Plunge into adventure on Puerto Rico’s northeast coast
Night paddling, cloud-forest hiking, and rainforest zip-lining are just some of the action-packed adventures that await you in the northeastern corner of Puerto Rico. And getting there is easy enough: San Juan International Airport is within an hour’s drive of northeast Puerto Rico’s beaches and mountain rainforests.
1. Hit the beach first...
Every memorable Caribbean getaway should begin at a great beach. One of the best is Bahia Beach, a two-mile-long, coconut-palm-fringed crescent at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico. You can kiteboard, skimboard, windsurf, or paddleboard from the beach—or just soak up the sun.
Also close by are other beaches and harbors where you can admire tropical fish while snorkeling, scuba dive from a catamaran, or catch tuna from a charter boat.
2. …then follow the river
Right next to Bahia Beach is the 5,000-acre Espíritu Santo River State Preserve, where naturalists lead nature and bird-watching tours on miles of gorgeous nature trails. And through the Soul of Bahia Foundation, guides can also lead river kayak tours on Puerto Rico’s only navigable river, the Espíritu Santo.
From the nearby Bahia Beach boathouse, you can take a canoe or paddleboard up the river through a red mangrove “floating forest”—a must.
3. Turtles by day, glow-in-the-dark bay by night
Bahia Beach is one of only two spots in the U.S. where you can see leatherback sea turtle babies, with about 1,000 expected to hatch on the beach during the February-to-August hatching season before they waddle out to sea.
For a more adventurous taste of a natural wonder, head to nearby Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay (Laguna Grande) at night to kayak in the green glow given off by phosphorescent microorganisms. It's one of the world's last remaining bio bay phenomenons.
4. Enter the "cloud forest"
Only a few miles inland is El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. Dominating the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico’s northeastern corner, its highest peaks attract up to 240 inches of annual rainfall. All that water nurtures hundreds of plant species, from “cloud forest” trees stunted and twisted by constant winds to dozens of varieties of wild orchids and ferns—some up to 120 feet tall.
Three-quarters of Puerto Rico’s virgin forest is found In El Yunque, plus bird species like the endangered Puerto Rican parrot and lizards the size of cats. No wonder it’s Puerto Rico’s most popular hiking park.
5. Hike in the mountains…
All that nature is best experienced on rainforest hikes where you can witness waterfalls tumbling off the steepest slopes, rising above 3,500 feet.
But if you’re not in tip-top hiking shape, no problema. Besides longer trail hikes that venture deeper into the Luquillo range, there are a dozen short hikes that start from the main park road, mostly on paved or gravel paths, which range from a quarter-mile to four miles.
6. …or zip back down
If you’d rather see the rainforest at a much faster pace—and with no effort—you can brave one of El Yunque’s ziplines.
7. Why pick Puerto Rico?
There are plenty of islands to choose from in the Caribbean, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of traveling without a passport, spending only American dollars and knowing that English is widely spoken. Puerto Rico has all the advantages of never leaving the U.S. while still visiting a beautiful island paradise with Caribbean beaches, mountain rainforests and a distinct culture.
The St. Regis Bahia Beach is a 2017 SPG Member Favorite Hotel & Resort—bidding for this package ends April 7. Check out the auction details here, and good luck!