Sports and the Outdoors in San Juan
Sports and the Outdoors
Many of San Juan's most enjoyable outdoor activities take place in and around the water. With miles of beach stretching across Isla Verde, Ocean Park, and Condado, there's a full range of water sports, including sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kiteboarding, Jet Skiing, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.
Land-based activities include biking, tennis, and walking or jogging at local parks. With a bit of effort—meaning a short drive out of the city—you'll discover a world of championship golf courses and rain-forest trails perfect for hiking. Baseball is big in Puerto Rico, and the players are world-class; many are recruited from local teams to play in the U.S. major leagues. The season runs from October through February. Games are played in venues around the island.
Dorado Beach Resort Golf. If you want Caribbean luxury and great golf with four flavors, go no further than the Dorado Beach Resort, an iconic name for golf with a storied tradition in Puerto Rico with four 18-hole regulation courses. The famous East and the West Courses (closed for renovations at this writing) were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and are located in a secluded seaside sanctuary along two miles of northeasterly shore within the former Rockefeller estate. Two “Plantation Courses” the Sugarcane (more challenging) and the Pineapple (easier) complete the 72-hole offering. 5000 Plantation Dr., Dorado, 00646. 787/262–1010. www.doradobeach clubs.com. East/West Courses, $255; Plantation Courses, $154. East Course: 18 holes, 7000 yards, par 72; West Course: 18 holes, 6975 yards, par 72; Sugarcane: 18 holes, 7119 yards, par 72; Pineapple: 18 holes 7030 yards, par 72.
Does the name Roberto Clemente ring a bell? The late, great star of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who died in a 1972 plane crash delivering supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims, was born near San Juan and got his start in the Puerto Rican pro leagues. Many other Puerto Rican stars have played in the U.S. major leagues, including the brothers Roberto Alomar and Sandy Alomar Jr.; and their father, Sandy Alomar. Three players have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Clemente, Roberto Alomar, and Orlando Cepeda.
Most streets don't have bike lanes, and auto traffic makes bike travel somewhat risky; further, all the fumes can be hard to take. That said, recreational bikers are increasingly donning their safety gear and wheeling through the streets, albeit with great care.
Your best bet is to look into a bike tour offered by an outfitter. One popular 45-minute trip travels from Old San Juan's cobblestone streets to Condado. It passes El Capitolio and runs through either Parque del Tercer Milenio (oceanside) or Parque Luis Muñoz Rivera, taking you past the Caribe Hilton Hotel and over Puente Dos Hermanos (Dos Hermanos Bridge) onto Avenida Ashford. The truly ambitious can continue east to Ocean Park, Isla Verde, and right on out of town to the eastern community of Piñones and its beachside bike path.
Rent the Bicycle. For about $27 a day, this friendly operation offers bicycle rental with free delivery to all major San Juan hotels. They also offer guided tours of Old San Juan and greater San Juan beaches and parks. The bilingual guides are authorized by the National Park Service to give tours of the forts. Capitolio Plaza #100 del Muelle, Suite 205, Old San Juan, San Juan, 00902. 787/661–2728. www.rentthebicycle.net.
Diving and Snorkeling
The waters off San Juan aren't the best places to scuba dive, but several outfitters conduct short excursions to where tropical fish, coral, and sea horses are visible at depths of 30 to 60 feet. Escorted half-day dives start around $70 for one or two tanks, including all equipment; in general, double those prices for night dives. Packages that include lunch and other extras start at $100; those that include accommodations are also available.
Snorkeling excursions, which include transportation, equipment rental, and sometimes lunch, start at $55–$60. Equipment rents at beaches for about $10. Avoid unsupervised areas, as rough waters and strong undertows make some places dangerous.
Ocean Sports. Ocean Sports offers certified scuba courses; snorkeling excursions; specialty courses in nitrox diving; diving trips; airtank fill-ups; and equipment repairs, sales, and rentals. 3086 Av. Isla Verde, Isla Verde, San Juan, 00979. 787/723–8513. www.osdivers.com.
Puerto Rico's waters are home to large game fish such as snook, wahoo, dorado, tuna, and barracuda; as many as 30 world records for catches have been set off the island's shores. Prices for fishing expeditions vary, but they tend to include all your bait and tackle, as well as refreshments, and start at $600 (for a boat with as many as six people) for a half-day trip to around $1,000 for a full day, or around $200 per person for a full day on a split charter.
Puerto Rico is the birthplace of golf legend and raconteur Chi Chi Rodriguez—and he had to hone his craft somewhere. The island has more than a dozen courses, including some of championship caliber. Several make good day trips from San Juan. Be sure to call ahead for details on reserving tee times; hours vary, and several hotel courses allow only guests to play or give preference to them. Greens fees start at $25 and go as high as $190.
Three golf clubs are within fairly easy striking distance of San Juan. The four 18-hole golf courses at the Hyatt Hacienda del Mar are just west of San Juan.
There are more options to the east of the city. Palmas del Mar Country Club has two good golf courses. The spectacular Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa has a clubhouse with a pro shop and two restaurants set between two 18-hole courses.
El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest within the U.S. National Forest System. The park is officially known as the Bosque Nacional del Caribe (Caribbean National Forest) and is a great day trip from San Juan, about an hour's drive east.
Velauno Paddleboarding. Across the street from the Condado Plaza Hilton on the Condado Lagoon, Velauno offers stand up paddleboard tours and rentals. One-hour paddleboard rentals are $20, single kayaks $20 and doubles $25. All rentals include a free lesson. 860-898 Av. Ashford, Condado Lagoon, Condado, San Juan, 00907. 787/470-9099. www.velauno.com.
Hípodromo Camarero. Try your luck with the exactas and quinielas at Hípodromo Camarero, a large thoroughbred racetrack about 20 minutes east of San Juan. On race days the dining rooms open at 12:30 pm. Post time is at 2:30 pm every day except Tuesday and Thursday. There's an air-conditioned clubhouse and restaurant, as well as a bar where people occasionally dance to live rumba music. Parking and admission to the grandstand and clubhouse are free. Rte. 3, Km 15.3, Canóvanas, 00729. 787/641–6060. www.hipodromo-camarero.com.
The Laguna del Condado is popular for kayaking, especially on weekends. You can simply paddle around it or head out under the Puente Dos Hermanos to the San Gerónimo fort right behind the Caribe Hilton and across from the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza. Kayaks rent for $25–$35 an hour.
Although the west-coast beaches around Isabela and Rincón are considered the places to surf in Puerto Rico, San Juan was actually the place where the sport got its start on the island. In 1958 legendary surfers Gary Hoyt and José Rodríguez Reyes began surfing at the beach in front of Bus Stop 2½, facing El Capitolio. Although this spot is known for its big waves, the conditions must be nearly perfect to surf here. Today many surfers head to Puerta de Tierra and a spot known as La Ocho (in front of Bus Stop 8). Another, called the Pressure Point, is behind the Caribe Hilton Hotel.
In Condado you can surf La Punta, a reef break behind the Presbyterian Hospital, with either surfboards or Boogie boards. In Isla Verde, white water on the horizon means that the waves are good at Pine Grove, the beach break near the Ritz-Carlton. East of the city, in Piñones, the Caballo has deep-to-shallow-water shelf waves that require a big-wave board known as a "gun." The surf culture frowns upon aficionados who divulge the best spots to outsiders. If you're lucky, though, maybe you'll make a few friends who'll let you in on where to find the best waves.
Tres Palmas Surf Shop. At Ocean Park beach, famous surfer Carlos Cabrero, proprietor of Tres Palmas Surf Shop, rents boards, repairs equipment, and sells all sorts of hip beach and surfing gear. 1911 Av. McLeary, Ocean Park, San Juan, 00911. 787/728–3377. www.trespalmaspr.com. $25 for Boogie boards, $30 for short boards, $35 for foam boards, and $40 for long boards.
If you'd like to use the tennis courts at a property where you aren't a guest, call in advance for information about reservations and fees.
Club Tennis de Isla Verde. The four lighted courts of the Club Tennis de Isla Verde are open for nonmember use at $20 per hour for up to four people, daily from 8 am to 10 pm. Reservations are required. Calles Ema and Delta Rodriguez, Isla Verde Park, Isla Verde, San Juan, 00913. 787/727–6490 or 787/642–3208.
Parque Central Municipio de San Juan. The Parque Central Municipio de San Juan has several lighted courts. Fees are minimal for one hour of tennis. You can also bike, walk, or run througout the park's trails or exercise on the popular race track. There is a $2 fee to access the park by car; pedestrians are free. Calle Cerra, exit on Rte. 2, Santurce, San Juan, 00936.
Windsurfing and Paddleboarding
The waves can be strong and the surf choppy, but the constant wind makes for good sailing, windsurfing, or paddleboarding, particularly in Ocean Park and Punta Las Marías (between Ocean Park and Isla Verde). In general, you can rent a Windsurfer for about $75 an hour, including a lesson.
Velauno. You'll get the best paddleboarding and windsurfing advice and equipment from Jaime Torres at Velauno, a sort of clearinghouse for information on water sport events throughout the island. The store also sells surfboards and kites and offers repair services and classes. 2430 Calle Loíza, Punta Las Marías, San Juan, 00913. 787/728–8716. www.velauno.com.
It's Yoga Puerto Rico. Husband-and-wife team David Kyle and Elizabeth Sallaberry found the hot, humid climate of Puerto Rico perfect for practicing and teaching ashtanga vinyasa yoga, one of the more vigorous forms of yoga. Their friendly studio, which has a large local following, offers classes ranging from beginner to advanced (most are held in English) as well as workshops from internationally renowned instructors. Be prepared to sweat, as the studio is intentionally not air-conditioned, though there are ceiling fans. The rate is around $17 for a drop-in class, which includes mat rental. 1950 Av. McLeary, Ocean Park, San Juan, 00911. 787/677–7585. www.itsyogapuertorico.com.
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