- Puerto Rico
Known for its colorful culture and tropical weather, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is also an outdoor lovers’ paradise.
You’ll be excited to explore gorgeous rainforests, then surprised to also discover misty mountaintops, mysterious caverns and secluded beaches. Take time to try these seven stunning hikes, showcasing the island’s natural beauty and surprising diversity.
El Yunque National Forest
Believed by native Taínos to be the throne of the god Yúcahu, El Yunque National Forest is also the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. An easy day trip from the capital city of San Juan, the forest boasts year-round tropical weather, breathtaking waterfalls and a rainbow of flora and fauna. Two popular trails include the Mount Britton Tower Trail, which traverses the aptly named cloud forest to panoramic views from the tower, and the El Yunque Trail, which leads to the cool, misty mountaintop at over 1,000 meters elevation.
Hiking through the rainforest in El Yunque National Forest
Guánica State Forest
On Puerto Rico’s southwest coast, Guánica State Forest is one of the most extensive tropical dry forests in the world, earning it a UNESCO biosphere reserve designation. Exotic birds abound along its 12 trails, including the Meseta Trail, offering ocean views, and the slightly more challenging trail to Fuerte Caprón. This five-kilometer hike leads to a stone fort overlooking the Bay of Guánica.
Incredible views while hiking among the unique tropical dry forests in Guánica State Forest
For that Instagram-worthy shot, head to Arecibo in the island’s northern region for a hike to Cueva Ventana (Window Cave). Tours are available, and guides will outfit you with the flashlight needed to explore the ancient limestone caves. At the end of the hike, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the lush, green valley below. You must see it to believe it!
Pausing to appreciate the vistas from Cueva Ventana’s namesake feature
Although it’s one of the island’s smaller forests, the 960-hectare Guajataca Forest offers dozens of trails through lush rainforest in the northwest region. One of the more popular trails leads to Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave), a limestone cave with jagged stalactites and stalagmites. A strong headlamp or flashlight provides the chance to glimpse plants and animals living in the beautiful, mysterious cave.
Translating to a colloquial form of “Three Peaks,” Tres Picachos is located in Puerto Rico’s mountainous central region. This lesser-known trail is perfect for a challenging day hike. Maneuver technical trails and even rope assists as you ascend to one of the highest peaks on the island — at more than 1,200 meters elevation, the 360-degree views from the top do not disappoint.
Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and Salt Flats
Learn about the history of salt mining in Puerto Rico while enjoying a fantastic beachside hike in the western region. In addition to flat hiking and biking trails, you’ll enjoy an array of flora and fauna, including mangroves, seagrass beds, and many fish and bird species. Take the trail to Los Morrillos Lighthouse for long-range ocean views.
Los Morrillos Lighthouse perched on an oceanside cliff in Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge
Cayo de Tierra
Want something a little off the beaten path? A one-of-a-kind adventure awaits in Vieques, an island 11 kilometers off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Walk along a thin, sandy isthmus to secluded Cayo de Tierra for tranquil views of a pristine lagoon. See tropical fish, go snorkeling, and watch the skies and shores for birds.
The San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is accessed from points around the world. Find ground transportation via bus, taxi or car rental at the airport. The island also offers the Tren Urbano (electric train), water ferry, flights to outer islands and públicos, which are privately owned shuttles.