The island of Puerto Rico is a dance of color and natural wonder, all swirled into a beautiful 3,508 square miles in the middle of the Caribbean. It is made up of music that makes you want to get up and moving, cuisine fished from the surrounding ocean, and dreamy outdoor opportunities for those seeking lush serenity. Here are a few must-dos while on the island, from me to you.
Naguabo Infinity Pool
PR is home to the El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the US Forest System. Nestled in the southern side of this jungle sits a secret infinity pool- naturally pressed into the side of a mountain and overlooking miles upon miles of natural wonders. This hike is technically private, so it can be hard to find the correct trailhead and can be overgrown in areas, but the cool, rotating natural water will ease the muscles while the view slows down the mind, making it all worth it. This trail is very technical and involves walking over bridges without rails, climbing up rock walls and caged ladders, and scaling the side of a mountain with only about a foot of space to walk. We were blessed with a sunny day during this hike, but rainstorms rush into this area often and can create hazardous conditions, so prepare with proper footwear and emergency supplies.
Also, just a heads up, please mentaly prepare. For my husband and I, this hike was 8.8 miles and 1,532 ft in elevation gain but took us over 5 hours, as the dense jungle and technical elements made it much more intense than trails you may be used to!
If you are looking for one of the most picturesque beaches in the world, white sand and all, take the 45 minute ferry from Ceiba to Culebra island to discover Flamenco Beach. The water is the most clear I have ever seen in my life, and the crescent beach is surrounded by abundant greenery. Unfitting, yet making this paradise unique, the beach also shows off a few abandoned, rusting tanks from World War II- dotted with vintage jewelry.
In the 1930s, this area was used as a Navy bombing practice site that remained so for decades. When the Navy tried to take over this island in the 1970s, the locals peacefully protested, winning their home back and being left with the tanks that now serve as colorfully decorated ornaments to the island.
Take a walking tour to Cueva Ventana, voted as one of the best tourist attractions in Puerto Rico and the only natural cave on the island. This walk is about 45 minutes and involves a biologist leading the way, pointing out natural flora and fauna on the trail. Once inside the cave, you can take in the stalactite and stalagmite mineral formations, spot bats hanging and flying up above, and feel the cold underground breeze. The cave opening sits on a limestone cliff and overlooks the Río Grande De Arecibo Valley, separated by the Arecibo River.
Another interesting thing about the cave is that you can view authentic ancient Petroglyphs carved into the rock by the island’s indigenous inhabitants and preserved for centuries. These unique stone markings represent gods, deities, human figures, and animals.
Another El Yunque Rainforest must-see is Mount Britton, a trail that leads to an accessible stone tower built in 1938, becoming the tallest of the Civilian Conservation Corp towers with stone masonry. Once hiking up to the tower, the jungle roof above you opens to the sky and takes your breath away, revealing a burnt-orange tinted tower. You can walk in and follow the spiraling stairs to the observation deck which offers a panoramic view of the forest, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea- untouched beauty in all directions.
We did this one on a warm, but partly cloudy day, and got to watch the clouds mist and swirl around us in awe, from the top of the “castle” as we liked to call it. Do not forget to reserve your spot to hike in this region via the recreation.gov website ahead of time, as reservations are required to enter the north side of the rainforest.
El Yunque View Treehouse
Seek the ultimate overlook at the El Yunque View Treehouse, a bright red setup that’s boldness is only parallelled to the 24 acres of untouched forest it sits on. This dreamy getaway is not a simple shack in a tree- the first floor is made up of a kitchen, living room, and dining room, all with open windows to show a spectacular view of Puerto Rico’s national rainforest. Moving upstairs via a rustic ladder, you will find a cozy bedroom complete with a bathroom that includes a shower.
The convenient amenities don’t take away from the natural aurra of this elevated, glamping experience. The Airbnb listing says it best, “The purpose behind this concept is to provide our guests with an intimate experience with nature. The tree house’s main attractions are the forest, its rivers and the endemic birds that live in this peaceful environment.”
I believe this to be true across the island, in every step through the Jungle and on each beach that lines its edges. The true attractions are those that we feel so distant from, the natural wonders our souls long to connect with more intimately.
Message me on Instagram at @exploredbymadisonford with any questions regarding Puerto Rico and traveling safely during this season in our world.