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Trip Spotlight: The Puerto Rican Mountains

a group of clouds in the sky over a body of water

When you think ‘island’, your mind might first go to white sand beaches and pristine coral coves. And don’t get us wrong—Puerto Rico has plenty of that too.

But head inland, and you’ll find the Cordillera Central, the grand mountain range that extends across all of central Puerto Rico.

Eco-tourists and adventure travelers will quickly get swept away in the magic of the Puerto Rico mountains. Trade in beach days and snorkel trips for zip lines and cave tours, waterfall hikes and coffee tastings, swimming holes and rustic meals.

Swim beneath a waterfall, soar over the trees on one of the world’s longest zip lines or sip local coffee with views that extend for miles. It’s all an average day in the epic central mountain region.

Must-Visit Mountain Towns In Puerto Rico

Running from east to west, the Puerto Rico mountains split the island in two, separating the north and south and creating a unique landscape of its own.

The rich soil, abundance of freshwater and subtropical climate make the perfect setting for coffee farms and fruit trees. So, they dot the hillsides, sprouting small towns and farming communities in their paths.

Like Adjuntas, home to some of the region’s most beloved coffee farms and swimming holes. Here, you can find Hacienda Buena Vista, a coffee plantation turned museum or Sandra Farms, which offers a homey, family-owned take on coffee and chocolate production.

Or Jayuya, where you can hike through the cloud forest or visit Cerro de Punta, the highest peak in the Cordillera Central mountain range. Said to have the “best views in all of Puerto Rico,” this is the spot to go if you’re looking for a rewarding hike.

Of course, the ultimate can’t-miss mountain town is Orocovis. Nestled in the very center of the mountainous region, it’s home to Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park. Adrenaline junkies take note—Toro Verde’s claim to fame is “The Monster,” a 2.5 kilometer zip line that will have you screaming above the forest canopy.

There’s also excellent camping near Orocovis, and a wide range of tasty, rustic restaurants offering authentic local delicacies. Here, the dish to try is longaniza, a spicy sausage that pairs perfectly with mofongo and tostones.

Things To Do In The Puerto Rican Mountains

The pace of life might be slow, but the island’s mountain activities are anything but that. Adventure is the name of the game here, with endless hiking and canyoning, caves and waterfalls to explore.

One of the can’t-miss sights while in the mountains of Puerto Rico is Cueva Ventana. The island’s most picturesque cave, a gaping limestone grotto acts as the perfect frame to a view of the Rio Grande de Arecibo below.

Tours of the cave will guide you to the site along a scenic hike, where you’ll learn about local Taíno culture, flora and fauna.

For an unforgettable adventure packed with all the best the mountains have to offer, opt for a full day tour where you bounce from zip lining to rock climbing to waterfall rappelling.

Just 45 minutes from San Juan, you’ll enter a true mountain oasis. Start the day with an exhilarating climb to the top of the El Salto waterfall, then rappel down the 80-foot face into the canyon below.

Zip line over the forest canopy and winding river, then cool off in the river’s clear, cool swimming holes. Afterwards, refuel with a home cooked meal served and enjoyed in a lush setting.

What To Eat & Drink

The unique climate of the Cordillera Central creates the perfect environment for crops such as coffee, sweet potatoes, bananas and sugarcane. The fact that you can grow almost anything on the fertile hillsides has long defined the region.

Here, Puerto Rico’s legendary coffee beans thrive. You’ll find dozens of scenic farms offering coffee tours and tastings all throughout the mountains. Be sure to stop at one for a rich, freshly brewed cup of real Puerto Rican coffee.

Or, sample an island favorite—rum. Made from sugarcane, rum is a natural addition to the island’s list of local products. Visit La Destileria in the forest of Jayuya for a tasting of their finest traditionally produced rum or pitorro, otherwise known as Caribbean moonshine.

When hungry for lunch, you’ll find countless roadside restaurants serving local foods. From Puerto Rican classics to mountain specialties like deep-fried fritters and slow cooked meats, it’s almost worth the drive for a good meal alone.

Yet still, you can’t leave the central mountains without first visiting Guavate, Puerto Rico’s famous (and ridiculously delicious) “pork highway.” Along Route 184, the island’s beloved lechoneras line the roadside, serving succulent, slow-roasted whole pork.

Dive into a plate of lechón asado with its tender meat and crispy skin for a true taste of mountain living.

Getting Around The Puerto Rico Mountains

a path with trees on the side of a mountain

Image by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr

While only 1-2 hours from the island’s coast, the secluded mountain cities of Puerto Rico can feel worlds away. Roads here range from packed dirt to slow and rocky to steep, one-lane passes.

A 4WD vehicle handles the journey the best, and you’ll want to check the conditions before heading up in stormy weather. Alternatively, opt for a tour with transportation included. They’ll take care of the details while you enjoy the scenic ride.

In terms of what to bring, plan for any kind of weather! Sunscreen and sun protection fare well, as do light layers and rain jackets. Pack a swimsuit for river adventures and close-toed shoes for all the epic adventures that await.

You’ll also want to bring cash for the dozens of roadside food stands that you simply can’t pass up.

One of the most unique mountain ranges in the United States, the Cordillera Central is like a whole other world waiting to be explored! It’s truly not to be missed during your Puerto Rican vacation.