So this article is a little homage to my experiences to my former job when I worked at Jungle Island in Miami, Florida where we had a ton of exotic animals as well crazy fun orangutans and various monkeys running around the place. However, finding a place like that in Puerto Rico is next to impossible. However, there’s a secret “real island” that’s pretty much unknown on the east coast of the island. No, it is not Vieques or Culebra. It’s a small island adjacent to Humacao called Cayo Santiago that makes for a perfect day trip to experience wild animals (monkeys) in their natural habitat.
Cayo Santiago is a tiny island that is home over 800 rhesus monkeys and is run by the Caribbean Primate Research Center. What in the world are over 800 monkeys doing on an island? That’s a great question that makes for a memorable kayak adventure today, and some interesting history. In 1938, hundreds of monkeys were imported from India to this natural habitat in order to begin scientific research on a range of topics – including testing for cures of diseases from what we understand. The island is not open to the public or tourists, however you can have quite the glimpses if you kayak off the shores waters about 30 feet out to check out these fascinating monkeys.
There’s a couple of local outfitters that can take you out there, however one of them is a highly rated and fun experience! The company runs and owns 3 different corporations that serve the following services under its umbrella:
1 – Barefoot Travelers Rooms Beach Guesthouse, 2- Team Hang-Gliding, and 3- & Barefoot Travelers Kayak Adventure To Monkey Island run a company where they provide room & board near Humacao, hang-gliding adventures, and ocean kayak tours to Monkey Jungle Island (as I call it) which includes a snorkeling expedition off the coast of Cayo Santiago.
While in your trip to Puerto Rico you will see some wild animals here and there (horses, goats, cows, roosters, etc.) that you may not be used to from the place where you’re visiting from. Seeing monkeys swinging from branch to branch and checking YOU out is one of the best experiences you can have in our opinion. It’s much better than going to a zoo and just seeing them caged and far away from their natural world and habitat.
Kayaking Puerto Rico
In order to do this tour, you must be in somewhat good physical shape and fitness because the trip requires a 15-20 minute kayak row to the island that easily be under choppy ocean conditions depending on the weather. You get pretty near the island and kayak parallel to the trees, and be as quiet as you can so you can observe the hundreds of monkeys that happen to want to make an appearance for you. The guides of the tour provide you with valuable information about the monkeys and the purpose of the island more in-depth than this article possibly can.
After this excursion, you’re led to a snorkeling area that features exotic fish and a sunken barge to snorkel around in. Another highlight is the kayak trip back, with splendid views of El Yunque off in the backdrop which makes for this adventure pretty unforgettable and a must experience!
NOTE: Sometimes visibility can be iffy and you can easily get sea sickness as well – so if you’re the type make sure to drink drowsy pills before you row out. Can be cancelled day of due to weather conditions. Keep that in mind as Puerto Rico weather can be unpredictable.
Bring your own snorkel gear, as well as water and snacks for this trip. The company typically likes to keep the groups only 8 people at once AM or PM. Call ahead and see if you can pre-arrange if your group is larger to coordinate back-to-back private trips by talking to the owners.
Barefoot Travelers Adventures: 787-850-0508.
Price: $55.00 per person for kayak rentals. Tips also welcome.
Time: 2-3 hours for the adventure
Directions: (Click On Google Maps Link)
“Swing in this tree
I’m bouncing around so well
Branch to branch,
limb to limb you see
All in a day’s dream
I’ m stuck
Like the other monkeys here
I am a humble monkey
Sitting up in my tree again
But then came the day…
When I climbed out of these safe limbs
Walking tall, head high up and singing
I went to the city
Car horns, corners and the gritty
But now I am the proudest monkey you’ve ever seen
Monkey see, monkey do…yeah
Then comes the day
Staring at myself
I turn to question me
I wonder do I want the simple, simple life that I once lived in a way?
You know things they were so quiet then…
In a way those were my better days
But now I am the proudest monkey you’ve ever seen…
Monkey see, monkey do…yeah”
Dave Matthews – Proudest Monkey