Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Puerto Rico
Opportunities to explore nature in Puerto Rico are numerous. The island boasts 300 miles (483 km) of coastline and is home to 36 nature reserves, 19 state forests and five wildlife refuges. Outdoor activities are a natural socially distant and COVID-friendly way to explore Puerto Rico.
Here’s your guide to water activities, rainforest hikes, biking excursions and more.
1. Kayak and paddleboarding
If you’re staying in Puerto Rico’s Metro area, you’ll have easy access to kayaking and paddleboarding options in Condado Lagoon. This calm estuary divides the Condado and Miramar districts, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. You might even spy the group of manatees that often make their way into the lagoon. A selection of outfitters offer varied guided kayak and paddleboarding tours, as well basic rentals if you want to go it alone. Condado Kayak Rental, VIP Adventures and San Juan Paddleboarding are a few to consider.
There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world and Puerto Rico is home to three. This natural phenomenon is the work of phosphorescent microscopic organisms present in the water that glow when disturbed. Nighttime kayak tours in these glistening waters offer an other-worldly experience you won’t soon forget.
Perhaps the best known is Mosquito Bay. Located on Puerto Rico’s east coast island of Vieques, it’s the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay (the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it in 2006). Laguna Grande in Fajardo is convenient to San Juan based visitors, as it’s just about 45 minutes east of the capital city. In the southwestern portion of the island, La Parguera Nature Reserve contains the only bioluminescent bay you can swim in.
Situated off Puerto Rico’s East Coast, Culebra is a small, sparsely populated island known for its idyllic beaches and ample snorkeling opportunities. Kayaking along the calm waters may reveal colorful fish, large sea turtles and graceful manta rays. Join a guided kayak tour along the island’s marine sanctuary, the Luis Peña Channel Marine Reserve, as well as in other areas that surround the island. Kayaking Puerto Rico and Culebra Island Adventure offer them.
Kayaking Puerto Rico also offers a snorkeling and beach excursion to Icacos Island. Located on Puerto Rico’s northeastern coast, the island is part of La Cordillera Nature Reserve. Healthy coral reefs offshore are home to thriving marine life.
Vieques also boasts excellent snorkeling opportunities. It’s home to Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. Families will enjoy snorkeling at Blue Beach thanks to its shallow waters. Sea turtles, stingrays and schools of colorful fish appear off another popular spot, Mosquito Pier.
Situated within the impressive Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincón, Steps Beach is a must for snorkelers. The reserve was established to protect the rich marine biodiversity, including the healthy population of elkhorn coral located there.
Want to check out more snorkeling spots? Check out our top 7 spots for snorkeling and diving in Puerto Rico.
The laid back beach towns of Rincón, Aguada and Aguadilla are meccas for surfers from around the globe. Many of the beaches in these areas are known for their reef breaks and powerful surf—ideal for intermediate and advanced surfers. You don’t have to be pro level to enjoy surfing in Puerto Rico, though. Local surf schools offer private and group lessons. Late fall, winter and early spring supply the best surfing conditions, but you can catch a wave year round. Check out Rincón Surf School or Skudin Surf Shack for lessons.
Go as early as possible (6am in the fall and winter and 5:30am in the summer) to avoid crowds and enjoy the best conditions. – Óscar Cullen López
Don’t miss a chance to explore El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest on U.S. soil. Trails wind through lush trees and vegetation that hold a bevy of tropical wildlife, including the endangered Puerto Rican green parrot. Some trails lead to refreshing pools fed by a cascade of water.
The Guánica Dry Forest, located in southwest Puerto Rico, is the Caribbean’s best preserved dry, desert-like subtropical forest. The forest’s 12 trails teem with exotic birds and showstopping views.
Explore ancient limestone caves and secure an Instagram-worthy shot of Window Cave in Puerto Rico’s northern region of Arecibo. Guides lead you through, pointing out petroglyphs and cave formations, as well as identifying birds and other wildlife along the way.
Whether you love hitting rugged trails on a mountain bike or prefer a gentle urban cycling tour, Puerto Rico has a lot to offer. Biking trails within Guánica State Forest vary in difficulty, but all provide an epic landscape for your ride. The scenic popular Aguadilla Coastal Trail is the island’s longest route at 35.5 km (22 miles), but you can bail out around mile 10 if you don’t want to go the entire way. A shorter trail within the Boqueron Wildlife Refuge in Cabo Rojo leads you to Los Morrillos Lighthouse past red salt flats and cactus forests.
There are designated cycling paths though the Old San Juan, Condado and Ocean Park districts within the city of San Juan. Routes weave through historic attractions, spectacular beaches, nature trails, a mangrove forest and more.
Local outfitters rent mountain bikes, cruiser bikes and e-bikes, and some of them will bring the bike to you. Group guided bike tours are also plentiful and an excellent way to discover more of the history behind the ground you cover. Here are some to consider.
- San Juan Bike Rentals (787-554-2453)
- Ride & Tide E-bike and Van Tours (939-322-4815)
- Pedalea Isabela (787-956-0345)
6. Horseback riding
If soaking up captivating vistas on horseback is on your travel bucket list, Puerto Rico is the place to check it off. About 2,000 Paso Fino horses roam free on the island of Vieques. You’ll likely see them grazing by the road or ambling down the beach. Jurutungo Farm Tours offers a private sunset beach tour for every level of rider. Along the way you’ll capture stunning ocean views and enjoy a refreshing ride in the water. Embark on a rainforest adventure via horseback in Carabalí Rainforest Park with Carabalí Rainforest Park Adventures. The tour follows the Mameyes River and leads riders to the foothills of the El Yunque National Forest. Combine a beach and forest experience in Isabela. Tropical Trail Rides offers both morning and sunset tours that take you along the beach and through a verdant almond tree forest.
- Jurutungo Farm Tours (787-307-1998)
- Carabalí Rainforest Park Adventures (787-889-4954)
- Tropical Trail Rides (787-872-9256)
Historical and cultural tours
6. Historical walking
For a meaningful connection to Puerto Rico’s history and ecology, consider a tour with Para la Naturaleza Tours. It’s part of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, a private nonprofit organization working to protect the island’s ecologically important lands and historic places. Their goal is to protect 33% of the land by 2033. Booking a guided interpretive walk is one way to help them reach that goal and, in return, gain deeper insight into some of Puerto Rico’s historic and ecological gems. Tour sites are located in Manatí, Ceiba, San Juan, Fajardo and Ponce.
You can cover a lot of history in walkable Old San Juan. We’ve put together a self-guided historical walking tour itinerary featuring all the must-see spots.
7. Gentle hikes
Beginning hikers or those who prefer less physically demanding outdoor activities can find many places to enjoy the outdoors in Puerto Rico. Located on the East Coast of Puerto Rico, the Humacao Nature Reserve provides a good variety of easy to navigate trails that wind along ruins of a sugar plantation, old war bunkers and down stretches of sand. Just southwest of San Juan in Bayamón is the Julio Enrique Monagas National Park. This 200-acre urban park used to serve as an ammunition and weapon warehouse during World War II. Today it comprises scenic shaded walking trails, a playground, picnic areas and other amenities.
- Humacao Nature Reserve (787-397-1900)
- Julio Enrique Monagas National Park (898-269-6600)
Puerto Rico’s varied topography makes it a fantastic birding destination—with everything from dry forests and rainforests to mangroves and coastal environs. There are 300 species of birds that make their home on the island at some point throughout the year. In addition, at least 17 species of them aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Puerto Rico Birding Trips offers a good selection of guided tours that include endemic and Caribbean species. Additionally, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry published a new book, The Puerto Rico Breeding Bird Atlas. The book provides information about the breeding season, as well as the geographic distribution of 130 species of birds in Puerto Rico, its satellite islands and keys. The atlas is free and you can download it from the U.S. Forest Service website.
9. Zip lining
Few outdoor activities likely beat the thrill of soaring through a rainforest canopy or along a tree lined coast. Located in Orocovis, about 1½ hours southwest of San Juan, ToroVerde Adventure Park is the Caribbean’s first ecological adventure park. Nail-biting experiences include “The Monster,” one of the longest zip lines in the world. Stomach down and strapped in a superhero-style flying position, you’ll fly at speeds up to 150 kmh (93 mph). Don’t close your eyes or you’ll miss spectacular vistas of the lush canopy and the majestic Central Mountains. There are also hiking trails, suspension bridges and rappelling opportunities, as well as an impressive onsite restaurant. Check out our top pics for zip lining:
- ToroVerde Adventure Park (898-867-7100):
- Rainforest Zipline Park (787-370-1010): Get a bird’s-eye view of the captivating landscape of Rio Grande and El Yunque National Forest with a tour at Rainforest Zipline Park. Zoom between trees and over the forest canopy via eight different lines. Looking for more adventure? Opt for a rainforest zip line and rock climbing wall experience.
- Batey Zipline Adventures (787-484-3860): Add cave exploration to your zip lining tour with family-owned and managed Batey Zipline Adventures, situated on 30 acres in Tanamá National Forest in Utuado. It’s also in the middle of Puerto Rico’s gorgeous karst region, which contains hundreds of caves. Courses take you over their organic farm, through lush forests and over the Tanamá River. In addition to zip lining, you can choose to tour their expansive farm or book one of the river caving kayak tours.
10. ATV tours
There are several outfitters throughout Puerto Rico offering all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tours through rainforests, along coasts and other areas of the island. Drivers must be at least 16 years old and provide a valid driver’s license. ATV riders must be at least 8 years of age. Take an extreme ATV excursion in Ponce through VIP Tours. Your ride begins in Luquillo and traverses through streams, mud and lush vegetation. In Dorado, Endless Adventure offers an exhilarating ride that includes a brief stop in the Mameyes River.
Visiting with family? Check out our top picks for family-friendly activities in Puerto Rico.