Puerto Rico’s Central Region / Porta Cordillera

The Cordillera Central is a land of innocence, of new beginnings, of fertility, of pure, clean water and abundance. This is a place unfit for civilization, but the fruit of the tree of adventure is plucked here. From its lodges, to its caves, it ziplines to its trails, adventure is the vitalizing element here. Adventure is everywhere.

The Island’s Wild and Pure Side

When you stand atop a ridge in the Cordillera Central and look around it seems this is the world’s first morning. This is a land of innocence, of new beginnings, of fertility, of pure, clean water and abundance. This is a place unfit for civilization, but the fruit of the tree of adventure is plucked here. From its lodges, to its caves, it ziplines to its trails, adventure is the vitalizing element here. Adventure is everywhere.

This is a wild scape, where the trees look as though they have been awoken in the middle of the night and had no time to fix their hair. Sunbeams fracture across the leaves. Waterfalls spill diamonds into limpid pools. Volcanic peaks dissolve into the hard, blue sky. The tropic birds enjoy a vast, loose agenda, and my eyes bewilder at the colors of their freedom. The hills undulate as though they form the backbone of a giant beast that has laid down to sleep and might at any point awake and stand up several miles high, shaking off the vines and trees like pieces of fluff caught on its felt green jacket.

It is here I meet two personalities who help define this region. The first is Steven Weingarten, who runs the Casa Grande Mountain Retreat, a former coffee farm sprawling across 107 acres of unruly rainforest.

Steven is a former New York attorney who fell in love with the mountains of Puerto Rico while visiting in the mid-90s, and now runs one of the best eco-lodges in the world, while teaching yoga in his on-property studio daily. “There’s a certain feeling about the mountains that’s spiritual in nature. With the elevation here you’re closer to whatever higher power you might think about or consider when you’re talking about spirit,” reflects Steven standing above his retreat. “Institution is the shadow and length of the man. So, this place is my work of art.”

The second defining personality is Puerto Rican-borne Fernando Samalot, whom I meet at the Casa Grande Café, along with his partner, Bárbara Cruz. Together they are journeying to all 78 municipalities throughout the island, and recording the splendor and magnificence of each through Instagram and other social media. He offers to share a drive through the enveloping mountains, and along the way speaks of the land and its allure. “I really love this place. Just driving here from the coast, it’s like entering a portal, especially with the road carved into the big mountains. I learned to be in love with getting lost here. It’s an adventure. You always end up somewhere beautiful and unexpected. It’s very rewarding. Sometimes you find the way, and sometimes the way finds you.”

There you have it. My attempt to decode the geography of personalities in Puerto Rico. Ultimately, though, it’s like an unsolved Rubik’s cube, always presenting new combinations, and enticing possibilities. The only common filament is a love of place, and a daring joy of living. When you come here the island stirs some ancient urge to shed our northern skins, to quit the cult of speed, to shatter the glass between before and after, and dive right in, to indulge in the irreducible essence that is Puerto Rico.

For more tips on what to see and do in Puerto Rico, click here.