A magazine article read “A Road Trip Down Puerto Rico’s La Ruta Panoramica” with a subhead promising a rugged 167 mile “scenic route” that leads to waterfalls, coffee plantations and a wild side of the island you won’t forget. The images were of adult tree houses set in the jungle, horses on the side of the road, green landscapes and delicious coffee. I said to myself “This looks fun! I want to do this one day!” So I cut out the photos and saved them deep within my dresser drawer.
“Waterfalls, coffee plantations and a wild side of the island you won’t forget”
That was five years ago. Fast forward to today and I’m looking for a trip with two requirements. 1) It had to have some kind of fitness aspect because moving my body always puts me in a good mood and yet it would be a challenge. 2) Go solo. I wanted to prove to myself that I could! I wanted something that would boost my self esteem, build confidence and I could say “hey I did that all by my awesome self!” I wanted to step outside my crippling comfort zone.
I casually searched online for a few months and nothing really caught my attention till one day an image showed up along side the words “Utuado, Puerto Rico Yoga Retreat.” It was THE porched-in tree house hotel with heavenly hammocks and jungle covered mountain tops that looked so very similar to a certain article I cut out years before! Now who says dream boards don’t work?!
I’m defiantly not a yogi by any means so this seemed a bit of a stretch (no pun intended)! But this retreat was unresistible. Perfect price, perfect timing and in a perfect location. The universe set this one up just for me. I took it as a sign and BOOKED!
A van full of ladies left the San Juan airport for a 2 hour drive into the mountains, around whining bamboo lined roads and right into the Casa Grande Mountain Retreat driveway. We were paired off into our rooms and met back up for dinner and a late night yoga nidra. By that point I was so tired. We were given journals and told to write one word describing what we wanted out of the trip. Mine was peace. I laid there on my back, palms up breathing long thought out breathes. The instructor guided us through a meditation, the coqui (frogs) sang outside the open doors and I drifted in and out of sleep. Perfecto. This was my peace.
“We were given journals and told to write one word
describing what we wanted out of the trip. Mine was peace.”
Each of the five days of the trip were themed with Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The activities and yoga/mediation sessions matched the themes. I’ll go into more detail for the best day – Earth.
Day 2, Earth:
First full day! The morning’s yoga was a grounded flow. We pictured ourselves as being part of the earth. A tree rooted deep, strong and yet with flowing branches. Going along with the Earth theme, that afternoon we had the choice to do a 3 hour hike in the jungle or a 1 hour hike nearby. I was determined to stick to my guns and keep the trip relaxing. I kinda wanted to do nothing! But inside, I love adventure. When one is available its so hard for me to avoid it. I went back and forth in my head wether to do it or not but it was the enthusiasm of the ladies that chose to do it that actually sold me! I said “where do I sign?” (because apparently there was a liability form?!)
Jose, the hotel’s vegetarian chef, was leading the hike and he packed all 6 of us into his tiny car and we headed to the “drop zone”. Right when we got out we saw two horses grazing in the jungle. Why look at that! Again, just like the magazine article. Five minutes into the hike we were immediately told, “Watch out for the fire ants. Oh and please crawl under this barbed wire. Oh oh and in this part of the hike we need to walk really fast because coconuts will fall on our heads.” I was starting to understand the whole signing of a liability form concept.
“I was starting to understand the whole signing of a liability form concept.”
A few minutes down the trail we were stopped by a flowing river and the tour guide just jumps in. “Come on in ladies!” What?? We are just jumping into a waste high jungle river? Sounds like a bad time. Welp, glad I put my iPhone in a waterproof case because here we go!
All five ladies carefully placed our feet on slippery rocks and around deep holes under the water. We were told about poisonous plants and of course, I got stung by one immediately after he warned us and it burned like a mother.
Jose then said “get ready to climb a 10 foot wall.” I replied “Hah!…..wait are you serious? Are you ever sarcastic? Because I can’t tell.” Jose does NOT joke. He went up that 10 foot wall like it was nothing and was immediatly met by a snake at the top. My snake fear came true. It later came true for Genevieve too as it surprised her by attempting to climb up her leg.
“That’s when Jose grabbed a fish with his bare hands.
What he didn’t know was that it was peeing all over Genevieve!”
At the end of the trail the trees opened up to a tall waterfall! Before any of us could ask if we could swim in it, Lee had already jumped in and was under the cascading water. That was a cold swim! After drying off a bit and heading back, we realized that going down was a bit more dangerous and one by one each of us slid or about fell on our backs. We decided to take the easier grassy route above for a bit then circle back to the river at the end. That’s when Jose grabbed a fish with his bare hands. What he didn’t know was that it was peeing all over Genevieve (the animals really do love her)! The fish’s skin was made of a hard black armor. I’ve never seen anything like that before…or a fish pee stream for that matter! (see video below)
The hike ended with some fresh coconut and a trip to a local bar. We chilled and looked at the views over the river, watched Lee and Michelle salsa dance, listened to a local play Spanish songs on his guitar, sipped on free drinks and got to know Jose better. We learned about his family, his dogs and that he takes his two girls hiking and camping in the jungles. He also talked about how hard it is to make money in Puerto Rico if you don’t own enough land to grow produce to sell. He pretty much has 3-4 jobs to make ends meet.
I’m so glad I listened to my heart on this one and went on the hike. It was my best memory and bonding experience of the trip. Those things always are.
Read part 2 of my Puerto Rico Yoga Retreat here!