Making Memories in Puerto Rico

Usually the plan is to lay out by the beach, drink a couple piña coladas, blob around and repeat. That’s what most of us want to do when we are on a tropical vacation–at least that is what I was planning on doing this past week when I was vacationing in Puerto Rico. Upon our arrival my group of friends all had a list of activities they had come up with without consulting me first. Who wants to climb into caves, hike in the rainforest or kayak in a bay? Well, I for sure didn’t at first, but I’m telling you that it was one of the most amazing trips of my life.  Let me take you through the most memorable activities you must do if you visit Puerto Rico.


Exploring Caveland 

Around 8 a.m. our tour guide named Robert Moreno picked us up from our hotel to travel toward the central west side were the caves exist. If you love to learn about history or science you would love the tour into these caves.  Robert himself discovered one of the caves we visited called the “Cave of Flowers” and he studies the history and science behind each one as well.  I learned more about caves in three hours than I had ever anticipated.  Ancestors of the Tainos and Arcaicos lived in these caves, which makes them the oldest and first inhabitants of these caves. Of course, that means you will see indian writings and fossils.  The most amazing things to see were the formations inside the caves such as stalactite formations created by the calcite minerals, seeing bats (not as scary as you’d think!) and the archaeological discoveries in each cave.  We crawled through the caves, climbed and hiked up the paths. It was one of the most challenging activities I’ve ever done, but it was worth every struggle. When do you ever get to see a cave or stand 808 feet above sea level?  After our hike we met the land owner who was a direct ancestor of the Tainos, who gave us original Taino vases she had made by hand. We continued on to a traditional Puerto Rican lunch: chicken fresh off the grill, yuca, plantains, yellow rice and beans.  It tasted amazing after the long day of caving! I was so glad that I went out the Caveland tour. It was one of the most breathtaking experiences I’ve ever had!


Hiking the El Yunque Rainforest

This rainforest is everything and more. We visited the rainforest earlier in the day with the same tour that would take us to the Bioluminescent Bay later in the day. The El Yunque is one of the oldest reserves in the western hemisphere. With over 28,000 acres of land, it’s a beautiful paradise amongst waterfalls, rocks, rivers and the most amazing lush foliage you’ll ever see.  Of course it rained during our hike–after all, it’s the rainforest!  There are different trails in the El Yunque rainforest depending on which tour you take. The tour guide will drop you off at a specific location then you will begin your hike.  You’ll hear the famous Coqui frog, which is found in the El Yunque and is known for its call that sounds like it is saying “cookie, cookie.”  Most visitors think that it is the sound of a bird because of how loud the call gets, but it is an amazing nickel-sized frog!  Coca Falls and El Mina are the two gorgeous waterfalls in the rainforest.  We were able to see El Mina up close and even got to get into the water! My favorite part of the rainforest had to be the local restaurants we were able to stop at and fresh coconut water (to which you can add the rum of your choice).


Kayaking the Bioluminescent Bay 

Often called Bio Bay, this is one of Puerto Rico’s key tourist destinations.  Bioluminescent Bay Laguna Grande in Fajardo, Puerto Rico is near San Juan.  It’s famous because of the luminescent water that is triggered by dinoflagellates, which are oceanic plankton that generate an emerald green and ultramarine illumination when the water is physically disturbed. Sounds complicated, I know. Basically the organisms that live underwater light up when the water is disturbed, creating a magical effect! Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bay is one of most famous in the world. We visited the lagoon right before sunset, where our guides strapped us in life jackets and gave us a mini lesson on how to communicate with our kayak partner, and how to control the kayak in the lagoon.  About 45 minutes before sunset we got in our kayaks to head out to the bay. The best time to see the dinoflagellates glow is when it is completely dark.  The night we went the moon was really bright so it was hard to see the bioluminescence in the best possible way, but it was still an amazing experience.  Midway into the bay, my partner and I kept getting stuck because were not the best at staying synchronized, so one of the tour guides, Manolo (yes, like the shoe) strapped us to his kayak. This made us feel like we were having a VIP experience, since we didn’t have to paddle or anything.  It was like a first class ticket through the bio bay–enjoying the view of mangroves and of course Manolo was just a beautiful to look at as the bioluminescent bay!



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