advertisement

Adventure -- Go flying through the trees on a zip-line at La Marquesa Original Canopy Tour Park, La Marquesa Forest Reserve, Guaynabo (tel. 787/789-1598 or 444-0110). Costs vary depending on group size, but run around $99 per person including transportation to your hotel. The rate without transportation is $75. You’ll get a bird’s view of a tropical forest as you soar along suspended cables, from 10 to 70 feet (3–21m) high, traversing across 14 different platforms during the thrilling 2-hour tour. Speed demons, here’s your shot at an adrenalin rush; but if you’d rather take it easy, you can control your speed with a grip. Being 50 feet (15m) up and leaping through the air is a rush, even with the harness strapped to the cable and the redundant safety features.

Bike Rentals -- The best places to bicycle are in city parks such as Luis Muñoz Marín (Hato Rey) and Luis Muñoz Rivera (Puerta de Tierra). You can make it from Condado to Old San Juan driving mostly through the latter park. There are also bicycle trails; I recommend the coastal boardwalk running along Piñones, which is beautiful and safe, especially on the weekends, if a little beat up. There are bike rentals available in the area during weekends, although most San Juan streets are too crowded for bicycle riding. Rent the Bicycle, Calle Del Muelle, Capitolio Plaza 205, San Juan (tel. 787/602-9696), is at the entrance of the Old San Juan bayside waterfront. It rents bikes for $27 per day ($19 for a half-day) and also conducts several tours throughout San Juan (the Piñones boardwalk tour is probably the best bet). Paradise Rentals, in Old San Juan at Pier 2 and in Condado at Condado Village, 1214 Ashford Avenue (tel. 787/413-2222), rents bicycles and electric bicycles, or E-bikes.

Cruises -- For the best cruises of San Juan Bay, go to Caribe Aquatic Adventures (see Scuba Diving below) Bay cruises start at $25 per person.

Deep-sea Fishing -- Deep-sea fishing is top-notch here. Allison tuna, white and blue marlin, sailfish, wahoo, dolphinfish (mahi mahi), mackerel, and tarpon are some of the fish that can be caught in Puerto Rican waters, where 30 world records have been broken. Charter arrangements can be made through most major hotels and resorts. The big game-fishing grounds are very close offshore from San Juan, making the capital an excellent place to hire a charter. A half-day of deep-sea fishing (4 hr.) starts at around $650, while full-day charters begin at around $1,050. Most charters hold six passengers in addition to the crew.

There are three marinas in the San Juan metropolitan area, with fishing charters and boat rentals available at all three. The Cangrejos Yacht Club (tel. 787/791-1015) is right near the airport on Rte. 187, the road from Isla Verde to Piñones, while the two other marinas are next to each other near the Condado bridge and the Convention Center in Miramar: San Juan Bay Marina (tel. 787/721-8062) and Club Nautico de San Juan (tel. 787/722-0177). All the marinas are just minutes away from the hunting grounds for big game sports fish like tuna and marlin, so you'll spend most of your time in the water acutally fishing.

Sea Born Fishing Charters has one of the most experienced crews in the business and a fine 45-foot air-conditioned deluxe Hatteras called the Sea Born. Contact the vessel directly at P.O. Box 9066541, Puerto de Tierra, San Juan (tel. 787/723-2292 or 787/309-6376) or by e-mail at seabornfishing@gmail.com. The crew knows their fishing and is very informative. They began their career with fishing stalwart Capt. Mike Benítez, who began the company and went on to become the most experienced operator in San Juan sailing out of Club Nautico. His crew is knowledgeable and informative, and the Sea Born is plush and comfortable. Fishing tours for parties of up to six cost $700 for a half-day excursion, $1,150 for a full day, with bottled water soft drinks, bait, crew and all equipment included. (See “Scuba Diving,” below, for another deep-sea fishing option.) Another veteran outfit is Castillo Fishing Charters (tel. 787/726-5752), which has been running charters out of the San Juan Bay Marina since 1975. Capt. Joe Castillo runs the company with his son José Iván and daughter Vanessa, and they all know their stuff. The Legend, a 48-foot Hatteras, is also an excellent vessel built for fishing and comfort. Rates are $749 for a half-day (8am–noon or 1–5pm) and $1,177 for a full day (8am–4pm) and include everything, plus soft drinks and water. Cpt. Omar Orraca at Caribbean Outfitters (tel. 787/396-8346), which operates out of the Cangrejos Marina, will take you deep sea fishing on a 35-foot Bertram, but also offers backcountry tarp fishing, and fly and bone fishing trips.

Golf -- The city of San Juan has opened the San Juan Golf Academy and Driving Range (Marginal Av. Kennedy, entrance to San Juan Obras Publicas department; tel. 787/771-8962 or 480-4580; $5 for 50 balls, $10 for 100 balls, clubs are also available; Tues–Sat 7am–9pm, Sun and holidays 11am–6pm). Besides the driving range, there are putting greens and chipping ranges and lessons are given.

In the San Juan suburb of Bayamón is the 9-hole Río Bayamón Golf Course (tel. 787/740-1419), a municipal course. Greens fees are $25 and include a cart, and rentals range from $15 for a simple set to $35 for a professional set. Lessons are also given.

The Berwind Country Club (tel. 787/876-5380) in Loiza is the nearest full-size course to the city. Built on a former coconut plantation, it’s a beautiful place, with ocean views, towering palms, and frenzied tropical foliage, but it has not been well maintained and is not resort-level state, which is a shame given its water hazards and three of the toughest holes to finish on the island. Green fees, including a cart, are under $50 throughout the week. A resort project planned for adjacent to the course is stalled by financial problems. Call ahead; operating hours have become sporadic during weekdays.

The island’s best golf courses are within a short drive of San Juan, including those clustered around Dorado to the west and Río Grande to the east.

Horse Racing -- Great thoroughbreds and outstanding jockeys compete year-round at Camarero Racetrack, Calle 65 de Infantería, Rte. 3, Km 15.3, at Canovanas (tel. 787/641-6060), Puerto Rico’s only racetrack, a 20-minute drive east of the center of San Juan. Races begin at 2:45pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. There are from seven to nine races daily, and bets include Win, Place, the “Exacta,” Daily Double, Trifecta, Superfecta, Pick Six, and Pick Three. The clubhouse has a fine-dining restaurant, the Terrace Room, which serves good steaks, seafood, and local cooking. The grandstand has free admission.

Running -- The cool, quiet, morning hours before 8am are a good time to jog through the streets of Old San Juan. Head for the wide thoroughfares adjacent to El Morro and then San Cristóbal, whose walls jut upward from the flat ground. The seafront Paseo de la Princesa, at the base of the governor’s mansion La Fortaleza, is another fine site. San Juan Central Park (Calle Cerra; exit from Av. Muñoz Rivera or Rte. 2; tel. 787/722-1646) has an excellent professional track in an outdoor track-and-field stadium with bleachers. There is a similar setup at Parque Barbosa right off the beach in Ocean Park. Condado’s Avenida Ashford and the hard-packed sands of Isla Verde are busy sites for morning runners as well. The renovated Dos Hermanos Bridge connecting Condado to Puerta de Tierra has plenty of room for joggers and cyclists, and you can make a big loop around the Condado Lagoon or to Escambron Beach and the adjacent Luis Munoz Rivera Park.

Scuba Diving -- In San Juan, the best outfitter is Caribe Aquatic Adventures, Calle 19 1062, Villa Nevarez (tel. 787/281-8858; www.diveguide.com/p2046.htm). Its dive shop is open daily from 9am to 9pm. This outfitter will take you to the best local dive sites in the Greater San Juan area. A local dive in Puerta de Tierra costs $60. Other dives cost $125 per person, and a resort course for first-time divers costs $145, half-day lesson $95. Escorted dive jaunts to the eastern shore are also offered. Snorkeling lessons or tours lasting 1 hour and including basic equipment go for $55, and a two-tank dive costs $145.

Another good outfitter is Ocean Sports. Its main office is Av. Isla Verde 3086 (tel. 787/268-2329), Ocean Sports Facebook page, and it also has other offices. It offers diving courses and scuba diving and snorkeling trips in San Juan, off the east coast, even out to Mona Island. A two-tank dive off the east coast will run from $95 to $150. There are kayak and snorkeling trips around San Juan.

Snorkeling -- Snorkeling is better in the outlying portions of the island than in overcrowded San Juan. But if you don’t have time to explore greater Puerto Rico, you’ll find that most of the popular beaches, such as Luquillo and Isla Verde, have pretty good visibility and kiosks that rent equipment. Snorkeling equipment generally rents for $15. If you’re on your own in the San Juan area, one of the best places is the San Juan Bay marina near the Caribe Hilton.

Watersports desks at the big San Juan hotels at Isla Verde and Condado can generally make arrangements for instruction and equipment rental, and can also lead you to the best places for snorkeling, depending on where you are in the sprawling metropolis. If your hotel doesn’t offer such services, you can contact Caribe Aquatic Adventures (see “Scuba Diving,” above), which caters to snorkelers and scuba divers alike.

Still, even if you are staying in San Juan and want to go snorkeling, you are better off taking a day trip to Fajardo, where you’ll get a real Caribbean snorkeling experience, with tranquil, clear water, and stunning reefs teaming with tropical fish. Several operators offer day trips (daily 10am–3:30pm) leaving from Fajardo marinas (most likely Villa Marina or Puerto del Rey), but transportation to and from your San Juan hotel can also be arranged. Prices start at around $69 per person, or $99 including transportation to and from San Juan. Even if you don’t particularly want to snorkel, the trips are still worth it for a day of fun in the sun. The trips usually take place on large luxury catamarans, holding about 20 passengers or more. Most have a cash bar serving drinks and refreshments, a sound system, and other creature comforts. Typically, after a nice sail, the cat will weigh anchor at different snorkeling spots and then in sheltered waters near one of the scores of small islands lying off Fajardo’s coast, the perfect spot for a swim or sunbathing. Most trips include lunch, which usually is served on a beach. The boats know the best reefs and hot spots for bigger fish, and will plan the trip according to weather conditions and other variables. A huge reef extending east to Culebra protects the ocean off Fajardo’s coast, which makes for calm seas with great visibility.

Inquire at your hotel desk about operators providing service there. There are many reputable companies. My friends and I have all been satisfied with the Traveler (tel. 787/863-2821), East Island Excursions (tel. 787/860-3434), Catamaran Spread Eagle II (tel. 787/887-8821). Erin Go Bragh Charters (tel. 787/860-4401) offers similar day trips aboard a 50-foot sailing ketch, which is an equally pleasurable experience.

Surfing & Paddleboarding -- Velauno, Calle Loíza 2430, Punta Las Marías in San Juan (tel. 787/728-8716; www.velauno.com), has paddleboard rentals and gives tours and lessons. Prices are $100 for the first person's first hour, and $50 for each additional hour, while additional persons pay $50 the first hour and $25 each additional hour.

Former pro surfer William Sue-A-Quan and a few associates give lessons through his Walking on Water Surfing School (tel. 787/955-6059; www.gosurfpr.com), working right on the beach at Pine Grove and also offering lessons through the Ritz-Carlton. He’s a great teacher, and takes on students as young as 5 and as old as 75. Another pro, Carlos Cabrero, teams up with personal trainer, Victor Tort, to teach beginners and to train practitioners to become experts. The Puerto Rico Institute of Surf Kinesiology (tel. 787/728-3377 or 222-4555; prisksurf@gmail.com) out of his Tres Palmas surf shop in Ocean Park. The lessons take place off “the point” in Condado behind Ashford Hospital. It's the best shop in town if you are actually interested in surfing equipment or other equipment like boogie boards and skateboards. There's no skimping on the fashion either. They operate an excellent summer surf camp, which kids can attend for weeklong stints.

Tennis -- Most of the big resorts have their own tennis courts for their guests. There are 20 public courts, lit at night, at San Juan Central Park, at Calle Cerra (Exit F on Rte. 2; tel. 787/722-1646), open daily. Fees are $4 per hour, 6am to 10pm. There are also four racquetball courts here. The Barbosa Tennis Club (tel. 787/722-1646) gives lessons at Parque Barbosa, at the Ultimo Trolley beach in Ocean Park, where eight courts are located. Court fees are $6 per hour per player. The Isla Verde Tennis Club (tel. 787/727-6490) is open all week, weekdays from 8am to 10pm, Saturdays from 8am to 7pm, and Sundays from 8am to 6pm. Courts cost from $20 to $25 hour, and semi-private lessons at $75 per hour.

Kiteboarding & Sailing -- Kiteboarding has long supplanted windsurfing along the San Juan coastline from Isla Verde through Ocean Park. Kiteboarding advice and lessons are available at Velauno, Calle Loíza 2430, Punta Las Marías in San Juan (tel. 787/728-8716; www.velauno.com). Their instructors will also rent equipment, with prices starting at about $75 daily. A 2-hour beginner's lesson costs $150. Also try 15 Knots Kiteboarding School, Av. Isla Verde 4851, Isla Verde (tel. 787/362-7228). It rents equipment and has lessons for all abilities; beginners can take a tandem kiteboard ride with an instructor.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.