With nearly 7000 acres of lush growth scattered across Puerto Rico, it can be a real challenge pinning down a hiking option. From rain forests to cloud forests to mangrove forests, the biome diversity is vast. Thankfully, the PRTC (Puerto Rico Tourism Company) website, an invaluable source of ideas and opinions, makes it easy.
“There are many reserves in P.R. but I recommend ACAMPA for their team’s approach to ecology,” endorsed PRTC Director, Marta Albanese. With that, I secured reservations for a day of waterfall climbing, rappelling and zip-lining.
At 7:20a sharp, guides Ludgardo and Reynard pulled up to the lobby at the Caribe Hilton in a V8 Ford Econoline. George and I just took the last sips of our Alto Grande latte in an effort to wake up. Other equally-excited pasty-white gringos were already inside the van anxious for the journey to begin.
The van had no problem whizzing up steep roads and dodging potholes to the trailhead. On the other hand, poor George (and others seated at the back of the van) didn’t fair as well with the hair-raising curves. Everyone made use of the bathroom stop along the way.
The Toro Negro range, located in the Cordillera Central region, is the highest rainforest in Puerto Rico. It’s 1,000 feet higher than the El Yunque rainforest and offers more activities, due, in part, because it’s not a national park – it’s a reserve. Far fewer rules and regs!
For 275 years, this part of P.R. thrived off coffee plantations known as “haciendas.” The rich volcanic soil provided the nutrients for the crop to flourish. But cultivation stopped in the 1930s. Today, the muddy soil and reforested land is home to a grocery list of tropical edibles like pineapples, bananas, oranges, lemons and passion fruit.
The van parks on an unmarked, narrow, secretive mountain road near a tributary of the Toro Negro River. Area 51-like qualities abound! Our guides admit there’s plenty of stories of extra-terrestrial sightings in these parts. We have no doubts.
We don safety helmets, harnesses and gloves and… well, rather than let my words tell the story, how about watching this 7-minute video? Take note that the region even provides visitors the opportunity to rehydrate from the side of a rock face, a rare first for many hikers.
A full day of plunging into swimming holes, climbing waterfalls, ziplining across valleys and rappelling down rock faces. ACAMPA tours in Puerto Rico provides the best guides on the island.