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My Puerto Rican journey, from mountaintop to seaside

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Throughout my tenure at TPG, there have been some situations the place I’ve contemplated, “What precisely is my job, and the way did I get it?” A current instance struck me as I gazed at a sprawling rainforest panorama stretching from shoreline to mountain vary whereas moseying up a lush path in Puerto Rico on horseback.

My travels have led me to stunning settings earlier than, however this was a time-bending first. In at some point, I transitioned from using the New York Metropolis subway to traversing a path on a horse in Puerto Rico. It was a memorable journey that transported me out of the early December chill of New York Metropolis to a tropical paradise only a home flight away.

This is how my Puerto Rican journey unfolded.

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Plan your personal journey with Uncover Puerto Rico right here.

Getting there

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

I began my day in my Brooklyn house, feeling chilly, dreary and disillusioned — a temper that solely the primary hints of a looming winter can evoke in a New Yorker. Thankfully, I had a secret as I walked by some snow flurries to my subway cease, suitcase in tow.

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You see, my new pal Génesis Yamille — a Puerto Rican journey content material creator and buddy of TPG — invited me to Puerto Rico to expertise a few of her favourite journey actions throughout her stunning island dwelling. My first thought? It appeared fairly bold at this busy time of 12 months.

After some persuasion from Génesis and my very own analysis, I shortly realized that Puerto Rico is the proper vacation spot for all kinds of vacationers, whether or not you are searching for a fast adrenaline rush or an extended acquaintance with a beachside pina colada.

Earlier than I knew it, I used to be boarding my flight to San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín Worldwide Airport (SJU). The captain welcomed passengers and introduced a three-and-a-half-hour flight time — barely longer than a New York-to-Miami flight. After having fun with two motion pictures and a few ginger ales, we landed in sunny San Juan, and I used to be zipping by the airport, keen to start out my Puerto Rican journey.

And I did not have to attend lengthy.

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As an American citizen, I did not want a passport to enter Puerto Rico, eliminating the necessity for lengthy passport management traces or arduous customs kinds. Actually, simply 12 minutes after the airplane door opened at my arrival gate, my Uber was pulling away from the curb — guaranteeing my first day on the island was one stuffed with journey, not merely a misplaced journey day.

Associated: A newbie’s information to visiting Puerto Rico: The whole lot it’s worthwhile to eat, see and do

Trotting up mountains

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

My first cease was Hacienda 8A, a family-run horse farm positioned in Las Piedras, simply 45 minutes from San Juan. Located on the base of El Yunque Nationwide Forest, Hacienda 8A makes fairly the primary impression. The panorama is a myriad of lush greenery enhanced by over 30 horses dotting the property. Some graze in free-range pastures whereas others stand by in stables, able to welcome novice riders.

It was right here, in a verdant meadow, the place I met Génesis in individual. Becoming a member of us have been José, the proprietor of Hacienda 8A, and our four-legged companions for the day: Legendary, Cloud and Horchata. After a security briefing and a few equine coaching, it was time to experience.

Between tongue clicks (the command for “go”) and saying “whoa” (the sign for “cease”), Génesis and I received to know each other higher as we crested over rolling hills and meandered by breezy meadows.

Our journey peaked as our trio reached a closing mountain peak collectively, the place we have been rewarded with sprawling views of Puerto Rico’s countryside. From our elevated vantage level, we noticed hawks gliding throughout the horizon and witnessed a rainstorm coming into El Yunque, the one tropical rainforest within the U.S. Nationwide Forest System. In solely a matter of hours, I had traded the concrete jungle for a real-life tropical paradise.

With the bar set extremely excessive, I rode again down the mountain with a skip in my step (properly, truly, the horse’s step) and a smile on my face, desirous to see what Génesis had in retailer for us that night.

Zipping by the sky

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

Our van arrived at our subsequent cease, and I might instantly inform that our adrenaline-fueled journey was removed from over. We would arrived at Hacienda Campo Rico, an all-ages playground with archery tag, all-terrain-vehicle excursions and a zipper line course, however we have been there on a really particular mission: to savor a really one-of-a-kind mojito.

Hacienda Campo Rico’s zip line course makes its closing touchdown in a treehouse bar, the place thrill-seekers can order a large assortment of drinks and small bites.

“I hope you are not afraid of heights,” Génesis stated as we have been fitted into harnesses, helmets and gloves.

After an in depth security briefing, we have been off, bumping alongside behind an ATV on the way in which to the primary zip line.

The course at Hacienda Campo Rico consists of 5 traces and 5 suspension bridges with quick hikes in between — they supply the proper stability of gorgeous views on the bottom and much more mesmerizing panoramas from 50-plus toes within the air. The zip traces additionally enhance in pace and depth as you traverse the course. By the fifth line, I used to be actually screaming in delight (and admittedly a bit of worry) as I entered the mojito bar.

Nonetheless using the adrenaline excessive, Génesis and I ordered our well-deserved cocktails and sat down to debate the day forward. Over a “cheers,” Génesis requested if I used to be up for a highway journey the next day, hinting that Puerto Rico‘s wonders prolong properly past San Juan.

With the reminiscences of a tremendous first day recent in my thoughts, I eagerly agreed.

Learn extra: The most effective accommodations in Puerto Rico — discover your keep on the Island of Enchantment

Kicking again on the seashore

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

After a restful night time’s sleep, Génesis picked me up from my lodge, and we have been off to what she described as one in every of her “absolute favourite spots on the island.”

Quickly, we crested over a hill, and as we did, the panorama expanded earlier than us, revealing sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. I used to be awestruck. Straight forward was the beautiful shoreline, whereas a fast look within the rearview mirror captured a glimpse of the Cordillera Central mountain vary.

We pulled as much as Mar Chiquita, a seashore that is a neighborhood favourite simply 40 minutes from Outdated San Juan. It surrounds a beautiful crystal-clear cove flanked by jagged rock formations on both facet. This pure barrier has a small opening that restricts the ocean’s waves, making a pure pool.

We arrived round 9 a.m. and had the place to ourselves, permitting me to soak up the wonder and serenity of the spot with out distractions.

It was a bit too breezy for a dip throughout our go to, so Génesis and I relaxed on the shore, toes within the sand and virgin pina coladas in hand (it was morning, in any case). For these visiting at later hours, there are meals vans providing native favorites like tostones and empanadillas, in addition to umbrellas and seashore chairs for rent.

Trekking by the canyon

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

Whereas I might’ve spent the whole day at Mar Chiquita, I knew that Génesis had extra deliberate for us — so we hopped again within the automobile and launched into the subsequent cease on her itinerary. The following hour and a half handed by with discussions of our favourite motion pictures, books and journey locations as we sped down highways and wound by nation roads.

After a noticeable enhance in elevation, we arrived at Canon Blanco and met our information María from Nativos Eco Excursions. As we hiked downhill by leafy flora, she proudly defined that Canon Blanco has gained recognition over the past six or so years. Alongside the way in which, María identified a few Taíno petroglyphs etched into the massive boulders centuries in the past.

Reaching the lip of the canyon, I used to be blown away by the change in panorama. The sunshine tan hues of the Glorieta sandstone contrasted sharply in opposition to the deep greens of the valley, making a scene paying homage to a Martian panorama but within the coronary heart of the Puerto Rican forest. On the backside of the enormous crevasse, water flowed at numerous depths and speeds, from turbulent white water to calm swimming pools superb for swimming.

Our final cease was El Couch, a rock formation that resembles a pure stone sofa, good for photo-ops. After one closing dip within the pure swimming pools to chill down, our journey by Canon Blanco was full — and it was time for Génesis’ grand finale.

Swimming by bio glow

The final stretch of our journey took about an hour and 45 minutes, bringing us to the coastal city of Lajas. Located on the southern facet of the island, this space is thought for an extremely distinctive pure phenomenon: its bioluminescent bay.

Our closing vacation spot was Parguera Water Sports activities, an aquatic tour firm that gives kayaking, snorkeling and bio bay excursions within the Caribbean Sea. With the solar beginning its descent, we boarded our boat, helmed by the skilled captain Mendoza.

No phrases would appropriately describe the sundown we witnessed out on the water that night. We watched in awe because the sky exploded into hues of orange, yellow and blue. Second by second, the solar drew nearer to the horizon and disappeared.

COLBY KIRKPATRICK/THE POINTS GUY

Below the final rays of daylight, we jumped within the water for a fast swim and climbed aboard kayaks for a jaunt across the inlet’s barrier islands.

Then, it was time for the principle occasion.

Again on the boat, we headed northeast towards La Parguera’s bio bay. On the way in which, captain Mendoza defined the inside workings of the extraordinary phenomenon we have been about to witness. The bioluminescence right here is attributable to dinoflagellates, microscopic organisms that, in excessive sufficient focus, emit a neon glow when activated by splashing or fast motion. Remarkably, this spectacle can solely be skilled in 5 ecosystems worldwide, and Puerto Rico is dwelling to a few of them.

Anchoring distant from any mild sources, we donned life jackets and jumped again into the water. At first, my eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness, and I used to be disillusioned within the tiny organisms’ “mild present.” However after a couple of minutes, it occurred. I moved my palms in fast circles, and a stream of pixie mud appeared to light up my actions. From then on, we have been enthralled, kicking, splashing and floating by a sea of tiny aquatic stars in absolute amazement.

It was practically not possible to seize these moments on digicam, however even with my background in video and social media at TPG, this felt precisely correctly. In spite of everything, some journey experiences have to be seen to be believed and skilled to really perceive.

And because it seems, Puerto Rico is crammed to the brim with these alternatives.

I knew I had solely scratched the floor throughout my quick but exhilarating time on the island, however I am going to positively be again to spend extra time with Génesis — and discover extra of this tropical paradise.

Go to Uncover Puerto Rico to plan your personal trip at present.

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