Romancing the rainforest in Puerto Rico

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 8-14, 1998
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Romancing the rainforest in Puerto Rico

Romancing the rainforest in Puerto Rico
Question: My boyfriend and I will be going to Puerto Rico in March. We will be staying at the Conquistador Resort. I would like to see the rainforest and do some snorkeling. We have thought about deep-sea fishing. What can you tell us about these things and any other interesting things we could do during our stay? We've thought about renting a car — is that a good idea? Also, should we take any precautions either before the trip or during our stay?

El Dorado, KS

Adventure Adviser: I was in Puerto Rico six years ago. We rented a car and circumnavigated the island in a day. Despite a few crazy drivers, the car rental was well worth it because Puerto Rico is a pretty big island. Plus we drove through El Yunque Recreation Area, the green and misty rainforest in the middle of the island where, rumor has it, most of the movie Romancing the Stone was shot.

I'm not familiar with the Conquistador Resort, but chances are it will offer diving, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing opportunities. Even if they do offer charters, you should definitely try to go to Phosphorescent Bay near the town of La Parguera on the Southern Coast.

The plankton here lights up after sunset and gives you the feeling of swimming through a galaxy of stars. Parguera Fishing Charters (787-899-4698) offers trips out to the bay for $250 (you may want to make some friends; a larger group will reduce your cost).

If you're into diving, the waters off the town of Fajardo on the western side of the island are pretty spectacular.

For hiking, El Yunque is the place to do it. With 66 bird species, 150 varieties of ferns, 80 types of orchids, and 225 tree species, you'll be agape the whole hike. Keep in mind, however, the forest gets 220 inches of rain per year, so it could be muddy.

One trail in particular is the El Toro/Tradewinds Trail, an eight-hour slog to 3,524-foot El Toro. You can even camp on this trail with a backcountry permit. For more information call 809-887-2875.

Other Puerto Rico highlights: Obviously, the town of Old San Juan is pretty cool, with dozens of nice shops and quaint little eateries. You should also check out the Bacardi Rum Factory across the bay from Old San Juan. They give free tours and free rum samples! For information call 787-788-1500.

Don't be fooled into thinking Puerto Rico is an idle Caribbean Island. I've heard crime is on the rise, and the island is becoming more populated. I think you can feel relatively safe during the day, but try to avoid empty streets and deserted beaches at night. As I remember it, there were a few neighborhoods near Old San Juan that were somewhat sketchy.

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