Travel Guide by Author & Adventurer Heidi Siefkas

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Feel like getting on island time and sipping a piña colada after a surf, hike, or flyboard adventure? That was my goal earlier this year, but I didn’t want to fly half-way across the world to get a tropical vacation while spending my dwindling vacation days in transit. I looked to my island options where I didn’t have to go far, pack my passport, or even get a different cellphone plan. My gaze hit Puerto Rico or la Isla del Encanto (The Enchanted Island). I was curious if the island recovered from the hurricane damage of Maria or the recent earthquake. In my search for the truth about PR’s recovery, I left no stone unturned, making sure to stop along the way for rich criollo food (traditional Puerto Rican fare), cold Medalla beer, and of course rum libations. All lights on travel to the island post-storms and politics are green. Let this Puerto Rico adventure whet your appetite!

CHASING WATERFALLS

18.3592° N, 66.9852° W

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Regardless of where you are in Puerto Rico, you aren’t far from water, whether the warm, all-year-round Caribbean Ocean or freshwater rivers and waterfalls. Unlike the song, I encourage you to go chase waterfalls in Puerto Rico just like I did. I followed the tips of locals to go mid-morning to Gozalandia (Pleasureland), which is a privately-owned rural area outside of San Sebastian with multiple waterfalls, various swimming pools, and rope swings for kids or those young at heart. The entrance is a parking fee of $5. You can bring a cooler and snacks like the Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) or purchase your refueling supplies at the casual restaurant onsite. Do yourself a favor and bring your waterproof camera and water shoes.

NATURAL UNDERWATER FIREWORKS-BIOLUMINESCENT KAYAKING

18.1012° N, 65.4438° W

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There are many of Mother Nature’s wonders that were fodder for our celebratory firework displays. The aurora borealis is one, fireflies another; however, a third is bioluminescent dinoflagellates (marine plankton) that are found in various regions of Puerto Rico. At night, under the right conditions, when the dinoflagellates are moved by a paddle or a swimming fish, a glowing trail like that of a sparkler occurs. Not only is kayaking at night through mangrove a treat, but the glow in the dark underwater trails is surreal.

IF EVERYONE JUMPED OFFA CLIFF WOULD YOU-CANYONING EL YUNQUE

18.2951° N, 65.8000° W

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While discovering hikes in Puerto Rico, I got more than I bargained for, a full-day of canyoning. If you haven’t heard of canyoning, you can probably start to guess what my day in Naguabo, on the Southside of El Yunque, entailed, a bit of everything. I worked with a local tour operator and expert, Ricky Lopez of Montaña Explora. He showed me firsthand the untapped nature of Puerto Rico in a way that I couldn’t experience alone via zipline, rappel, waterfall sliding, hiking, and cliff jumping. Canyoning in Puerto Rico rates as the best day ever in my books.

LEARN TO SURFIN JOBOS

18.5006° N, 67.0704° W

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If you haven’t learned to surf but want to, Puerto Rico is the best place in the Caribbean to surf. As a beginner, you can find rentals, instructors, and gentle waves in the Northwest town of Jobos at any time of the year. There is a protected cove for surfing, paddleboarding, and swimming; plus, there are many cafes and bars to refuel with rich mofongo (mashed plantains and protein dish), cocktails, and the best sunsets. If you already know how to surf and want the big waves, you must visit Rincón in the winter months. After your hanging Diez session in Rincón, there are countless tasty options and great views from the lighthouse.

(Interested in learning about the history of surfing? Check this article out.)

BE A PILOT OF AFLYBOARD IN LUQUILLO

18.3790° N, 65.7207° W

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The most unique experience that I found on a Puerto Rico adventure was a blended aquatic and aerial experience. At Luquillo Beach, nearly a half-hour out of San Juan, you will find a local beach with dozens of kioscos (food stalls) with reasonably priced delicious food and drinks. After a hearty lunch of lechón (roasted pork), I ventured down the beach, passing kayak and jet ski rentals. Those activities, I had done countless times. However, what caught my eye was the flyboarding or jetbooting lessons. I eagerly put on a helmet and the board with two boots for my feet. Then I became a flyboard pilot; up up and away I went followed by crash after crash after yet another splash. None were hard or hurt, but my confidence was bruised. Flyboarding takes a bit of talent, core strength, and minimal movements in your feet to control your direction. I would do it again and again. Flyboarding is definitely an activity for all ages.

NEED A BIT MOREENCHANTMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

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Although much of the island had recovered, the best way to help it continue the recovery process is to visit. Traveling to Puerto Rico is easy as pie, just hop a flight. You don’t need your passport or a burner phone. It’s time for an all-adventure vacation in Puerto Rico.


STORY & PHOTOS BY HEIDI SIEFKAS

Heidi is a published author with a special passion for adventure and travel. To learn more about Heidi, her books, TEDx talk, and adventures, visit www.heidisiefkas.com, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and IG.