I’m just back from my third trip of the year, and boy, what a trip it was. Never have I packed so much travelling and so many activities into just seven days. Puerto Rico is a long way to go for just a week, but I managed to cram in everything on my “must-do list”.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that I travelled around the island a lot, spending a few days at the beach, wandering around San Juan old town and exploring El Morro (with its many cats), taking a tour of the Barcardí distillery, venturing all the way down to Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo (the most beautiful, secluded beach on the island, undoubtedly), and hiking through the El Yunque rainforest.
On the sixth day of the trip that just kept giving, I managed to tick off more bucket list items in Puerto Rico – this time, the world’s longest and highest zipline.
I’d read TripAdvisor reviews about ziplining in Puerto Rico before I left the UK, while researching what to do, where to go and what to eat. But it wasn’t something that originally made my “must-do” list. That changed when I got to passport control at San Juan airport, where the officer stamping the passports said I definitely had to try the new line at Toro Verde Adventure Park, which is so death-defying it’d had zipped itself into the Guinness Book of Records.
The “El Monsturo” zipline – or Monster as it’s known to English-speaking challengers – opened just a week before we arrived, and I was told that only about 200 people had been brave enough to try it, so far.
Keen to try it, I hopped in the car and drove the 50 mile trip from where I was staying Levittown to Orocovis. As the car climbed higher up the mountains, my ears began to pop with the change in air pressure. Then, as the roads became narrower with steep blind corners and precarious looking turns, I began to wonder what I was letting myself in for.
Once at Toro Verde, it was evident that I was meant to book before arriving. But fortunately a last minute cancellation meant I could get up there and take on the Monster in just 20 minutes. Just enough time to psyche myself up.
Taking on El Monsturo.
The Monster zipline is 7,234ft long, and 1,200ft above the ground. And it can travel at up to 95mph. So it’s pretty hair-raising, even for someone who isn’t really scared of anything and welcomes a challenge (like hiking up the Dolní Morava Skywalk in -5c temperatures a few months ago).
As soon as I’ve got it in my mind that I want to do something, I have to do it though. So there was no going back for me.
My instructors, Eric and Manuel, were amazing, and had I felt nervous, would definitely have put my mind at ease. I wasn’t scared at all though, just super excited. I’d never done anything like this before (except for rope swings and swinging bridges in the park, but at less than 2ft off the floor, they don’t count for much), so was itching to get up there.
Once kitted out in my new Toro Verde waterproof jacket (included in the price of the Monster), and some really heavy harness equipment, I was given a helmet and gloves, and led upstairs and across a hanging bridge, to the Monster start platform.
Definitely not for the faint-hearted, once up on the platform you are literally strapped into a straight jacket-type harness, and made to lie on your stomach, with your arms by your side. A safety briefing follows, but there’s not much to it. Just keep your arms in and your head straight. Oh, and keep your helmet visor down – if you keep it up, you’ll “reach the other end crying” I was told.
“What happens at the other end? Do I have to walk all the way back?” I asked. “You’ll see”, smirked the instructor.
You’re then launched head first into the unknown, as soon as you’re ready.
“Ready?” he asked. “Yep”, I replied. And then I was gone.
Zipping through the air, over the forest was breath-taking. I’d spent the previous day deep inside the El Yunque rainforest, but gliding above it was a completely different experience. I felt like I was seeing everything in slow motion, the trees, the ferns, the birds darting in and out – it all seemed to just pass me by.
It wasn’t slow motion at all though, it was really fast – I travelled an average of 45mph to be precise. As mentioned, the Monster can reach speeds of 95mph, and the heavier you are, the faster you’ll go. There is a weight restriction though – you must be between 100lb and 270lb, and must be at least 4.5ft tall. There’s no age restriction though.
As I slid into the platform a mile and a half away from where I started, I couldn’t believe it was all over. I just wanted to get back out there and do it all again. The good news was, that I did get to do it again, sort of. Because to get back to base you have to take another zipline halfway across the mountains. You’re then transported the rest of the way in a 4×4.
If you’re not quite heavy enough, you may stop short of the landing platform. Instructor Eric did have to rescue me a few times, as I didn’t have enough weight to send myself all the way across. After my pully had safely stopped on the cable, I tried pulling myself towards him, but my upper arm strength wasn’t a patch on Eric’s, so he swiftly zipped over, wrapped his legs around me, and pulled me back to the landing platform. He had to do this twice; Eric, if you’re reading this, thanks – you’re my hero.
On completion of the Monster, you get a certificate saying you’ve conquered El Monsturo, and a picture taken. Toro Verde will also add you to their list of pilots – check me out at number 116 (they’ve put me down as US, instead of UK – but that could mean that I’m the first Brit to take on the zipline… what a claim that would be).
What else is at Toro Verde?
If you’re not a fan of super fast ziplines (like my mum, who visited the park with me), then there are other things to do at Toro Verde. We took on the Wild Bull course, which included five hanging bridges, a 230ft rapell (kind of like a free-form abseil) and a zipline. Check out these pictures for an idea on the height and views from these bridges:
Is Toro Verde open when it rains?
It did rain while I was up the Orocovis mountains, but I was lucky; it started just after I’d conquered the Monster zipline, and lifted just before I set out for the Wild Bull hanging bridges. When it did come in though, it came in hard and fast. Within about 30 seconds the entire forest was covered by a thick mist. Here’s a not-so-sunny-now-are-you-Caribbean-island snapshot – just look at that mist:
With a vast amount of the island covered in dense, lush rainforest, it’s inevitable that your stay in Puerto Rico will be thwarted with some rain. I visited in March, which is actually the driest month, according to Weather.com. The wettest months are November and May, with an average of 6.3in and 5.9in of rainfall respectively.
But the rain doesn’t need to hold you back from experiencing everything the country has to offer. There’s still plenty going on on the “Island of Enchantment”, even when it’s raining. Check out this list of 10 things to do in Puerto Rico when it rains by Discovering Puerto Rico for some inspiration.
Here are a few other tips for Toro Verde:
1. Getting there.
Be warned, if you’re travelling from San Juan to Toro Verde, the park is not sign posted at all. So a big thank you to the guys at Saez Service Station, who not only filled up the car with petrol, but also printed out instructions (in English) on how to get there, guiding me with buildings rather than road names. If you’ve got a sat nav or smartphone (and signal that high up), then you may stand a better chance of finding it. If not, and you’re driving up and down the 155 looking for it, don’t be afraid to pull into a gas station to ask for directions. There’s not a lot else in the area, so I’m sure they’ve directed hundreds of tourists before.
2. Book ahead if you can.
You don’t want to get all the way there and find you’re disappointed as there are no free slots for you, so check out the website and book ahead if you can. And be warned, it’s not the cheapest thing to do on the island. At the time of writing it was $195 + tax to take on El Monsturo, plus a further $125 + tax for the Wild Bull course.
3. Check the forecast before you go.
Though the park stays open in most weather conditions, it’s worth checking to see what the forecast says, so you can dress appropriately and allow enough time to get up the mountain if the visibility on the roads is poor.
4. Wear sensible clothing and shoes.
Be sensible when getting dressed in the morning – you can’t weather anything that hangs, and you must wear closed toe shoes.
5. Be prepared for bugs.
Although I’d brought some insect repellent with me to Puerto Rico, I stupidly forgot to put it in my bag before setting off for Orocovis. So by the time I was back down the mountain and on the way to Fajardo, I was scratching bites like crazy. Do yourself a favour and deet up before you go.
If you’re heading over to Toro Verde, I hope these tips help. Let me know if you do go to the park, would love to know what you think of it, and if you enjoyed it as much as me.
If I’m ever back in Puerto Rico (which I’m sure I will be at some point), I will definitely be going back to Toro Verde. Like a super playground for grown ups, I could have stayed there all day, zipping through the treetops and clambering across the hanging bridges. It was like a real life I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, without Ant and Dec, and without the eating trials. A fantastic day out, made even better by great guides.