For over 30 years, Puerto Ricans gather from all over the island to walk. Not in protest, or as a punishment, but as a community of nature lovers who set out each weekend for 2 months (February and March) to walk across the island. Known as the Caminata Panorámica, this annual walk goes coast to coast across the island of Puerto Rico. Starting in the east coast town of Maunabo and crossing under the mountain region of the island to complete the walk at the large town of Mayaguez.
I joined the hike for opening weekend of the 35th season (2019) to find nature lovers, heath enthusiasts, tourists, academics, and overall wonderfully nice people – exactly what I have come to LOVE about this island.
How to Join
This is largely a word of mouth tradition started in 1984. Our invitation was by neighbors and we were given an Itinerary of the route, meeting times and locations (in Spanish). There is a very informative, and active, group on Facebook for details, questions, photos, and more!
The registration forms are available in both Spanish and English (I can manage with the Spanish forms, but it is so comforting to see my native language available). Organizers and friendly folks greeted us (in English because we still look like tourists) and made sure that we were registered, had plenty of water, showed us where to go, and generally made us feel WELCOME.
Opening weekend, the route started at the Plaza de Recreo of Maunabo (the municipality center plaza courtyard) and through the town along a 2 lane road. The police escort kept traffic moving and the pedestrians safe along the route. Vans with cold water drove along the route to ensure all participants stayed hydrated and safe.
The first weekend is a bit of a warm up, only 9.4 kilometers plus walk from finish line back to the starting parking (6+ miles depending on where you parked). This is one of the shortest routes, with daily distances ranging from 8.29 Km to 20.2 Km for the Maricao segment.
There are participants of various fitness levels, some with walking sticks, speed walkers, and surprisingly spry grandparents! We were firmly in the middle of fitness levels and finish time. There are a few fitness junkies that actually RUN all or most of the daily segment!
The routes are specifically selected for spectacular views of the island. Our route included mountain views overlooking the Caribbean Sea and trim of the beach below, farmland, animals (chickens, cows, and bulls), and the residential homes along our route. Many people came out to greet us along the route with a warm “Bueno Dias” and a friendly wave.
Experienced walkers shared their tips and experiences from previous years. Other walkers pointed out local plants and trees as well as cooking tips for the local vegetation. I have some new recipes to try for the Pana (breadfruit) and actually know what the tree looks like now.
The fee is $15 per segment of the route. This fee covers transportation one way to the start or back to your car, so you only have to walk one way. Fresh fruit, extra water, and escort is also provided. The municipalities provide police escort, ambulance escort, and for opening weekend Maunabo provided hot coffee and breakfast sandwiches to start. More cold water and snacks are set up and waiting at the “finish line”. Local bars and restaurants also provide a small meal to hikers after the event (for a small fee). More food and drinks can be purchased at the completion of the days route, and many people enjoyed a cold beer and music after the long walk.
I am looking forward to walking the entire length of the island with this great group of nature lovers. See you on the trail!