Have a Real Adventure with Hiking, Rappelling & Ziplines
What is vacation for if not to try different things and experience something new? If you are the adventurous type, Rocaliza offers 2 adventures along the El Salto river in the Carite rain forest in the mountains of Caguas.
One trip is a half-day adventure for people with only a few hours to spare (great if you’re on a cruise!), and the other is a longer one for people with more time for fun! We have lots of free time, so we did them both! This review is for the longer trip and believe me, it got my heart pumping!
Transportation & Arrival
As part of the price of the trip, Rocaliza provides transportation from various San Juan area hotels. If you’re not staying at one of the hotels where they pick-up, you can opt to meet them at Plaza las Americas or a Walgreens just off of Route 52 in Caguas. That’s real convenient for people coming from Dorado or Palmas del Mar, for example.
We chose to meet the Rocaliza van at 10:30am at the Walgreens in Caguas. This stop offers people a place to grab a quick snack and use the restrooms. There is a bathroom available during the lunch break, but that’s after you’ve completed your adventure — so take the opportunity while you have it.
After everyone had a chance to take a break, we all got into the van and they drove us up the little roads into the mountains. Our group consisted of 2 other couples, and our guides Diego and Jacob. During the drive, they pointed out many of the fruit trees and some aspects of Puerto Rico country living as we drove through different neighborhoods. The drive from the Walgreens to their base camp up in the mountains took about 10 minutes.
Here, we were introduced to a local teenager, named Samuel, who helped us throughout the rest of the day. Rocaliza practices sustainable tourism — they rent the land they use from a local family and employ people from the local community to help with the tour, trail maintenance and the home-cooked meal the serve at the end of the adventure. It is great to see local companies giving back to the community.
It was at this point that our guides gave us an initial briefing of the day’s activities and some background information. Diego had worked, for many years, for other zipline/adventure companies here in Puerto Rico before starting out on his own. Together with the guys from Eco-Quest, they set up this adventure course, taking the best practices from their past experience and then adding their own special touches to it. They use the state of the art safety gear and want people to experience a safe, but thrilling, rappelling adventure.
Our adventure course today was going to consist of hiking, climbing up the rivers, rappelling and zip lining! They provided water and they had some fresh fruit you could snack on (both at the start and through out the trip!). Then they handed out the gear and helped you into your harness, helmet and gloves. We then began the first part of our adventure — our walk uphill into the forest. The family they rent the land from has planted lots of fruits and veggies along the way, so it was a pretty walk.
Hiking & River Trekking
It was a short walk to the trail head in at the edge of the forest. Once we got there, Diego told us more about what to expect on our hike — some would be on land, some in the water and some would be at the river’s edge. In all cases, the footing could be slippery, so they wanted to make sure that everyone was careful. The forest and river were lovely. All along the way, they stopped to tell us about the plants that we were passing — the good, the bad and the pretty!
Since this adventure has you spending a lot of time walking in the river and on wet river rocks, I suggest that you wear shoes that can get wet, and quick-drying clothes. Most of the water crossings were only knee-deep, so you won’t be soaking wet all day, unless you want to jump into the deeper areas of the river and play!
During our trek, we climbed & scaled the river rocks. Some of the climbing was pretty steep & challenging. There were some ascents where you needed to use ropes to climb up, while on others you had to find you own foot holds and just go for it. It made us feel like real jungle explorers! This forest hiking and river trekking continued until we got to a pretty waterfall, were we were able to rest before the next part of our adventure. Some people took the opportunity to take pictures or take a dip in some river pools at the base of the waterfall.
Once we all had a chance to catch our breath and drink some water, we did a steeper hike up until we got to the top of a different waterfall. This is where the rappel was. From the top, you couldn’t see the waterfall that you go down, but you could hear it … and Diego and Jacob talked about this 80-foot beauty with excitement. I was excited! Now, this is a REAL rappel. You are not just being lowered down by a rope — you are actually doing the lowering yourself. This was a brand new experience for me!
Luckily, this is a no experience necessary excursion. Before getting started with the rappel, Diego and Jacob explained all of the equipment that we’d be using, and the technique we would need to employ to walk down the wall of the waterfall below us. They took lots of time to answer everyone’s questions and make sure we were all clear, and comfortable, with what we’d be doing.
During this time, I was thinking to myself "… OK … let me get this straight … I actually have to let this rope (the one that is keeping me attached to the surface of the earth) go loose so I can lower myself down this vertical wall … yeah … right".
Of course, I knew that the most important thing I had to do was to trust my equipment — the ropes, carabiners, safeties and harness. And, of course, they have another rope attached to you so no matter what you did, they can prevent you from a fall. But still, I had to convince myself to let go of the rope …
I did it and it was thrilling — one of the few things I have ever done that had me scared, excited & thrilled all at the same time! Once I got started, I took my time descending the 80-foot vertical falls to the pool below.
Honestly, I had a little trouble with the whole let the rope loose thing. You can see my hesitancy in the video. Other people went much faster. And that was what was really great about this group — everyone was doing something outside of their comfort zone — no one rushed anyone and we all kind of bonded — encouraging each other to do these new and exciting things.
You really need to take your time and enjoy this beautiful place. The waterfall is magnificent. And, as an FYI, this is one of the places along this adventure that you will get really wet.
After everyone finished their rappel, we all took a short break to catch our breath and have a small snack of fresh fruit and water. Then, we did a short hike down the river to the next leg of our journey … the ziplines!
Flying Through the Forest
The next part of our adventure was the ziplines. They have 3 zip lines in the forest, all of which were pretty good length (one was 400 feet long!). Of course, before we got started, they told us how to do it, explained the equipment we would be using and explained their safety procedures.
There are always 2 tour guides for each zipline, one at each end. Basically, once you get to the platform, the first guide hooks your harness up to the lines and away you go. At the other end of the zipline, the second guide unclips you. It is very easy — it takes really no effort on your part, thanks to gravity. It is so neat, seeing the beautiful forest and views from up there as you zip through the trees and across canyons.
Though this excursion has ziplines, and they are fun, they’re not the main focus of the trip. The waterfall rappel is definitely the highlight of the day and the thing that sets this excursion apart from other zipline attractions on the island.
After everyone finished with the ziplines, a short hike out of the woods took us back along the path we started on and we were back on the road. The adventure part took our little group only about 3 hours from the time we entered until the time we exited from the forest. Diego said it was unusual that we finished so quickly, but our group consisted of very active and brave people, so we went quickly. Like I mentioned earlier, we were able to take our time and no one felt rushed. Some of us took a little extra time while we faced our fears. Larger groups will take longer because the rappelling part takes time.
After a short walk back down the road to where the van was parked, we were able to change into dry clothes (they have changing rooms) and then we had lunch. Our lunch was a yummy home-cooked meal of chicken, rice & beans, sweet potatoes and sorullitos (fried corn meal with dipping sauce). But the menu could change every day, depending on what the cook felt like making that day. We enjoyed the meal together on picnic tables at her house, where you met her family. They also let you use the bathroom in their house if you needed to. What a nice way to end the day — riding home, full from a good meal and memories of our great exciting adventure!
Tips and Other Ideas
One super great thing about this company is that they only require 4 people signed up to do this tour. So you really don’t have to worry about your plans getting canceled if the tour doesn’t fill up (which happens with many other companies) or someone else calls and cancels at the last minute.
I would recommend eating a late (or larger than normal) breakfast the day that you do this excursion — lunch is served at the end of the excursion, about 2:00-3:00pm. My other suggestion is to pick up a snack during the stop at Walgreens in the morning. We had granola bars that we carried in our knapsack, which we were glad we had.
That reminds me — a small knapsack comes in handy for carrying your snack, some fruit, your water bottle and camera. Diego has a couple extra knapsacks in case you forget to bring yours. He also has a dry bag that you can put your camera, cell phone, etc. into during the wettest part of the trip.
As for clothing, I recommend that you wear quick-drying, longer shorts, to protect your legs from the harness you’ll be wearing all day. Don’t wear jeans! They require that your shoes strap tightly to your feet. So wear sneakers, water shoes, or Tevas that you won’t mind getting wet. They don’t allow flip-flops, Crocs, or anything like that.
Normally, when we review an activity that is not free to the public, we pay the admission price out of our own pockets. However, we just want you to know that the folks at Rocaliza were kind enough to offer us this trip for free. While we don’t feel that this free ride influenced our review one way or the other, we felt that we should tell you, just as a matter of fact.
The cost of this trip is $135/person plus 7% tax ($144.45 total). That includes lunch, water, fresh fruit, all necessary equipment (helmet, harness, climbing and rappelling equipment), transportation and taxes.
If you're happy, let them know it — Don't forget to tip your your bartender, tour guide or trip operator if you enjoyed yourself. Gratuities are appreciated and typically aren't included in the price they charge you.
They offer this trip 7 days/week. Pick-up at San Juan area hotels begins around 9:00am.
There is a minimum of 4, and a maximum of 10, participants for this trip. If your party has more than 10 people, they’ll make an exception and go up to 12 people on this trip, but no more.
This is an adventure tour — you need to be decently physically fit. You will be hiking and climbing. You need to walk uphill for about 15 minutes without getting too winded. There is a maximum weight limit of 220 pounds.
The adventure plus meal takes approximately 4 hours depending on the group size. Then by the time you add in driving time from/to the San Juan area … you can figure 6 to 7 hours for the whole day.
You can call Rocaliza at 787.268.0101 or 787.366.8209 (mobile) for more information or to make a reservation.
You can visit the Rocaliza web site for more information.