Coffin Island and Toro Negro Reserve Day Trips from Puerto Rico

Not only is Ponce Puerto Rico a charming colonial city with more than enough to keep visitors intrigued, but it is also offers some fine day trips. Explore Coffin Island (yes there's a reason for that name but it isn't as ghoulish as you might think), and the wild beauty of Toro Negro Reserve.

Caja de Muerto (Coffin Island)

Read more about Puerto Rico Day Trips at
Coffin Island has pleasures that belie its unfortunate name. Its empty beaches are bordered by turquoise blue waters and there are serpentine rocks perfect for picking piled up on the shore. There's also a somewhat challenging but rewarding hiking trail to the top of the mountain offering a lovely view of the island, and an old Spanish Colonial lighthouse dating back to 1887.

Our New Book

The island is uninhabited except for a small outpost of park rangers. There are some picnic tables and primitive toilets. But no water. Whatever you need, you must bring with you, and that should include sturdy shoes for hiking and exploring.

Even if you don't feel up to the walk, the beach and the water offered more than enough pleasures including the search for perfect stones and lovely beach debris. The water was turquoise blue gorgeous and calm and we bobbed up and down in the gentle surf like contented ducks.

There are several ways to get to the island. We used Acampa tours which arranged for a catamaran, food, and a guided hike. Ray Sepulveda and his staff are experts both in hiking, ecology, and nature. They also guided the more intrepid members of the group to small limestone caves. You can also make arrangements in advance with Island Venture for a day trip to the island.

Toro Negro Forest Reserve

Midway between Ponce and San Juan in the central region of the island is the wild beauty of Toro Negro Forest Reserve, covering 7,000 acres. We visited the Dona Juana Recreational Area which has a well-located picnic area near a waterfall and in summer a swimming pool of waterfall water, as well as hiking trails. Most of the hiking trails are mossy rocks with often tricky footing. A sturdy hiking pole or pointed walking stick is recommended. Also, keep to the trails. Toro Negro is not a park crowded with people and it is easy to get lost.

Read more about Puerto Rico Day Trips at
One trail that went up to the observation tower at the top of the highest peak was rocky and steep and I opted to stop halfway up, but there were still lovely peek-a-boo views and special moments. The clicking and whispers of a stand of bamboo trees. A mile marker from the original road, and small waterfalls. I was told that there's actually a paved road that leads to the observatory. Ask at the ranger station at the entrance to the reserve.

The reserve is actually composed of protected regions mixed inbetween agricultural areas and small communities. The public roads can take you past waterfalls, tiny towns, and houses on stilts, carved into the mountain side. For people who want to experience some of the beauty but without the hiking, this works as an alternative.

Although there is no food available in the park you can pick up a delicious local specialties in in the roadside restaurants near the entrances. Our tour was again through Acampa and Ray Sepulveda and it was again excellently organized with a prepared lunch including wonderful Puerto Rican specialties (and my favorite) fabulous rice and beans and barbequed pork.

Although San Juan gets most of the tourist attention, find some time to explore Ponce. Laid-back and uncrowded, Ponce offers a chance to experience more of Puerto Rico's nature and charm.

For more information on Puerto Rico (and Ponce) visit

Have a comment to share? Like us on Facebook - OffbeatTravelCom and post your comment.

Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: 2012-07-16

Modified: July 2, 2015

© 2015