The Island of Enchantment is where you want to be if you seek an all-natural vacation.
There are nearly 300 beaches, 14 state forests, including El Yunque, the only sub-tropical rainforest in the United States, and the Guánica Dry Forest, a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.
But if you want to see the island shine its best light, you must visit one of the bioluminescent bays. The world has only a few of them, and Puerto Rico has three. A kayak ride over any of them will make you feel like you’re floating over stars.
Puerto Rico might be the smallest of the Greater Antilles, but it’s a big hit with birders. That’s because we are home to over 300 species of birds, 17 of which are recognized as endemic. They include the Puerto Rican lizard-cuckoo, tody, oriole, spindalis, woodpecker, emerald hummingbird, and parrot. But half of the fun of bird watching in Puerto Rico is where you’ll go find them. Puerto Rico’s subtropical rainforests, protected biospheres, salt flats, and secluded islets make a great background for any bird.
The only subtropical rainforest in the United States National Forest Service is a prime destination for bird watching. Take an early morning hike along a secluded nature trail and listen to the sound of birdsong accompanying the melody of coquí tree frogs. Watch for the red-tailed hawk, Puerto Rican lizard-cuckoo, gray kingbird, pearly-eyed thrasher, shiny cowbird, and that rarest of jewels, the Puerto Rican parrot.
The salt flats of Cabo Rojo & Combate Beach coastline trails are a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge and an absolute paradise for bird watching enthusiasts. This arid landscape, almost an alien world amid Puerto Rico’s lush vegetation and azure beaches, is home to 25 species of migrating shorebirds. In fact, this is the most important point of convergence for migrating shorebirds in the eastern Caribbean. The salt flats are also frequented by over 90 resident and migratory birds, and are part of the designated critical habitat of the Yellow-shouldered blackbird, an endangered species.
A unique and remarkably well-preserved natural treasure, the Guánica Dry Forest is nothing like El Yunque or most parts of the island. It’s also a must-visit destination for bird watchers. The forest is home to the largest number of bird species in Puerto Rico. A dry forest doesn’t mean an absence of greenery. In fact, the forest is a place of incredible beauty and diversity, home to hundreds of plant species as well as more than 150 bird species. It also makes for a fascinating place to hike, with over 30 miles of trails to keep you exploring all day. Guánica’s abundance of flora and fauna is due in part to its biodiversity. No less than three different ecosystems can be found here: deciduous, semi-evergreen and scrub forests.
The Punta Santiago Nature Reserve in Humacao is among the less-visited sanctuaries of Puerto Rico, but it’s a wonderful place to spot birds and other wildlife. You can do kayaking and bird watching through the canals and lagoons of this tropical wetland ecosystem.
El Yunque Birding Trip
AdvenTours, Río Grande
Attractions: El Yunque Rainforest
North Belt Region Birding Trip
AdvenTours, San Juan
Birding Puerto Rico
Pure Adventure's Dive & Snorkeling Center
Attractions: Bio Bay Laguna Grande
Activities: Sailing, Snorkeling, Swimming, Scuba Diving, Birdwatching
You’ll have to wait for the sun to set if you want to see what might just be our most spectacular natural phenomenon: our bio bays. A bioluminescent bay is the result of a delicate ecosystem. Bio bays flourish when tiny single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates (pyrodinium bahamense) thrive in a protected environment. When they are agitated, they release energy in the form of light. In other words, they glow, emitting an ethereal neon green aura. So does anything they touch: fish, human hands, the oars of a paddle, even raindrops.
There are only a few bio bays on Earth, and Puerto Rico has three of them! They are best enjoyed when there is no other light to minimize the bioluminescence. So when you go, avoid a full moon to get the best of this unforgettable experience.
Mosquito Bay, in the island of Vieques, is the most brilliant bioluminescent bay on Earth according to the Guinness Book of World Records. What separates the Vieques biobay from all others? It all comes down to numbers. The density of the organisms here – over 700,000 per gallon of water – is unequaled anywhere in the world. There are no motorboats allowed in the Vieques bio bay, but that doesn’t mean you have to kayak out as the only way. An electric pontoon boat is also available to shuttle visitors out to the bay.
Bio bay kayak tours; snorkeling & Jet Ski rentals.
JAK Water Sports & Rental
AK Water Sports and Rental offer the following tours: Bioluminescent Bay Tour on Clear Bottom Kayaks at night; Kayak, paddle board, snorkeling, sightseeing tours and charter Boat. during daylight.
Located in the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, this lagoon is visited by tours that offer a complete nature and adventure experience, taking you through a charming mangrove canal before arriving to the bioluminescent water.
La Parguera was the first known bio bay in Puerto Rico and now is part of La Parguera Natural Reserve. You can reach La Parguera by kayak, small boat, or even a large, two-level, glass-bottom boat. This is the only bay that allows diesel-powered boats. The brightness in La Parguera may vary, depending on various changing factors in the natural ecosystem.
Protecting and conserving our natural resources is vital to maintaining Puerto Rico's natural beauty. The Puerto Rico Tourism Company has created the Green Lodging Program to help promote sustainable and conservationist practices that minimize hotel impact on the environment and our natural resources. Hix Island House in Vieques is the first property to be awarded the Green Lodging label and many more are sure to follow this Earth-friendly initiative.
Old San Juan - Metro Region
At 316 Calle Sol in legendary Old San Juan. Casa Sol provides its guests with the experience of staying in a restored colonial style 18th century building. The restoration process made use of reused materials that were salvaged from other properties in Old San Juan. “Casa Sol is a piece of architecture that evokes the past, and offers commodity to the modern traveler searching for personal attention in a cozy and family friendly ambiance.” as described by owners Eddie Ramírez and Margarita Pastor. This bed and breakfast inn has five uniquely decorated rooms, all with antique - carefully restored furniture and artwork by local artists. Casa Sol embraces environmental responsibility, has internal practices for waste reduction, recycling, electric and water conservation, and it also supports local manufacturers and growers.
Hix Island House
Vieques Island - East Region
Located in a 13-acre natural refuge, here you will be one with nature in total privacy and tranquility. 6 of its 19 lofts are located in Casa Solaris, which is completely powered by solar energy. Its swimming pools, fountains and pumps run directly with power from the sun. Solar panels augment electrical capacity and provide hot water. Water from your shower and basins are collected and flowed back to various fruit-bearing plants. Casa Solaris is also powered by the trade winds of the Caribbean and uses the latest in LED lighting and super-efficient appliances.
Turtle Bay Inn
Lajas - West Region (Porta del Sol)
The Turtle Bay Inn is the first solar-powered guesthouse in the southwest region of Puerto Rico, featuring a photovoltaic system that doesn’t require batteries and provides 90% of its energy needs. Solar LED high-efficiency lighting can be found in every room and around the premises. Hot water is distributed to all rooms using three turbo solar water heaters. Recently added gardens with Puerto Rican plants provide direct contact with nature. Air wind meters monitor wind power with the intention to add a wind turbine that could provide the remaining 5-10% energy to make the hotel 100% independent of electric power.
Ritz Carlton, San Juan
Ave. Los Gobernadores, Isla Verde
Located at Los Gobernadores Avenue in Isla Verde, the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan, is located on eight acres of precious beachfront property, right in front of the Isla Verde Coral Reef Marine Reserve and close to Blue Flag Award, on Carolina Beach. Sustain, Protect, and Experience are the principles that guide The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan. A comprehensive set of initiatives and practices are in place, designed to reduce energy use, water consumption, and waste. At the same time, organic dining options are increased by partnering with local farmers and growers. The hotel supports environmental conservation efforts through its Ritz-Carlton Environmental Action Conservation Team (REACT), and also local community through the Community Footprints Program.
La Jamaca Guest House
Lajas - West Region (Porta del Sol)
Located in the southwest corner of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in the town of La Parguera, world famous for its bioluminescent bay, diving, restaurants, mangrove canals and as a haven for marine and wild life, offers its guest a unique pleasurable experience. The 12 rooms guesthouse, located in the rural area is surrounded by rich well-maintained gardens and centered by striking picture perfect swimming pool makes you fill inside an oasis of peace and tranquility protected from the rush and noise of big cities. The building wraps around a sparkling refreshing pool with bar and wooden decks. The decoration is rustic with hammocks around for you to relax and disconnect form daily routine.
50 miles west off Cabo Rojo
Natural Resources Department
Mona Island has inarguably our most secluded beaches. A natural reserve maintained by the Department of Natural Resources, Mona Island is the definition of remote. It’s approximately a 4 to 5-hour boat ride away from Puerto Rico’s west coast, and access to the island is strictly monitored. In other words, you’re guaranteed not to find crowds when you step onto one of its unspoiled beaches. It is known as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” for its wildlife, which includes a colony of giant iguanas and over 100 bird species. Getting to Mona can be a challenge. It requires a Natural & Environmental Resource Department permit in advance and coordinating with a tour operator.
Road 301, Km. 11
The salt flats of Cabo Rojo and the Combate Beach coastline trails are a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge and an absolute paradise for bird watching enthusiasts. This arid landscape, almost an alien world amid Puerto Rico’s lush vegetation and azure beaches, is home to 25 species of migrating shorebirds. In fact, this is the most important point of convergence for migrating shorebirds in the eastern Caribbean. The salt flats are also frequented by over 90 resident and migratory birds, and are part of the designated critical habitat of the yellow-shouldered blackbird, an endangered species. Trails available from the salt flats, Combate Beach, visitor centers, and Laguna Cartagena Refuge.
Road 334, Km. 6
Among Puerto Rico’s most unique natural environments, the Guánica Dry Forest is an ecological marvel, the product of an arid climate not found anywhere else on the island. The 9,000-acre forest has been designated a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations and is prized for its unique ecosystem. A dry forest doesn’t mean an absence of greenery. In fact, the forest is a place of incredible beauty and diversity, home to hundreds of plant species as well as more than 150 bird species. It’s a fascinating place to hike, with over 30 miles of trails to keep you exploring all day.
4.8 miles south off La Guancha, Ponce
Caja de Muertos, or Coffin Island, is one of Ponce’s natural treasures. It’s a pristine environment with crystalline beaches a short ferry ride away from the coast of Ponce. It’s also a great place to hike and kayak. To secure your trip, reserve the ferry or tour in advance.
Island Venture Water Excursions
Acampa Nature Adventure
Road 143, Km. 32.4
When you visit the second-highest peak in the Cordillera Central mountain range, you can expect your share of forest hikes. Stop by the ranger station on Route 143 and pick up a trail map. Among the highlights at Toro Negro are the challenging hike to the observation tower, the small but picturesque La Confesora falls and pool, and the spectacular Doña Juana waterfall. Route 143 is the main artery that runs through Toro Negro. This road is part of the Ruta Panorámica, or Panoramic Route, a scenic, winding network of roads through the central region of Puerto Rico.
Acampa Nature Adventure
Road 123, Km. 16.8
This unique 19th century landmark combines history and nature in a single tour. Guided tours will take you to the historic estate of the original owners, to walk through the natural protected areas, and will show you how coffee and other products were harvested and roasted using the latest technology in the 1800s. Hacienda Buena Vista is located north of Ponce. Guided tours are conducted daily, but tours in English are held only at 1:30 from Wednesday to Sunday by appointment.
Road 987, Km. 6
Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, perched on the northeastern bluff of the island, is managed by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. It’s a chance to enjoy bird watching in various ecosystems ranging from swampy mangrove forests to rocky beaches. Guided tours are conducted in English and Spanish by appointment.
Road 129, Km. 18.9
The Camuy Caves present one of the most dramatic natural settings that Puerto Rico has to offer. Set deep within a valley of lush tropical foliage, the extensive cave system runs along a mighty subterranean river. The national park extends beyond the caves and includes ample picnic and camping areas. Facilities include showers, bathrooms, and a well-stocked gift shop.
Road 184, Km. 4
This forest in the south-central part of the island is the home of Charco Azul, a natural pool with crystalline waters. You’re free to hike, camp, picnic and, of course, dive into the pool.
Road 687, Km. 1.2
(787) 884-2587 http://www.drna.gobierno.pr
The Tortuguero Lagoon is part of a nature reserve formed by swamps, mangroves, and karst hills. It is Puerto Rico’s largest sweet water lagoon, home to exotic flowers and several endangered species. You can hike, picnic, and even fish.
(787) 279-1912 http://manatipr.org/
The visits are in the style of a “behind the scenes” tour guided by our technicians and volunteers, and include educational materials on the conservation of this species prepared to complement the visit experience. For reservations: (787) 279-1912 x2070 or visit manatipr.org/tour/
Para La Naturaleza
We make transformative experiences in nature happen. We offer tours, workshops, volunteer and Citizen Science events, year-round, throughout Puerto Rico. We have several visitor centers that you can visit.
Villas del Mar Hau
Villas del Mar Hau
Hacienda Buena Vista
Hacienda Buena Vista
Hix Island House
Hix Island House