We spent a half-day meandering off the beaten path on Route 123 in Utuado and found a number of cool things to check out. Taking the highway might get you where you’re going quicker, but taking some of the winding roads through rural areas can give you a good idea of what the “back country” of Puerto Rico looks like.
Articles in the Porta Cordillera (Central) Category
For more than 275 years, the haciendas throughout the cool mountain regions of Puerto Rico have been growing coffee. It was once one of the largest crops in production on the island. The Museum of Coffee in Ciales is a place where you can explore some of the history of coffee, and to experience some of the best coffee available in Puerto Rico today.
I love exploring the karst region of Puerto Rico. The landscape is ruggedly beautiful, the caves hold many secrets from the past, and there is a great diversity of plants and animals. Tierra del Encantos Eco Tours offers a hiking adventure that allows you to get up close and personal with nature in the area.
The Plaza del Mercado and the Paseo Honor al Rio are two nice places in Caguas where you can explore more of the local side of Puerto Rico. On their own, these are not really must see places, but they are still fun to check out if you have some time in the area.
Every year, the town of Aibonito hosts the largest plant show & sale on the island. It features flower & plant displays, a large section for plant sales, live local music shows (of course) and food kiosks. This year, the festival will be from June 29 to July 8, 2012.
Do you love ice cream like I do? Then a trip to Jendys Heladería (ice cream parlor) in Caguas is a must-do stop. No matter what you are in the mood for, they have probably made that flavor. They specialize in odd, unusual and totally delicious flavors of small batch ice cream.
The center of the island is full of mountains, and the views from these peaks can be breathtaking. If you want to get to a these views, and not get out of breath doing it, consider going on horseback at Hacienda Madrigal in Cidra. Not only do you get to enjoy a horseback ride, you enjoy the cool fresh air of the Puerto Rican countryside.
The spirit of the Jibaro of the past is still alive today in what their values and traditions mean to today’s Puerto Ricans. The Monumento al Jibaro Puertorriqueno on Route 52 in Cayey is a testament to that strong Puerto Rican spirit.
Though Puerto Rico is full of all sorts of neat things to do, one of the few things we don’t have here is river rapids for tubing or rafting. We did find an adventure that offers "lazy river" tubing through a cave, along with some hiking and Taino cave exploration. Those are some of my favorite things all rolled into one day, and all in beautiful Utuado. So, when some family members came to visit, we decided to check it out.
I am not a camper, but I know a number of people who are, so I am always looking for places where they can camp in Puerto Rico. I can’t say I have been too impressed with most of the campsites around the island, but Monte del Estado in Maricao gets my vote for probably the nicest, cleanest camping facility.
The Central Mountain range that runs through the middle of Puerto Rico is full of canyons, caves and waterfalls. We recently took a hike, sponsored by the local chapter of the Sierra Club, into Canyon Las Bocas to see the Cascade Grande waterfall. It was an enjoyable, and challenging, day of hiking and river-trekking.
San Cristóbal Canyon has been named one of the top 10 Natural Wonders of Puerto Rico. With that high distinction, I needed to see it for myself. It is not the easiest place to get to (being at the bottom of a 500+ foot descent), so it does require some planning and, for best results, a guide! Montaña Explora, a family-run tour company, offers an extreme adventure that includes hiking and rappelling in the canyon. It was tough, but it was so worth the effort!
If you enjoy adventure tours — those with ziplines, rappelling, hiking, caving, and other fun things — and you also enjoy going to special, off the beaten path places — then this tour is for you. Batey Zipline Adventure, in beautiful Utuado, offers all of that in a nice half-day package. The majority of the activities are on, around, and above an organic farm near the Tanama River, making this the most eco-friendly adventure tour we’ve taken in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is known for its coffee, and the best coffee comes from ripe beans grown high in the cool, moist mountain regions of the Toro Negro mountain range. There are a number of coffee Haciendas in the towns of Jayuya, San Sebastian, Ponce, Adjuntas, Las Marias and Lares. Most of larger coffee plantations are not open to the public, but some of the smaller, specialty/gourmet places are open for tours, and purchases. Our tour at the small, gourmet coffee plantation Hacienda Pomarrosa was informative and enjoyable.
Sometimes, finding off-the-beaten-path things to do leads to great discoveries. And, other times, it doesn’t work out as planned. Lots of our adventures come about from some serious research for basic information and the general location of possibly interesting things on my part, and lots of stopping for directions and U-turns on Ray’s part. One recent Sunday, we took a drive in Naranjito to find some exciting new waterfalls and amazing views. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.