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For anyone looking for adventure, relaxation, and entertainment, Puerto Rico is one of the best places to go. This Caribbean U.S. territory offers white sand beaches and tropical rainforests, glittering bioluminescent bays, caves, and so much more to explore. Here are the top places for outdoor enthusiasts to visit in Puerto Rico.
Places to Go in Mainland Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s main island offers endless opportunities for adventure and entertainment. Visitors who like swimming, hiking, or birdwatching should check out:
1. El Yunque National Forest (Bosque Nacional El Yunque)
The only tropical rainforest in the U.S. national forest system, El Yunque is a must-see in Puerto Rico. Many visitors opt to do a guided tour of the park. Others enjoy hiking on their own, and there are trails for all skill levels.
For example, Angelito Trail is an easy, 0.2-mile one-way hike that leads to the Las Damas Pool and other beloved swimming spots. The challenging El Toro Trail takes hikers up to El Toro Peak, the highest point in the Luquillo Mountains.
2. Toro Verde Adventure Park
Visitors who want a birds-eye view of the jungle should visit Toro Verde. The adventure park offers zipline tours and ropes courses in one of the most scenic areas in Puerto Rico. It also has an outstanding restaurant that serves locally grown, organic dishes.
3. La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay (Bahía Bioluminiscente de La Parguera)
Out of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, La Parguera earns the distinction of being the only one visitors can swim in. The water glows an eerie blue thanks to microorganisms that light up when disturbed, creating an unforgettable, Avatar-esque experience.
Several tour companies offer boat or kayak rides into the bay. Visitors should go on a cloudless night during a new moon to make it easier to see the shine.
4. Camuy River Cave National Park (Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy)
The main entrance to this enchanting park is in the Quebrada area of Camuy. Río Camuy, the Earth’s third-largest underground river, carved out the extensive series of limestone caves that characterize the park. Visitors should reserve tickets in advance to ensure they can tour the caves.
Places to Go in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Six miles east of Puerto Rico’s mainland is Vieques, one of the territory’s three largest islands. Visitors can get there by plane or ferry. There’s a lot to see and do, but some of the best places to go in Puerto Rico’s second-largest island include:
1. Mosquito Bay (Bahía Bioluminiscente)
Another bioluminescent cove worth visiting is Mosquito Bay. Visitors shouldn’t let the name deter them — the area actually isn’t known for its mosquitos! Instead, it’s famous for being the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Visitors can take a boat or kayak tour to marvel at the glittering blue algae in the darkness.
2. La Chiva Beach (Playa la Chiva)
La Chiva Beach is one of the most popular places to go in Puerto Rico. Visitors can book a snorkeling tour to get up close and personal with the fish in the crystal-clear waters. Or, they can kick back and lounge on the white sand under a palm tree. The beach rarely gets crowded and has very calm water.
3. Ceiba Tree Park in Vieques Natural Reserve (Parque de la Ceiba de Vieques Reserva Natural)
Not to be confused with the Parque de la Ceiba in Ponce on the main island, this natural reserve is a peaceful place for visitors to stroll, read, or watch the wild horses roam. Its centerpiece is a very old ceiba tree — also called a kapok tree — with tall, narrow roots spreading out in all directions. The park is on the edge of a placid beach, making it a nice spot for a picnic or portraits.
4. Black Sand Beach (Playa Negra)
As the name implies, the standout feature of this beach is its rich, dark sand. The sand gets its color from leftover volcanic minerals and materials from when the island first formed.
Walking from the parking lot to the beach is an enjoyable experience in its own right, as there are many lizards, insects, and plants to appreciate in the tropical forest on the way to the beach. Visitors should look for wild horses along the way.
Although it’s possible to swim at Black Sand Beach, visitors should be aware that the waves can be pretty rough. The bottom also drops off quickly, so it may not be the best place for kids to swim. This beach is rather undeveloped and does not have restrooms or food nearby. Still, it’s worth visiting to spend time in a gorgeous natural spot.
Places to Go in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Culebra is 20 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico’s mainland. As with Vieques, visitors can reach it by ferry or plane. The best places to go in Puerto Rico’s third-smallest island are:
1. Culebra National Wildlife Refuge
This protected area has beautiful beaches and turquoise waters where visitors can snorkel or watch for wildlife. There are countless species of animals and plants in the refuge. Visitors are only permitted at Cayo Luis Peña and Culebrita, but there is more than enough to do, including swimming, birdwatching, and trying to spot sea turtles.
2. Flamenco Beach (Playa Flamenco)
Flamenco Beach is popular for a reason. Part of the Reserva Natural de Culebra, the waves are calm, there are food and beverage carts nearby, and visitors are allowed to drink alcohol. It’s also easy to rent chairs and umbrellas from local vendors.
Flamenco Beach has surprisingly warm water, and two U.S. Navy tanks — now decorated with spray paint — still remain on the shore.
Exploring Puerto Rico’s Biodiversity
Puerto Rico is one of the best places to go for anyone who appreciates nature. From snorkeling in bioluminescent waters to exploring lush, moss-covered caves, the island offers endless opportunities for relaxation and recreation. It’s easy to lose track of time — and even get a nice tan — spending time outside in this Caribbean paradise.
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