Can't get enough of Puerto Rico's deserted beaches and world-class surf?
THANKS TO MY green-thumbed friend, I finally found Tropical Trail Rides, where owner Craig Barker, a transplanted Californian, was waiting by the barn alongside a sturdy corto fino horse, my first ticket to riding the wild west.
Barker saddled me up and I departed with a small group from Shacks Beach, a beloved surfer's spot in Isabela, and rode to a trail where we trotted under the shade of an almond forest. We emerged three miles west, at the fabulously deserted Survival Beach, a wide stretch of sand backed by 150-foot cliffs.
After galloping along the beach, we climbed the craggy cliffs to a point where our guide, Jessica, balanced precariously on a rock outcropping as she pointed out the channel where humpback whales run in the winter. Fifty feet above us was the fence surrounding the former site of Ramey Air Force Base, a key Cold War staging ground for B-52 bombers and now a commercial airport and U.S. Coast Guard base. As we headed back toward Isabela, we stopped at an empanadilla stand on Route 4466, where I inhaled a few bacalaitos (codfish fritters). My bill, with coffee: $2.
Tropical Trail Rides (787-872-9256, www.tropicaltrailrides.com) charges $35 for a two-hour guided ride. Villa Montana (two-night packages for two start at $382, breakfast included; 888-780-9195, www.villamontana.net), a few hundred feet west of Tropical Trail Rides, has 54 villas on its 30-acre site.