Puerto Rico's Nature Reserves and Protected Areas
Puerto Rico is a beautiful island situated at the heart of the Caribbean. Surrounded by crystal clear, beautifully blue waters, this sizable island is home to a variety of natural habitats – from coastal forest to rock estuaries. Inland you will find farms and denser forest while along the coast you will find mangrove swamps, coral reefs and other watery areas. There are rocky coves complete with pirate stories and small remote islands with protected bird populations. In fact, Puerto Rico has just about every natural habitat you can expect to find on a tropical island.
When making your travel plans you should consider visiting at least a few of these excellent nature reserves in Puerto Rico:
This nature reserve has a special treat on offer. Here is one of the three locations around the island where you will find biobays – water areas filled with bioluminescent plankton that light up the waters on dark nights providing a dazzling array of sparkling natural light.
Located on Route 304 east of La Parguera
Aguirre Forest Reserve
With a network of boardwalks allowing visitors to remain dry while exploring, it is easy to find your way around this reserve which features mangroves, lakes, tidal flats and bird rookeries. It is also home to a sizeable population of manatees that keep visitors entertained with their comical antics.
Located on Route 7710 south of Route 3 in Salinas
Tortuguero Lagoon Reserve
The purpose of this reserve is to protect the beautiful fresh water lagoon, the largest natural body of fresh water in Puerto Rico. This unique lagoon, which is fed by fresh water springs before flowing into the sea, is not only an essential water source, but is used as a place to relax and enjoy activities such as fishing and kayaking and is surrounded by an abundance of superb flora and fauna.
Located on Route 687
Toro Negro Forestry Reserve
The numerous hiking trails of this reserve make it a popular place for serious hiking or a casual stroll. Puerto Rico’s highest peak is located in the Toro Negro Forestry Reserve and it is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including more than twenty species of frogs.
Located on Route 143 about 31 kilometers out of Jayuya
Telephone: (787) 722-1726
Rio Abajo Forest Reserve
With its fascinating limestone caves, network of underground rivers, lush forests and abundance of wildlife, this reserve has much to offer visitors. Around seventy walking trails make it easy for visitors to visit even the most remote areas of the reserve, where they will be rewarded with seeing plenty of animals and plants including giant bamboo plants.
Located on Route 621 at 4.4 kilometers from Utuado
Punta Guaniquilla Reserve
Bird lovers in particular will enjoy a visit to this reserve, which contains a variety of vegetation, including beech thickets, scrublands, woodlands, forest, marsh and pastures, providing habitats for a fascinating array of bird life. There are comprehensive hiking trails through the reserve as well as a cave system with unusual limestone formations.
Located in Cabo Rojo
Punta Ballena Reserve
The exceptional coastal ecosystem of this UNESCO designated biosphere reserve consists primarily of mangroves which are essential in protecting the inland areas from the ocean during storms. Bird life is abundant and a number of manatees are resident in the reserve, along with a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Located in Guanica
Maricao Forest Reserve
Due to the varied soil types and tree species found in this reserve, it is renowned for its diversity in flora, including over ninety different orchid species. As one of Puerto Rico’s few forest nature reserves, it offers visitors a breath-taking view of the surroundings from its observation tower and from this vantage point many birds can be identified in the forest area and soaring through the skies.
Located on Road 120 in Maricao
La Cordillera Nature Reserve
This reserve includes around ten islands that can easily be reached by boat. Each island has its own unique features, including clean sandy beaches, clear blue waters and an abundance of wildlife such as the turtles that return to lay their eggs each year. The stunning coral reefs are home to a multitude of marine animals, while on land visitors will come across a variety of birds, reptiles and plants.
Reached by boat from Las Croabas
Jobos Bay Reserve
This National Estuarine Research Reserve includes mangroves and wetlands of ecological significance and serves as a haven for rare and endangered wildlife. It is also supports a thriving eco-tourism trade, where visitors can see a variety of land, marine and bird life. The educational center provides interesting information on the reserve’s activities and inhabitants.
Located in western Jobos Bay
Ines Maria Mendoza Reserve
Named after a dedicated conservationist, this reserve is a safe haven for a multitude of Puerto Rico’s rare and endangered creatures. All who are interested in conservation will benefit from a visit to this reserve where they will witness the results of successful conservation measures.
Located in Barrio Camino Nuevo
Boqueron Forest Bird Refuge
Rare migratory birds use this vitally important bird refuge for nesting and birding enthusiasts are likely to see more than sixty different local and rare bird species when they visit. This superb family outing reserve includes boarded walking trails, hiking and biking trails and facilities for kayaking.
Located 8.8 kilometers out of Cabo Rojo
Guajataca Forest Reserve
This popular hiking reserve in the unique Karst region of Puerto Rico consists primarily of limestone and volcanic deposits that were laid down by volcanic eruptions countless years ago. There are so many limestone caves in the reserve, that many have not even been explored yet. Caves that have been explored reveal how plants and fish have adapted to their dark surroundings.
Located in the Karst region
Humacao Natural Reserve
Known for its diverse collection of around 90 bird species, this reserve takes care to preserve the diverse vegetation of forests, beaches, lagoons and coconut plantations that supports its abundant bird life. The lagoon in the reserve is home to plentiful fish, especially snook and tarpon.
Situated on Route 3 approximately 74 kilometers from Rio Abajo
Piñones Reserve is probably best known for its mountain biking opportunities, as well as the turtles that come to this section of Puerto Rico.
Located across the bridge over Boca de Cangrejos, on Route 187.
Cambalache Forest Reserve
This reserve is ideal for camping enthusiasts, as well as those who enjoy hiking and mountain biking. Forested hills provide the perfect home for an abundance of animal life.
Situated to the east of Arecibo near Carr. 682.
These are just some of the many reserves found in Puerto Rico, others include the Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, La Selva Nature Reserve, Susua Forest Reserve and Vega Reserve. Most reserves and camping areas require a permit which can be obtained in San Juan from the Department of National Resources of the Government of Puerto Rico, which works in conjunction with other conservation groups. The telephone number is (787) 724-3647 or (787) 724-3724 or you can reach them at fax number (787) 721-5984.
Some of the nature reserves in Puerto Rico have a variety of activities available to give your trip a little extra edge. You may want to try kayaking through the mangrove swamps, horse riding through the forests or on the beach, mountain biking along jungle trails or scuba diving and snorkeling near the coral reefs. There is so much on offer here that you simply have to visit to discover Puerto Rico’s natural treasures for yourself. So the next time you plan a trip to this island paradise, make sure that you include several of Puerto Rico’s nature reserves on your travel itinerary.