For the first three decades of my life, Thanksgiving consisted of turkey, pumpkin pie, and sitting around staring at people I’m related to. This Thanksgiving, however, was a little bit different.
Flights to Puerto Rico were super affordable over the holiday, so we decided to switch things up and spend five or so days on the island. The week was packed with active and outdoorsy adventures, and these were some of my favorites!
DISCLAIMER: This is just a quick overview because my attention span and patience are running low today, but for more details on how to replicate these adventures, I’d recommend checking out the site, Puerto Rico Day Trips, which proved to be very useful when planning my trip.
Hike the El Yunque Trail to the Summit
El Yunque is a rain forest in the northeastern corner of Puerto Rico and home to hundreds of species of trees and flowers. Take the steep, winding back-roads to drive here from Fajardo for a unique glimpse at village life.
The guy working the front desk at the park warned us that the trek to the summit would take four hours, but we did it in three. We weren’t really hustling that much either. The hike to the summit is a moderately-strenuous 5-mile hike that ends at an observation tower riddled with graffiti.
It was super foggy at the summit on the day we hiked here, but it honestly just added to the mystery and intrigue of the whole place. The better views were down a bit further on the mountain.
Hike La Mina Trail to the Famous Waterfall
Also while in El Yunque, make sure not to miss the famous waterfall that you see on all the postcards. Otherwise, who will ever believe you went to Puerto Rico?! Even the cruise ships take excursions over here to see it.
The ultimate reward for a strenuous day of hiking is taking a dip in the waterfall along the La Mina trail. Sunbathing is popular here, so bring your swimsuit and a towel if you feel like getting in. We opted to continue hiking in the rain instead.
Bike around San Juan
The city has been making efforts to become more bike-friendly, and there is a great bike lane between Condado and Old San Juan. The hostel I stayed at, Mango Mansion, rents bikes for $20 per day. Local rental shops charge around $30-$45 per day.
Honestly, he bikes were pretty crappy and hard to ride, but we made do and arrived back in one piece.
Just keep in mind that bike lanes here aren’t continuous, so you’ll need to be comfortable riding on streets, bridges, and the occasional sidewalk to get around too.
Bike to the forts…there are two of them and you’re admission fee at one gets you into the other one too. The streets in Old San Juan are pretty steep and cobblestone-style, so you might want to lock up the bike and set out on foot for a while. The whole area is pretty walkable, although my feet were definitely killing me at the end of this day.
Explore Caves at Parque de las Cavernas Del Rio Camuy
This is a beautiful park that offers guided cave tours following a trolley ride to see a huge sinkhole, stalactites, and ancient rock formations.
The trolley seemed a little bit silly; we could have totally hiked down to the cave. However, such hiking is not allowed so we reluctantly hopped aboard and squeezed in next to a bunch of other tourists.
Regardless, the Parque de las Cavernas Del Rio Camuy tour was pretty worthwhile just to learn some stuff about what you’re looking at. It lasts about 1.5 hours and is bilingual in both English and Spanish.
At the very end of the tour, our guide mentioned that we might be allowed to hike around the area if we found the director and got special approval. By that time, it was a little too late to work into our schedule. But something to keep in mind to ask if you visit and want to ditch the tour crowds for a while.
Hike at Bosque Estatal de Guanica
This is a dry forest in southwest Puerto Rico, and the Fort Trail extends about 6 miles round-trip to give you a taste of the island’s diverse terrain. The Guanica State Forest wasn’t a big tourist destination when we visited, but it’s pretty quick and easy to get here from Ponce.
The trail is honestly pretty boring, with not much to see along the way and really no other hikers either. But it provides a contrast from the El Yunque rainforest, and it was just nice to be outdoors in the 80-degree weather.
Fort Capron is a small watch tower that offers lovely views of the rolling hills, sea, and village down below.
This is also a nice area to sit and enjoy a little peace and solitude.
This was the ideal picnic spot that we found to relax for a while between two separate hikes in the dry forest area. I could literally just stare at crashing waves for hours.
Don’t be intimidated by little local shops in villages along the way. Something that surprised me while visiting Puerto Rico is that food and drinks are far from cheap.
It’s basically American prices paid for with American money. At this little local shop, I picked up a sandwich for $5 and a bottle of rum for about $7, and juice mixer for a couple bucks…perfect for picnicking!
Watch for Wildlife in Unexpected Places
Iguanas are commonly seen around the fort areas and are a favorite photography subject for tourists.
But apparently, Puerto Ricans have viewed the infestation of iguanas as a nuisance species that chews native plants and burrows under roads. I still think they’re kind of cute, photogenic, and slightly terrifying.
Kayak to Monkey Island
This was one of the main reasons we chose Puerto Rico for our Thanksgiving destination, and unfortunately, it’s the one and only outdoorsy activity that didn’t work out. Rain, high winds, and treacherous water conditions prompted our guides to cancel the trip on us. But I’m including it here to encourage you to give it a try when you visit Puerto Rico.
*INSERT NON-EXISTENT AWESOME MONKEY KAYAKING PHOTO HERE*
Read some of the TripAdvisor reviews from lucky bastards who actually got to do this since I can’t provide a first-hand report. The monkeys here have been used for research, which is totally sad and wrong, but they seem to be here to stay so you may as well stop by to say hello. Depending on the weather conditions, there are also snorkeling opportunities on this tour, but I’m pretty sure monkeys aren’t into snorkeling with you.
To book your tour, visit the Barefoot Travelers Rooms site and contact Keishya Salko at [email protected] or 787-850-0508 to schedule. She’ll send you directions, a list of what to bring, and tips of other fun things to do like the Guavate Pig Roast.
And by staying active in all these ways, you can have all the mojitos your heart desires! Right? Right? At least that’s that I keep telling myself.
To learn about some more awesome things to see and do in Puerto Rico, check out my post, Incredible Ways to Spend Your Vacation in Puerto Rico (List-Style Highlights Published on Trips to Discover!).