Although travelers might be drawn to Puerto Rico for its beaches and nightlife, the island's outdoor recreation opportunities outshine its other attractions.
El Yunque National Forest’s status as the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system earns it the top spot on most travelers’ lists for hiking. Set 36 miles west of San Juan, the 28,000-acre forest is home to giant tree ferns and the jungle-green Puerto Rican parrot. Big Tree Trail leads to La Mina waterfall, where hikers can swim in the basin and trek an extension trail along the river to the birdlike chirp of the coqui frog. The namesake El Yunque Trail summits Yunque Rock and Roca Marcas peaks, from which visitors can take in panoramas of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
Puerto Rico also boasts numerous forest and wildlife reserves with hiking trails. Several operators outfit zipline tours that give travelers canopy-level rainforest views. Check out Rincon Vacations or EcoQuest for excursions.
The country’s geology makes it a playground for rock climbers. Aventuras Tierra Adentro outfits caving and climbing trips. Rocaliza offers details about indie climbing destination and guided trips, including those to Bayamón 2, the country’s most developed area with some 130 climbing routes.
For a truly illuminating experience, join a kayaking trip in one of three bioluminescent bays, including La Laguna Grande off Fajardo, where each paddle stroke stirs microscopic plankton to emit radiant blue light. There are several outfitters who extend such trips, including Kayaking Puerto Rico, Las Tortugas Adventures, and EcoAdventures.
Set in the straight between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Isla de Mona’s bountiful fauna has earned it the moniker “the Galapagos of Puerto Rico” and made it a top destination for scuba divers. The ecological preserve boasts large animals (sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, etc.), warm waters, and long-distance visibility. (Note: The conditions here require intermediate to advanced dive skills.)