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Top seven healthy and fun things to do in Puerto Rico

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I’ve wanted to go to Puerto Rico for a long time and I’m so happy that I finally have had the chance. Puerto Rico is a stunning tropical island, with American, Spanish and Caribbean influence.

The natural beauty here is breathtaking and because the weather is so fantastic it’s not difficult to find yourself surrounded by it on any adventure you decide to take.

After spending a few weeks there recently, I have put together my Top 7 Healthy & Fun Things to Do in Puerto Rico. These are not to be missed when visiting.

  1. Diving. If you have your dive certificate, I recommend driving to Guanica on the southwest coast and diving with Island Scuba. Dives begin at 8 a.m. and you must be at the shop at 7:30 a.m. It takes about 2.5 hours from San Juan.

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

From the shop, you will take a dive boat 15 minutes from shore to a reef wall where you will dive to between 60-80 feet. There, you will see many fish and plants and possibly even a Caribbean Reef Shark; we saw one.

When there is good visibility, the reef wall is absolutely stunning with many colors and variety of fish and plants. Our first dive was a bit murky, but the second dive was clear and I felt like I was in an aquarium.

  1. Hiking El Yunque rainforest. El Yunque is a large rainforest closer to the northeast side of the island. The drive from San Juan is about 1.5 hours. Once off the freeway, follow the clearly marked signs to El Yunque (even if the GPS wants to take you elsewhere).

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

There are many hiking trails to choose from, which you can find online on sites such as puertoricodaytrips.com. We took the La Mina trail to La Mina Falls and continued hiking past the falls to the Palo Colorado Information Center. This trail is beginner-to-intermediate as it can be steep and slippery, but is well marked. It is also an in-and-out trail and took about two hours.

It may be obvious, but I feel I need to say it: This is a rainforest and so it does rain.  In the beginning of our hike, it was cold and wet. After a while, though, we warmed up completely and the cool spits of intermittent rain were welcoming.

  1. Old San Juan. Old San Juan is the perfect mix of old Spain and tropical Caribbean. It has just the right mix of crumbling buildings, palm trees and steamy Latin flare to feel like you’re a million miles from home.

Walk the streets, browsing through shops, and stop to get a coconut in one the many bars. If you’re hungry, try Cafe Berlin for local cuisine as well as vegetarian and vegan fare.

  1. Stand-up paddleboarding. Just outside of Old San Juan is a bay in the Condado area, perfect for stand-up paddleboarding. I recommend renting a board in San Juan Bay Marina at SUP Action. They have lockers to store your items and it’s only $20 for an hour rental.

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

They will give you a quick lesson on the dock, and then off you go.

The bay is calm and big enough to SUP for about an hour. If you stop at the tiny beach next to the bridge, closest to Avenida Ashford, you can even pick up a cool coconut before heading back.

  1. Salsa dancing. Rumor has it that salsa dancing got its origins from Cuban and Puerto Rican traditional dancing. It is now a popular and sexy dance that will put you right in the San Juan spirit on a night out.

Have two left feet? Don’t worry. Triana Tapas & Flamenco in Old Town (251 Recinto Sur, +1 787-725-8819) offers free salsa lessons at 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesdays to straighten you out. They also have flamenco shows Friday and Saturdays.

  1. Bioluminescent kayaking in Bio Bay. There are three bodies of water in Puerto Rico where you can see bioluminescent organisms light up when agitated by movement. We went to Bio Bay in Fajardo on the northeast coast and took a kayaking tour with Pure Adventure to experience this for ourselves.

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

The tour starts either at 5 or 7 p.m. and begins with a mile-long kayak through mangroves. If you start at 5, you will get to actually see the mangroves and, if you’re lucky, large iguanas looking down over you from within the trees. You then emerge from the mangroves to a stunning lagoon with views of El Yunque rainforest, if it’s a clear evening.

The tour guide, a marine biologist, will give you an explanation of why the organisms light up and what to expect. When it gets dark, you will see the tiny, magical, diamond-like creatures below you before heading back through the mangroves.

Beware that there are many tour groups doing the same thing, so it is quite loud with people and you likely will bump into other kayakers throughout the mangroves. Be prepared to either tip over or almost run over someone else who has tipped over when the mangrove tunnel becomes backlogged with kayaks and people running into trees.

Overall, it was fun, and if you can have a light attitude about it, it’s pretty funny as well. Just follow the guide and the rules and you’ll be safe and have a great time.

Tip: Bring a waterproof camera; expect everything to get wet.

  1. Surf. Normally, I would never put surfing last on any list of to-do’s as it is one of my favorite playtime things to do. However, I never actually went surfing in Puerto Rico this time around. Blasphemous, I know. I just didn’t make it happen this time.

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

    Puerto Rico photos from Angela Orecchio

But 2.5 hours from San Juan, on the northwest coast, is Rincon, known for its surfing spots and laid back surfer vibe. There are many beach side spots to stay in, surf lessons and chill out beach bars.

Another spot that came recommended is Isabella, just east of Rincon. Isabella is a smaller area, with great surf, quiet beaches and fewer tourists.

Either way, if you get a chance when you are in Puerto Rico, get out and play.

Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This column was edited from entries in her blog, The Yachtie Glow (www.angelaorecchio.com), which offers tips for crew on how to be healthy, fit and happy on board. Comments are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.

 

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About Angela Orecchio

Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This column was edited from blog, Savvy Stewardess, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Yachting. Contact her through www.savvystewardess.com.

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