East Places for Nature and Adventure Places to Eat

Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park: fun for the whole family in a pristine tropical reserve

Before even going to Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park or Hacienda Carabalí you have to ask yourself (and the people you’re going with) a question- What’s your idea of a fun adventure? As you ponder this deep existential question we want to make clear that any answer you come up with will definitely not rule Carabalí … Continue reading Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park: fun for the whole family in a pristine tropical reserve

Before even going to Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park or Hacienda Carabalí you have to ask yourself (and the people you’re going with) a question- What’s your idea of a fun adventure? As you ponder this deep existential question we want to make clear that any answer you come up with will definitely not rule Carabalí out of your plans. Your answer, however, will help you decide what you want to experience first at this unique adventure park.   

History and Setting of the Hacienda

First, in order to give you a bit more time to think of your answer, we’re going to tell you about what makes this place so special. Carabalí is right at the base of El Yunque Rainforest, the only rainforest in the US National Park system. It’s actually the oldest natural reserve on the Island. The King of Spain declared it a protected zone back in the 1800’s. He did it more to protect the valuable timber from overexploitation so he wasn’t as much of a naturalist as you might think. The name El Yunque is thought to come from the Taíno Indian word “yuke” meaning “white land” a reference to the year round clouds that surround the peak. El Yunque and the surrounding forest where the adventure park is located held great religious significance for the Taínos. There are many petroglyphs found in El Yunque but up to now no settlements or evidence of settlements have been discovered. This leads experts to believe that the mountain was visited but not inhabited. 

Carabalí is located in the town of Luquillo which also has a link to the original inhabitants. In the 1500’s the Spaniards referred to this area by the name of “loquillo” which means “the crazy one”. Since gold was discovered in the rivers of the area the Europeans were trying to establish a presence to mine the mineral. They were, however, constantly attacked by “loquillo”, a local Taíno chief. The forest surrounding Carabalí was his main hideout and a place the Spaniards never ventured. So as you venture into the forest watch out for “loquillo” or his ghost (just kidding, there haven’t been any reports of a sighting…yet).

Mameyes River- a refreshing adventure

One of the features that made this area so valuable to the Taínos and the Spaniards is the Mameyes river that cuts through the adventure park. Its source is high in the Yunque mountains and throughout the watershed there’s no development so the water is probably among the cleanest in Puerto Rico. This is the river you will see as you venture into Carabalí’s forest trails. When you stop to see the river, make sure you look at the opposite bank and the vegetation that rises up along the mountain. That would be one of the sides of the El Yunque mountain. The forest you see there is probably the only virgin forest left on the Island. Most of Puerto Rico was deforested in the 1800’s in order to make charcoal for cooking and other industrial and monocrop farming. The difficulty of the steep grades of the mountain and the royal decree kept the forest untouched.

Ready to choose?

Have you made your decision yet? If not, we’ll give you a hand. Would a fun time for you involve stopping on a mountain trail for a few minutes because you just spotted a wild orchid amongst the trees? Or would your idea of having a blast be more like feeling the wind rush past as you speed down a small mountain path? These are important considerations to keep in mind as you determine your perfect Carabalí adventure. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions

You can think of Carabalí adventure park as the swiss army knife of adventure parks, with many options to select from. Your decision all depends on what gives you thrills, it’s as simple as that. 

The first impression you get when you arrive at Carabalí is the size of the operation. It’s not small by any standards. It’s a fully working horse ranch with more than 150 stables and also almost 100 all terrain vehicles, both 4 person UTV’s and 2 person ATV’s. There’s a restaurant, a souvenir store, a go-kart track, an outdoor covered bar and a treetop terrace all designed in a rustic “hacienda” style. 

Carabalí started as a cattle farm in the late 70’s. Horse stables were added and rented out and soon beach side horse tours were offered. Later on, all terrain vehicles joined the offerings and future plans might include zip lines and ropes courses. There’s over 600 acres of farmland surrounding the main buildings, there’s also small ponds that host ducks and a river.  

There are many trails that crisscross the land. Some are dedicated to the horse tours and others are for the all-terrain vehicles. Each one has their own particular charm. The horse trail isn’t as wide and goes deeper into the forest while the longer all-terrain trail is wider and has longer straightaways for thrill seekers. The two trails only meet at one point halfway through next to the river. Here there’s a small bar where you can savor a piña colada served in a cold coconut and grab some snacks. 

One important part of any Carabalí experience will be your guides. They will not only lead the way but will also give you some fascinating details about the area and Puerto Rico, make sure you’re having fun and take some amazing pictures for you to share. 

 

There is an adventure for everyone

By now you probably have made your decision. If speed and power turn you on, you have two choices: speed and more speed time. At Carabalí you can choose between one and two hour ATV and UTV tours. With the longer tour you get to explore more of the area, splash through small streams and stop at a mountain promontory and take in a view of the valley below. There’s also a 30 minute stop at the river where you can go swimming (bring your suit under your clothes) in the crisp, clean flowing waters of the Mameyes river. At this stop you can almost feel the presence of the Taíno Indians and imagine them enjoying the river just as you do. The one hour tour includes a shorter stop at the river. 

Four track adventures

For the motorized tours you can choose between a 4-person utility vehicle or a two-person ATV. The larger UTV’s are great for families or groups. Couples enjoy the two person ATV’s. You must be at least 16, and show a valid driver’s license to operate the vehicles. All vehicles must include someone 18 years or older. Other details are that you must wear long pants, a shirt (bathing suits have to be underneath clothes), closed-toe shoes and they recommend sunglasses since the trails can be dusty in the dry season. You will be given a 10-minute safety and operating orientation with the group you will be heading out with. 

Horseback riding at Carabali RainForest Adventure Park
Happy trails to all!

Horseback experience

If you’re more into the zen of observation and contemplation, want to take it easy and listen to the forest and not an engine or even if you have small children, a Carabalí horseback tour is the perfect choice. Best of all there are three different tours to choose from. If you love the forest you should opt for the one or two hour rainforest tour. Here you’ll work your way through green tunnels and enjoy a nice leisurely ride to the Mameyes river. All the 85 horses are trained and you will be paired according to your ability. As with all tours, guides will give you an orientation, accompany you and point out different features of the area.

Turf and Surf

For those into a more turf and surf experience Carabalí also offers a two and a half hour rainforest and beach horseback tour. Here you’ll get to experience how the scenery changes on your journey from the base of the rainforest to the coast. You also get to ride along the beach and if the conditions are right you cross the Mameyes river as it exits to the sea. There’s even a beachside cocktail opportunity built into the tour. 

For all horseback tours there’s a weight limit of 235 pounds, the minimum age is 8 years old and closed toe shoes, long or short pants, shirt are required. Bathing suits must be worn underneath clothes. Sunglasses are recommended.


Debrief after your adventure

Men and women do not live by adventure alone so luckily at the end, or even the beginning of your tour you can sample the delicious offerings at the Carabalí Bar and Grill. Here besides frosty beers you can check out great steaks, local criollo delicacies, lobster and fish. Mofongos or a smashed, stuffed plantain concoction are popular with the locals and the visitors. 

For the kids and adult kids, there’s a go-kart track so you can challenge your friends to a race around the track. For the even smaller kids and people who just want a lower key experience Carabalí also offers hay rides. These are great for large families. 

Overall Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park is a great, well run operation that knows how to treat their guests to a very memorable time. You only have to see the smiles on people’s faces at the end of their experience to understand. 

For more information about Carabalí’s tours and facilities visit carabalirainforestpark.com or call 787-889-4954.

 

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