El Yunque National Forest Zipline

October 2015

San Juan, Puerto Rico is a divine destination offering convenient access to rainforest and coastal beauty matched by the charm of Old San Juan. The island hospitality and cuisine complete the experience making it a choice spot for adventure and relaxation.

The majority of the island’s topography is mountainous offering incredible views and outdoor activity. Experience hiking, rappelling and zip lining in the breathtaking Toro Negro Rainforest. It is a subtropical haven where Sierra Palms cover much of region. Acampa PR leads tours and shares about tropical plants such as banana and coffee bean trees, offering samples of different fruits. The coffee bean is the seed of a red berry fruit consisting of a gritty texture. Prodigious trees thousands of years old stand strong with aerial roots above ground, making for the perfect sitting area. The roots look like something out of fairytale, with an expansive outreach. All the scenery including lush green mountains and cascading waterfalls overcome trekkers. But hikers do more than observe waterfalls, they get to climb up one. A harness is secured on climbers as they grab onto and step upon protruding rocks. The exhilaration felt after reaching the top is compounded by the views of the falls. Breathing in the moist air and taking in the sights and sounds is energizing. Chirps of Coqui frogs, which are native to the forests, serenade hikers. The chirp sounds like its name, pronounced “Ko-kee.” Another adrenaline rush are the ziplines offering stunning views. The first zipline has hikers step off of a wooden platform with an elevation of 700 feet. The glide takes adventurers across valleys and hills blanketed with subtropical forests. In addition to the climbing and gliding is rappelling down a massive vertical wall of rock formations. Gloves are provided for the controlled descent. Experience isn’t necessary for any of the activities as hikers are provided with instruction and close supervision from guides along with a backpack for gear such as the pulley and harness. Shoes and clothing do get wet and need to be comfortable for hiking. The inherent beauty of Toro Negro will amaze newcomers and aficionados.

A great way to explore Old San Juan and appreciate the architectural beauty is through a bike tour. Blue cobblestone roads contrast the bold colored stone buildings. It is a fascinating region, rich in culture and history. The Spanish colony was vulnerable to attack by French, Dutch, and English pirates as it prospered in the 1500s. In response, the Spanish strategically built seaside stone forts to protect the city. The forts of Old San Juan hold fascinating stories of soldiers and prisoners. Dark tunnels with low ceilings and fingerprints below four feet indicate some of the soldiers were children. An underground cistern stored rainwater, keeping soldiers hydrated and a stone room served as a massive oven to barbeque meat. The forts served as a barrier and the city became known as the gateway to the United States.
Live off of the Land
Cuisine is a delight on the Caribbean island where farm to table and sea to table guarantee flavor and freshness. Located in the heart of Old San Juan is the highly recommended Verde Mesa. The boutique restaurant offers daily features with fresh catch prepared with fresh local vegetables. The signature Verde Mesa Rice Dish sounds deceitfully simple but is an ingenious blend of flavor and spice. Consisting of Jasmine rice, shredded organic carrots, roasted sweet peppers and asparagus, it includes caramelized onions, Pecorino Romano cheese and is topped with walnuts and cranberries. Recommended is the fresh catch served with the dish. Sip a Green Infusion from the Botanical Bar, consisting of basil, lemon, and cucumber and opt for some spicy ginger for a kick. It can be spirited with some rum, the region’s national drink. Another great dining spot is the chic open air Cocina Abierta in Condado. Recommended are the Spanish Octopus Grilled Terrine and Caribbean Bouillabaisse in the “2nd Act.” The Caribbean Bouillabaisse consists of fresh local catch, lobster conch, rouille and a warm broth served in a gravy boat. Also recommended is the Duck Confit Stuffed Monfongo in the “3rd Act. ” Mofungo is a traditional dish consisting of mashed plantains stuffed with meat or seafood. Enjoy a high end steak dinner at Sage, located in the Olive Boutique Hotel. Start with the Ahi Tuna King Crab pops, consisting of round tuna balls stuffed with King Crab. Indulge in Wagyu Tomahawk for two, where the choice cut is tender and succulent.

The San Juan Marriott Casino and Resort is situated along Condado Beach, offering beachside rooms with stunning views. Exceptional hospitality and dining along with plush bedding make it a choice location after a day of outdoor adventure. The resort now offers a Stay a Bit Fit in San Juan package, which includes a FitBit and complimentary bike rentals. Rainforest and bike excursions can be conveniently arranged as well. There is live music on select nights with salsa dancing at the Red Coral Lounge.
Sip a Jalapeño Mojito made with Bacardi Superior rum, jalapeños, mint, cane sugar and limes, an ingenious refreshing blend with a mild kick. The festive atmosphere will have you ready to hit the dance floor or perhaps the Stellaris Casino as you contemplate looking through a glass half full.