This winter my hubby and our friends, Rachel and Eric, and I wanted to seek warmer temperatures and escape the mid-west so we decided to go to Puerto Rico. None of us had ever been to this island; therefore, we were very excited to embark on this adventure! Jointly, we decided that we were going to do equal parts of relaxing and exploring. At the beginning of the week, we chose the excursions which were of interest: visiting the rain forest, snorkeling, and seeing the bio-luminescent bay. Thankfully we were able to fit everything in!
Yokahu Kayak Trips: This is a family owned company which provides multiple tour options, out of all the options, we wanted to do Bio-Bay kayaking. We got in our kayak in Fajardo, crossed a canal inside the nature reserve, and kayaked through the mangroves where we ended up in the "Big Lagoon!" We chose the 6 pm trip which I believe is better than the later trip because you kayak through the mangroves to get to the bio-bay when it's daylight. The mangroves are really neat and you can see a lot of wildlife! We saw three foot long iguanas and jelly fish swimming by. It was super creepy kayaking back through the mangroves after we left the bay to go back to where the kayaks dock. It gives me chills just thinking about it! I'll admit that I'm scared of the dark so kayaking through a dark ocean full of mangrove trees with three foot long iguanas wasn't my thing which explains why I'd go on the earlier tour so you can at least get the daylight version on your first pass through. Once you get to the "Big Lagoon," you get to see the glittering water made by tiny bio-luminescent organisms called "pyrodiniums bahamenses." They produce blue-green light every time you touch or move the water with your kayak! Unfortunately, the bio-luminescent was low on our trip because the water had been a bit cold which makes the organisms somewhat dormant but it was totally worth the money for the tour! I would do this tour again and I consider it a must do while visiting Puerto Rico. If you choose Yokahu Kayak Trips, you are guided by professional experienced tour guides who provide you with lots of cool information and a great time!
El Yunque National Forest: The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system. One morning, we visited and explored the rain forest where we enjoyed scenic views, waterfalls, and learned more about the ecological importance of conserving this area for the future. If you're visiting the rain forest, I would suggest you pay the $4 to go to the learning center first. There you will find a very friendly greeter that can tell you anything you need to know about the National Forest. You can also take a picture of the forest map which we found to be very helpful. Upon further inspection of the map, we planned to do two different adventures: the Ykahu Observation Tower and La Mina Falls. For the best panoramic views of the rain forest, the Ykahu Tower is a must do! Visitors climb to the top of the tower via a spiral stair case and are able to take in the scenery. Because the ocean, nearby towns, and the beautiful landscape of the rain forest can be seen from this vantage point, this is a great place for a photo opportunity. The climb to the top wasn't too bad, about 100 stairs in all. After your tower experience, you'll drive a short distance up the road to park before hiking to La Mina Falls. I would recommend taking the La Mina trail to the waterfall. The trail is about a mile long and is extremely beautiful. I'd rate the trail difficulty as moderate; there are a few steep places so you'll want to make sure your knees are in good working order! The hike to the waterfall is so worth it! The water cascades over a cliff into a crystal clear pool where I saw a few people swimming but I opted to just put my feet in as the water is chilly! If you want to swim in the water, just remember you'll be hiking back wet as there are no changing rooms. Not an ideal situation, I'll admit. If you choose to go to the rain forest there is plenty to do whether you go for an entire day or just a few short hours. There is no entrance fee for the national forest, only the visitor's center charges a fee.
East Island Excursions: East Island Excursions provides all day snorkel tours aboard its fleet of catamarans. You can visit a variety of islands and deserted cays off the east coast of Puerto Rico including Icacos, Palominitos, Culebra, Culebrita, Vieques, and St. Thomas, USVI. Our group selected the Icacos tour simply because it was the most cost friendly and you got the most time off the boat with this tour because of the proximity of this island to port. You'll depart at Puerto Del Rey Marina around 10 am and set sail for the small deserted island of Icacos. You can snorkel here, walk on the beach, swim in the crystal clear water, or enjoy your time aboard the boat. The snorkeling off Icacos is more for beginners as there isn't much to see but the water is calm and allows you to practice. I enjoyed relaxing on the boat as well as walking on the beach for this part of the trip. Lunch is served around noon and you don't want to miss this spread! The crew lays out local pastries, you can build your own sandwiches, and you'll also have fresh fruit and pasta salad! You're going to be hungry after your time in the sun and their lunch does not disappoint. After lunch, the catamaran moves off the island to a nearby reef area for more snorkeling. The fish in this area seem to be trained; they know the boats pulling up will have food and the day that we went, the fish weren't disappointed! The crew has to toss out the remainder of the lunch and the fish love it! The crew gave everyone a piece of bread and we were able to get in the water and the fish ate right out of our hands! It was a really cool experience and my favorite thing about the day! The reef at this stop is better than the first but it's very shallow here so beginner snorkelers/swimmers beware. Overall, the crew is very professional and you can't beat the bright blue water! At one point during the trip, we could see where the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean met, that was so cool! I would definitely do another excursion with East Island!
I hope you found these reviews helpful. Have you ever done these excursions and had a different experience? Are you going to Puerto Rico soon and have additional questions?! Comment below!
Okay, you're probably thinking... really... Iguanas?! But let's think about this for one second. Where I live in the states (Arkansas) things like squirrels run around crazy style but in the Caribbean their "majority animal" is an iguana. For whatever reason, I'm actually pretty terrified of these things. They look like a dinosaur to me which quite frankly, aren't friendly creatures.
Let's take a closer look: Iguanas are a type of lizard; they are native to tropical areas of the Caribbean and Central/South America. Some of these suckers can grow to be over 4 feet long! What I've learned is the iguanas found in the U.S. Virgin Islands are Green Iguanas.
Since they live on an island, can they swim?! Apparently, Green iguanas can swim but they aren't that great at it. Mainly, they live in the trees. Can you imagine taking a nice walk and hearing something scurry around in a tree to look up and find this 4 foot long green dinosaur stalking you?! I... just... can't!
So, here's my main question and the most important... Are iguanas dangerous? We've got a nature reserve walking trail at our villa in St. Thomas (side note: I'm super excited about this trail). I exercise several days a week so I'm sure I will be putting the walking trail to good use but what about the dreaded run-in with the Green Iguana.... especially... if I have Louie! Luckily, I've found Green Iguanas aren't really dangerous in fact, they are more scared of you than you are of them. I'm thinking I can come up with a crazy dance so if I ever see said iguana on my nature walks I can scare it away!
One thing I won't be doing while there: wearing red toe nail polish! Iguanas feed off of leaves, fruits, and flowers and the red nail polish might make an iguana think my toes are small fruits or flowers! This has actually happened to people... um hello, scary?!
PS- If you ever go to a destination where iguanas are common don't feed them. If they get used to this they will become a nuisance and possibly dangerous.
I hope you've found this post informative. I think I'll rest easy knowing the iguana shouldn't attack me anytime soon.
A southern girl living in the Mid-West. My husband and I love to travel and go on new adventures--We love Jesus and the blessings He provides!