Caribbean

An El Yunque Adventure

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2009

While the guestrooms themselves aren’t styled in the sort of over-the-top luxury to which the very highest-end client may be accustomed, they do represent the highest of Marriott’s standards. Every room is equipped with a 36-inch flat-screen TV with high-definition capabilities and iPod compatibility, for example, and recent renovations updated the bathrooms with a new design including deeper bathtubs and rain showerheads. Comfortable and Caribbean-styled, they’re the perfect place to rest your head after a day on the beach or a night in the city.

Rates at the Marriott start at $185 per room per night in low season and $249 in high season.

rio mar beach resort, a wyndham grand resort So you’ve sent your clients to La Mina Falls for the day, and they’ve come back happy, excited, and eager to explore even more. On their next trip, book a hotel outside the city like Rio Mar Beach Resort, a Wyndham Grand Resort, which sits beneath the mountains of El Yunque and offers even more adventurous activities.

Clients can still do all the hiking they want from Rio Mar, but the resort’s most unmissable adventure takes place right at sea level. The town of Fajardo, only a half hour’s drive from the resort, is the starting point for kayaking tours of nearby Bahia Las Cabezas, where clients can witness the amazing phenomenon of bioluminescence. Clients arrive at Puerto Fajardo in the last hours of the daylight to suit up and learn a few safety skills (how to steer, how to avoid tipping over, how to call for help), then follow local guides through a maze of tiny rivers lined with mangroves. By the time they reach Bahia Las Cabezas, night has fallen, and they’re able to witness the magical effect of “fire in the water” as the movement of their paddles and hands creates a light-up effect in the bay. Guides explain the science behind the phenomenon—in layman’s terms, of course—and discuss methods of preserving the delicate balance that allows the bioluminescent creatures to survive. But it’s the water alone that holds most kayakers’ attentions. The sight of its glittery illumination, sparkling around your hands in the water, looks like pure science fiction.

After they’ve paddled, gawked and taken photos around the bay, it’s back through the mangroves by kayak, even more of an adventure now that the daylight is gone. The bioluminescence lasts part of the way into the mangroves, letting clients steer themselves toward the ghostlike kayaks ahead of them. It’s not far, however, until clients will be guiding themselves solely by the tiny lights on the kayaks ahead of them, and their own memories of the trip in.

Of course, they’ll have plenty of help, thanks to the expert guides supplied by Enchanted Island Eco Tours. With 10 years in the business, the company’s owners ensure that their guides know the ins and outs of the mangroves, and are adept at both explaining the natural phenomena around them as well as helping inexperienced kayakers out of the occasional jam.

Back at the 600-room Rio Mar resort, guests can still hear the calls of El Yunque’s coqui frogs from the front entrance. But that’s not to say this is a rustic eco-lodge. The resort is couched in a country club-type setting, complete with its own full-service spa, casino and golf course. In fact, golfers may run into a bit of unexpected adventure as they play through its 18 championship holes, thanks to the community of large iguanas often seen basking beside its lakes. And gamblers have plenty of excitement to choose from at the Wyndham Rio Mar Casino, which just underwent a $5 million renovation. In its 7,000 sq. ft. of space, guests can test their luck at poker, blackjack and roulette, as well as slot machines for bets anywhere from one cent to $5. Plus, the casino’s sports bar, complete with 50-inch high-definition plasma TV screens, means clients won’t have to miss a game while they’re vacationing.

Dining at the resort can be a culinary adventure as well. At Iguana’s Pub, an open-air restaurant offering views of both the rainforest and the golf course, guests can get a taste of Puerto Rican cuisine like seared pork chuletas, churrasco steak, and chicken yaucano, a chicken breast stuffed with yucca mofongo. For more familiar flavors in an upscale environment, suggest Palio, the resort’s elegant Italian restaurant, or Shimas, for sushi and other seafood dishes.