The Humacao Nature Reserve is an ecotreasure by itself where you may engage in a multitude of activities, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, bird watching, and even stand-up paddleboarding. This landmark of 3,094 acres (3,186 “cuerdas”) is located in the Municipality of Humacao, Puerto Rico, and protected by the Puerto Rico Natural and Environmental Resources Department.
This natural reserve comprises a variety of habitats which you may enjoy admiring while performing the activity of your interest. Wetlands, lagoons and an estuary are among the habitats found in this protected area designated as an Eco Touristic Reserve.
Four local community-based microenterprises offer services to the visitors of the Humacao Nature Reserve. As you keep reading, you will learn about these businesses.
Our day started with a cup of Puerto Rican coffee from “La Reserva Café”, which was made by Manuel Almodóvar with lots of love and care. Then we could not resist purchasing a beautiful artisanal necklace at “Flor de Maga”. Diana Ortiz was very attentive to our interests while we browsed around her elegant kiosk.
Then we were ready to begin our hiking experience on the Humacao Nature Reserve’s trails. Watersports and Ecotours’ local guide, Christina Vázquez, provided a very well-balanced educational tour, comprising environmental interpretation and information about the history behind some landmark spots.
Christina explained that this natural reserve is the home of six lagoons, emphasizing that one may enjoy kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding at the following four lagoons: Mandri I, Mandri II, Mandri III and Santa Teresa I. The two other lagoons, Santa Teresa II and Las Palmas, are unavailable for watersports as these are fully protected.
During our first hiking stop, we admired one of the views of the Santa Teresa I Lagoon and two islets nearby, all surrounded by white mangroves (Laguncularia racemose). Tilapia, snooks (“róbalo” in Spanish) and ladyfishes (“macabí” in Spanish) are among the fishes found at this lagoon, according to the tour guide.
Various turtles, ducks and waterbirds were enjoying a good swim. A Ruddy duck (“Pato Chorizo” in Spanish) (Oxyura jamaicensis) and waterbirds known as Pied-billed Grebe (“Zaramago” in Spanish) (Podilymbus podiceps) and Caribbean Coot (“Gallinazo Caribeño” in Spanish) (Fulica caribaea) were identified by Christina.
While admiring another site of the Santa Teresa I Lagoon, Christina explained that between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s the place where this lagoon is located used to be land dedicated to the harvest of sugarcane. Since such land was floodable, the industry suffered sugarcane losses. By 1949-1950, a pumping system was created in order to pump out water from the land. However, by 1978-1979 the pumping system stopped functioning. The condition of the floodable land resulted in the creation of the lagoon, as stated by Christina. So, Mother Nature made a demand and Santa Teresa I Lagoon emerged.
Guess what? Our next stop was the pumping system machinery landmark spot. On our way, we were lucky to take pictures of the Common Moorhen (“Gallareta Común” in Spanish) (Gallinula chloropus) swimming nearby, as identified by Christina.
The pumping system machinery is located next to the Monsto Channel, which connects the natural reserve lagoons on the south side and those on the north side. A Green Heron (“Martinete” in Spanish) (Butorides virescens) was staring at the channel and looked ready to take a swim. Luckily, it was staring for a long time and we were able to take a picture of this cute bird.
Then we hiked nearby another channel known as “Caño Frontera”, habitat of the Puerto Rican Slider turtle (“Jicotea” in Spanish) (Trachemys stejnegeri). Try to find the image of these turtles on our photo gallery.
Our next stop was at the huge Las Palmas Lagoon where people may engage in bird watching. We saw another Common Moorhen swimming in this body of water.
We continued our hiking towards the Palmira Beach. It is nice to watch the views at this beach; however, it is not suggested as a beach for swimming due to its rough waves and currents.
The final landmark spots relate to the history of Puerto Rico in the 1940s. As a prelude to what awaited us at the top of a hill, we saw barrack ruins and a structure used as storage for ammunitions and other supplies for soldiers guarding Humacao’s coastline, as stated by the tour guide. By that time, Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory.
After climbing impressive stairs constructed back then, we reached El Morrillo Observation Point at the top of the hill. There, we saw for the first time bunkers used by soldiers during World War II in order to watch out and alert if enemy ships were navigating towards the island of Puerto Rico, as explained by Christina. Take a look at our photo gallery to see pictures of how we entered a bunker.
The hiking towards the top of this hill was worth it not only because of the history behind this place, but also because of the spectacular view of the sea and Punta Santiago Beach. We were dazzled.
Watersports and Ecotours has been certified by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company as an Eco Touristic tour provider. This business contributes to the conservation of the natural reserve and fosters visitors to deposit plastic, aluminum, cardboard, and newspapers in the recycling bins found at this area.
For guided hiking tours, we advise to make reservations by contacting Watersports and Ecotours at T. 787-852-6058. This business also provides rental service for paddle boards, kayaks and paddleboats from Wednesday to Sunday, 9:00 am-3:45 pm. These operating hours also apply on a Monday that is a holiday. For rental services for groups of 12+ persons, it is suggested that you make reservations in advance.
Morrillo Cycle provides rental service for bikes and guided biking tours at the natural reserve during the same operating hours stated above. For reservations of guided biking tours, you may contact 787-852-6058.
The Environmental & Natural Resources Department personnel are available at the natural reserve from Monday to Friday, 7:30 am-3:30 pm.