I found it fascinating that, when you get out of the Villamar area, the lifestyle you see out the window changes drastically. From looking like a nice but generic beach town, suddenly you feel like you’re truly in the islands. Definitely make a point of getting away from the super touristy spots to get a truer taste of the country.
Once at the basecamp, we took a break to get geared up (helmets, harnesses, GoPros, etc.), and then it was time to start hiking.
Up a shallow riverbed we went. The footing is relatively treacherous, as there’s little enough light filtering through the canopy that it’s hard to see if you’re going to land in a gravelly hole up to your knee, or on a nice flat area that will keep you moving along. Still, it was incredibly beautiful and well-worth the work. Up small waterfalls and through rocky areas and small lagoons we travelled, until we reached our first clearing, our first moderate waterfall… and our first big obstacle. One of the guides set a rope at the top of a large, sloping, smooth rock – and we all ended up walking/pulling ourselves up to the next part of our hike. Harder than it sounds if you’ve never done it before!
Don’t DO go chasing waterfalls…
From there, we continued up the mountain until we reached a stunning lagoon, walled in on nearly all sides except for one (that one was dominated by a gorgeous waterfall). I’ve never experienced water so clear and pristine outdoors that you can reach down and take a drink or wash your food. We stopped and ate fresh starfruit and bananas, caught our collective breath, and admired our surroundings.
From there, half the group split off to rappel down some other waterfalls in the area. Our part of the group continued to climb the mountain until we got to my favorite part: the ziplines. 9 of them. Most with views of lovely mountainside vistas. Color me happy! We happily zipped back down the mountain and joined the rest of the group at our original basecamp.
Then our guides let us know that the family who owns the company had prepared a meal, so we all settled in at the covered picnic tables in their front yard, and gratefully dug in. Chicken, beans, fresh veggies, and an amazing homemade flan were all on the menu – and my stomach was thrilled.
Be sure to bring water-friendly shoes if you decide to do a tropical hike. I brought my waterproof Keen hiking boots, but Luke’s water shoes from Costco ended up being a much better choice for an outing where we were constantly wading through ankle-deep water. They’re lighter, didn’t get as waterlogged, and ended up gripping a bit better when wet.
Also, I highly recommend booking with Ecoquest. The guides were patient, friendly, and extremely knowledgeable. Even when I had a hard time getting up that rope, they never lost their cool or made me feel as ridiculous as I’m sure I looked.
I wholeheartedly recommend doing something like this while you’re in Puerto Rico. Ecotourism is the perfect way to understand more about a country and its people. Plus, with all the different terrains PR has to offer, you will NEVER get bored.