Often referred to as Isla del Encanto, or “Island of Enchantment,” the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has been part of the territorial U.S. since 1898. Situated in the Greater Antilles island group in the Caribbean Sea, the island is a rectangular-shaped paradise that extends for 111 miles east to west and 36 miles north to south.
The attractive island is characterized by a mist-shrouded interior mountain range, long stretches of sand beaches, and numerous forest reserves, including El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. Prehistoric indigenous sites, traditional rural communities, and other historical and cultural features abound. The route we’ll follow focuses on coastal towns and the regions encircling the central highlands, with side excursions to interior sites and small neighboring islands.
Our tropical adventure begins and ends in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, founded in 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. On the first day we’ll have the opportunity to travel back 500 years to Spanish colonial times by strolling down cobblestone streets, admiring ancient architecture, and visiting various museums, fortresses, and churches. San Juan is also the island’s hot spot for nightlife and shopping.
We’ll get out of town on day two, launching a ten-day exploration of the ecologically and culturally diverse coastal regions. The Spanish, indigenous Taino, and African cultural roots of the country can all be seen through warm encounters with Puerto Rico’s people and their food, music, and language. Two strategically spaced layover days will allow for more intimate investigations on this, Adventure Cycling’s first-ever organized tour to take place off the North American mainland.
|Start Date:||Dec 06, 2015||End Date:||Dec 17, 2015|
|Start Location:||San Juan, PR||End Location:||San Juan, PR|
|Total Days:||12||Riding Days:||9|
|Average Daily Mileage:||30.6||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||12||Airport:||Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport|
|Meals:||Indoor Dining||Accommodations:||Indoor (Inn to Inn)|
|Type:||Self Contained||Physical Difficulty:||Intermediate|
|Level of Support:||Inn to Inn||Cost:||$2,899.00|
Old San Juan, 0 miles. Today we’ll meet up in San Juan at our starting point where we’ll begin getting oriented and acquainted. We should have ample time to explore Distrito Histórico del Viejo San Juan, the Old San Juan Historic District, which preserves the second oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Western Hemisphere.
Luquillo, 35 miles. Today’s eastbound ride along the coast takes us through the exclusive residential and hotel areas of Miramar, Condado, Ocean Park, and Isla Verde. From there, we’ll depart the metropolitan surroundings and roll onto a 6-mile-long coastal bike trail that leads through mangrove forest. Later we’ll visit Paseo Piñones, comprising forest, small secluded beaches, seafood kiosks, and several overlooks. In the town of Loiza Aldea, the island’s center of Afro-Hispanic culture, African influences are evident in both the physical and cultural features of the inhabitants. The day ends at the beach town of Luquillo, the “Puerto Rican Riviera.”
Fajardo, 9 miles. We’ll ride west for several miles to the entrance of El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Luquillo National Forest, or the Caribbean National Forest. This rain forest region encompasses the headwaters of eight major rivers, four distinct types of forest, and an associated wealth of plant and animal life. Numerous options for good hikes are at hand. We’ll leave later in the afternoon to track down our dinner and overnight accommodations in Fajardo, a sleepy town that once served as a supplier to the sugar cane industry, as well as to the pirate “trade.”
Fajardo, 0 miles. Today we will catch the early ferry to Culebra Island, a seven-by-four mile miniature archipelago where it’s believed Christopher Columbus visited during his second voyage in 1493. Other opportunities include visiting Vieques Island or bicycling to gorgeous Flamenco Beach. Evening highlights are a seafood dinner back in Fajardo, followed by an optional kayak trip to bioluminescent Laguna Grande, where light is produced and emitted by living organisms in the water.
Maunabo, 31 miles. Today’s southbound coastal ride leads through the small town of Ceiba, home to the Ceiba State Forest Natural Reserve, then through the villages of Aguas Claras and Daguao. We’ll end the day at Maunabo, where the lovely and often-photographed Punta Tuna Lighthouse, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, began warning ships off the Sargent Reef in the late 1800s. At the adjacent primitive Punta Tuna Beach, swimming is forbidden due to strong currents, but taking long walks or simply meditating on your seascape surroundings are perfectly allowable.
Ponce, 61 miles. On this day we’ll ride westbound, passing through the small town of Patillas and to the dryer and hotter side of the island. In Guayama, known as el pueblo de brujería, “the town of witches,” the Spanish colonial roots run deep, as evidenced by numerous historical structures and sites. Our destination is Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second biggest city, named for Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, a great-grandson of the notorious conquistador. It was the largest city, more populous even than San Juan, back in 1898, when the U.S. invaded and occupied Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War.
La Parguera, Lajas, 41 miles. Similar to yesterday’s riding, our route today is characterized by arid, hot conditions with little shade. Highlights include Yauco, a small hillside town featuring steep streets, colorful old houses, and great coffee: The area’s traditional sugarcane- and cotton-growing industries eventually gave way to coffee cultivation, and it now produces a low-caffeine coffee popular for its rich flavor and exceptional quality. Guánica, another pleasant coastal town, is where the Americans landed during the 1898 invasion. The nearby Reserva Forestal Guánica boasts a plethora of plant and animal species that can be searched for on any one of a dozen foot trails coursing through the reserve. An optional mile-long ferry ride can take us to tiny Gilligan’s Island—the official name is Cayo Aurora—featuring mangroves bordered by white coral sand and a blue-green lagoon ideal for swimming or snorkeling.
Boquerón, Cabo Rojo, 16 miles. Today we’ll round the southwestern corner of the island, following back roads to and through the fishing village of El Combate. Spectacular views from jagged limestone cliffs capture the clashing of the Caribbean against rock walls below. Playa Santa, a “best-kept secret” beach, is located in the Bahia Sucia bay just below the lighthouse known as El Faro de los Morillos de Cabo Rojo. Nearby Boquerón is known for its seafood specialties, including raw oysters embellished with a squeeze of limón.
Boquerón, Cabo Rojo, 28 miles. Today’s optional excursion takes along a shaded road winding through Lajas, a small town that harkens back to the 19th century. The route then trends to the northwest, penetrating densely forested hills en route to the second oldest and most attractive settlement on the island. Although a modern college town—the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico is said to be the largest private university in the Western Hemisphere—San German retains a quiet colonial charm and architecture that is distinctly Mediterranean. Primary attractions include a pair of rectangular plazas, the Porta Coeli church, and the Museo de Arte y Casa Ramirez de Arellano, a popular museum known for its religious art and artifacts.
Rincón, 60 miles. Heading north up the western edge of the island, we’ll pass through the fishing village of Puerto Real before entering the coastal areas of Punta Arenas and Joyuda, the latter heralded for its string of seafood restaurants. Small-boat excursions to the tiny paradise island of Piñeros, located less than a mile offshore, may also be taken from here. We’ll then proceed along the coastal back road to the port of Mayaguez, third largest city on the island. Shady roads lined with mimosa trees and fruit stands will take us past a half dozen bathing beaches en route to Rincón, noted for its flower-strewn hills and spectacular sunsets. The peninsula here separates the southern “sunning” beaches from the island’s premier surfing destinations to the north. Highlights and activities include small cafes, pretty beach houses, horseback riding, snorkeling, day trips to nearby islands, and potential whale sightings.
Hatillo, 38 miles. In Aguada, the island’s second oldest settlement, we’ll have the chance to stop in at El Museo de Aguada, a museum housed in a former train station that features native Taino Indian artifacts. Next up: Aguadilla, residing on the island’s northwestern corner and boasting fine beaches and numerous historical sites. From there we’ll curve east, signaling our return approach to San Juan. Our destination for the evening is the coastal town of Hatillo, situated in an area recognized for dairy farms dating back to 18th century settlers who arrived from the Canary Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa.
Old San Juan, 55 miles. On this, our final day of riding on Borínquen—the native name for Puerto Rico—we’ll bicycle through Punta Maracayo, Arecibo, and Laguna Tortuguero, a natural reserve known for its caimans, an exotic crocodile species native to Central and South America. After swinging inland and passing through the alluring town of Vega Baja, we’ll return to the shoreline and ride to Dorado, the island’s oldest destination resort. Soon thereafter, we’ll reenter the metropolitana of San Juan by way of Levitown and Sabana Seca, finishing up with a ferry ride into Old San Juan. There we’ll toast with our glasses full of rum, or alternative drink of choice, to an unforgettable Caribbean adventure full of sun, sand, and salty air.
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"I had a great time! Can't wait for my next trip"
2009 Tour Participant
"Our tour leader was excellent. The other cyclists became my friends. A wonderful experience. Can't wait to do my next tour."
2008 Tour Participant
"Both trips I have taken with ACA have been amazing. The routes, the people, the food and ACA have been top notch. I probably won't use any other touring company for future trips." "Both trips I have taken with ACA have been amazing. The routes, the people, the food and ACA have been top notch. I probably won't use any other touring company for future trips."Both trips I have taken with ACA have been amazing. The routes, the people, the food and ACA have been top notch. I probably won't use any other touring company for future trips."
2009 TOUR PARTICIPANT
"It makes me sad I waited so long to do something like this. The bar has been set ridiculously high for future rides!"
2012 Tour Participant