With rugged mountains plunging to spectacular coastlines and sandy sweeps of beach that look straight from a screensaver, Puerto Rico plays out like a natural playground. Parks, gardens and historic sites cover the island, too, which means there’s never a nanosecond to be bored on vacation here. Here are a few of the best experiences to put on your must-do vacation list for unforgettable day trips with your Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham - Rio Mar resort as your base.
1. El Yunque National Forest
The U.S. National Forest Service counts only one tropical rainforest in its portfolio — this incredibly biodiverse forest on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains in Puerto Rico’s northeastern reaches (less than five miles south of the resort).
El Yunque National Forest is home to the island’s beloved endemic coquí tree frog and hundreds of plant and animal species, too, with hiking trails and waterfalls to explore. You can even zip line across eight lines set just above canopy-level in the rainforest at the Rainforest Zipline Park.
For something different, head out just before sunset on a night walk with El Yunque Tours to listen and scout for screech owls and tree frogs or perhaps even go for a dusk dip in Las Damas pool (more than half of the forest’s inhabitants are nocturnal, so you won’t be lonely).
2. San Juan National Historic Site
For visitors to San Juan, the chance to stroll through the old city walls and 500 years of European history at Castillo de San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, part of San Juan National Historic Site, is truly transporting.
Bay views dazzle from every angle at El Morro, as the locals call the six-level walled fortress that dates to 1539. And on the giant grassy lawn, palms rustle in the wind where families picnic and fly kites. Together with the walled city of Old San Juan, El Morro is one of the most interesting UNESCO World Heritage sites in the entire U.S. And it’s just 30 miles west of your resort.
3. William Miranda Marín Botanical and Cultural Garden
It’s a delight to find this vast garden full of tropical and endemic plants and artwork tucked away in a verdant valley, 33 miles southwest of the resort, in the little town of Caguas. At William Miranda Marín Botanical and Cultural Garden, you can wander the senderos (pathways) alongside local families basking in their island’s natural beauty. Puerto Ricans have a great respect for their fertile island’s natural bounty, and it’s a great place to learn about the medicinal uses of many of the island’s native plants.
4. Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park
Adrenaline-charged adventures await at this ranch a stone’s throw from El Yunque National Forest and just three miles south of the resort, near the town of Luquillo.
You’re in Puerto Rico’s “Sun Capital” here, along this gorgeous coastline near El Yunque’s mountainous terrain. And Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park is a natural playground for heading out on an ATV adventure, going horseback riding along the beach or through lush inland trails, or just having some good, old-fashioned go-karting fun with the family.
5. Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
A day trip to the second largest conservation area in Puerto Rico is full of surprises. And even though Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is on the island of Vieques — a 1.5 hour ferry ride from mainland Puerto Rico (the ferry docks in Ceiba are 45 minutes from the resort) — it’s well worth making time to visit.
You can spend an entire day exploring the refuge’s white and black sand beaches and swimming in the crystal clear waters. Don't miss a hike along nature trails to the historic Puerto Ferro lighthouse and through wetlands that are home to a dizzying variety of resident and migrant shorebirds (the refuge attracts some 190 species of birds throughout the year).
6. Bioluminescent Lagoons
The chance to paddle a kayak through waters that glow greenish-blue after dark thanks to the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence is on the bucket list for many visitors to Puerto Rico. Mosquito Bay in Vieques has been called the best place in the world to see the brightest bioluminescent display, caused by single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates.
However, you can catch bioluminescence thrills closer to the resort, too, in Laguna Grande, just 15 miles east in Fajardo. Here, Kayaking Puerto Rico offers after-dark kayak tours that lead you paddling through a lush mangrove channel within the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve into Fajardo Bio Bay, where the waters glow with the brightest bioluminescence on mainland Puerto Rico.