Clomping along the dirt roads under sunny skies, my horse keeps up a gentle pace. That is, until he chooses to take another of his frequent roadside breaks to munch a bit of the tall grass growing along the route. It’s obvious that I’m not the one in charge. My brown steed has been on this journey many times, and I’m just along for the ride in the Carabali Rainforest Park in Puerto Rico.
I’m on the outing with about 40 fellow passengers off the MSC Divina cruise ship as we enjoy a port day in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The excursion takes you on horseback through the park in the foothills of the El Yunque National Forest. The trail ride is enjoyable and easy. Experienced equestrians will be disappointed with the pace, but it can be a perfect introduction to horseback riding for newbies, especially youngsters, making it a fun outing for families.
Upon arrival, guides match passengers with their animals – a sort of speed dating game — based on our heights, weights and stated level of horsemanship. I am one of the last to mount up, and as quickly as I’m up in the saddle and able to join the posse waiting under a massive shade tree, we’re off, snaking our way through the pretty forest, along dirt paths and through occasional puddles of mud.
Horseback riding by the Mameyes River in San Juan
The circuit takes us to a beautiful meadow where we stop for a quick break to absorb the scenery of the distant mountain range. Midway through our journey, there is a longer break alongside the Mameyes River — where you can purchase drinks and snacks (no refreshments included in the excursion fee) and jump in for a dip (wear a swimsuit if you want to do this.) I savor a Medalla Light and watch as the guides grind up minerals they had gathered from the river bank. They apply the organic cosmetic to the faces of willing passengers and explain the traditions of the indigenous Taino people of the region who would use these products.
Trail ride in El Yunque National Forest
Soon, it’s time to hop back on our horses and ride back to the stables. The entire horseback ride in San Juan takes about three hours, including the longish period to get everyone signed up (liability waiver and helmets) and matched with a horse.
Horseback riding in Puerto Rico
If You Go: Carabali Rainforest Park (http://www.carabalirainforestpark.com/horsebackriding.php);
Road 3, Kilometer 31.6, Exit 992
Luquillo, Puerto Rico
The Details: This horseback riding cruise excursion is available on MSC Divina, as well as other major cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships that call in San Juan, and prices will vary based on the ship. If you go on your own, a one-hour trail ride is $35 and a two-hour outing costs $70. Ages 3 to 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Kids up to 11 may ride for $25 (one hour) and $50 (two hours).
This is a guest post by John Roberts. John writes about cruises, adventure travel and fitness on his website InTheLoopTravel.com He was a guest of MSC Cruises to review this excursion.