Search This Blog

Monday, February 22, 2016

Biking the Boardwalk - Pinones, Puerto Rico

Continuing on from my "travel like a local" post, I wanted to share another story of how following the less traveled path to somewhere awesome is always the best option. And also a story of a stroke of bad bad luck. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person. And then there are those instances that remind you that you still have your stroke of bad luck from time to time. Its really interesting when these moments happen within ten minutes of each other.   

Read along as we venture over to the Pinones boardwalk
the area of cheap beer, good food, and a lack of English speaking locals. 

Bike on the Pinones Path

Quick story:  

(in case you are only here for the pictures, I get it)

We biked to this amazing local spot about 8 miles away full of awesome food and cheap beer.  The bikes had several issues leaving us stranded 8 miles away from our hotel.  The views, food and beer was worth the frustrations.  Lots of stray dogs and garbage everywhere.
More "need-to-know"  info in the NOTES section at the end. 

Long Story:  
The condo came with bikes that we were very excited to take around the island. The cabs on the island are expensive, so hopping on the bikes and traveling out of the expensive tourist Condado district was a win win for our wallets and wandering souls. Sandwiches made and packed, along with water, towels and my obnoxious selection of memory documentation devices (read Nikon, lenses, GoPro, and cell phone). We hopped on the bike and headed East towards a boardwalk and mangrove forest a few friends had biked, and I had read about online.

Pinones Boardwalk

The boardwalk was a little further than we had anticipated, but we were happy to leave the tourist town behind us and travel through San Juan, where the crowds went from beach going tourists to locals on their lunch breaks.   I wanted to find a beach where you couldn't rent a chair in front of a hotel.  An area where you could be alone with your thoughts and the pelicans. 

Paseo Pinones Boardwalk 

A seven mile bike ride took us away from Condado and past some interesting areas. We passed the government beaches Balneario de Carolina, and eventually made our way over the bridge to the start of the boardwalk and the Pinones area. There is a bike path most of the way, except for some busy streets in San Juan.

Leaving the hotel beaches behind!
View looking back at the tourist/hotel district
Bike path on the way to Pinones

As we crossed over the bridge, we had a beautiful view of the coastline, and the many hotels dotting the shoreline. Its a nice feeling, biking along quiet roads putting the hotel district, the hustle and bustle behind you.  Over the bridge and we were officially in what felt like a different island. As I cruised my bike down the bridge, roughly seven miles away from my condo, my bike was making some funny sounds, was hard to pedal, and I knew something was wrong. Turns out I had just gotten a dead flat.
 In an area far from the tourist district where no one spoke English.

Park right before the bridge to Pinones

I wheeled my bike into the first bar I saw and tried to communicate my issues to the friendly bartender. After a little bit of frustration, I used my high school level Spanish to inform the man that I needed a bike shop. He pointed to the direction of the nearest bicycle rental, the C.O.P.I. 

C.O.P.I Bike rental and ecotourism office 

This area served as the ecotourist office, and bike rentals for the Pinones boardwalk/bike trail. Unfortunately I struggled with the language barrier for a little longer, before the kind gentleman put some air in my tire. No luck, there was a large hole in the tube and of course they didn't sell any tubes at this... small and rustic bike rental. The bike selection was limited, and the bikes were in pretty bad shape. Another indication we were in another hidden spot of Puerto Rico.

Rental Bike on the Boardwalk

Because we are renting a condo on Home Away, we decided to call the owner of the condo to see if he knew of any bike shops around.  While there weren't any bike shops, he did have a friend who owned a mobile bike rental company, and was nice enough to drop us off a new bike. While we waited, we enjoyed $1.25 beers (compared to $5-$8 in the Condado district) and ate delicious cheap food. The company based out of Condado delivers bike rentals to customers throughout the San Juan area. The bike was in great shape and we loved the idea of a company that dropped off a bike to wherever you needed it. With a new bike we were on our way down the boardwalk.

Biking path along the water 

The boardwalk and bike trail is 7 miles one way, and follows the coastline of Puerto Rico and through past the ocean, beaches, and Mangrove forests. While the area was beautiful, there are two large problems you will find in this area (three if you consider the language barrier). There is garbage everywhere. The area is not maintained well and you will see overflowing garbage e v e r y w h e r e. Such a beautiful spot spoiled by littering humans.

 The other issue here is the stray dogs. Puerto Rico has a large stray dog and cat problem. Old San Juan has a large stray cat problem, especially at the El Morro fort and boardwalk (cat lovers will be happy to know organizations like Save A Gato is working to trap neuter release, feed and adopt out the cats).

Sato (stray dog) on Pinones Beach 
Satos (stray dogs) on Pinones Beach 

But the stray dogs on the island are a large and heart breaking problem. You will see many many stray dogs as you ride the boardwalk. Begging for food, sleeping on the beach, or going through the garbage, they are hard to miss. And as sad as I was to see them trying to survive on the beaches, I know their fate at the shelters is far worst. "If a dog is taken to one of the five Municipal Shelters in Puerto Rico they will not make it out alive. The euthanasia rate at these shelters is 99%. Most dogs do not even get 24 hours in the shelter - they are walked 'straight out back' to be euthanized". The Sato Project . Numbers estimate between 100,000 and 300,000 stray dogs roam the island. With limited spay and neuter practices on the island (and a lack of funding) the number of stray dogs on the island continues to grow. You can read more about the Satos of Puerto Rico and an amazing organization (The Sato Project) who helps them Here.

$1.50 for a beer in Pinones.
Same beer $7.50 at the hotels in Condado
Following the bike path 

After Thatcher pried me away from the satos of Puerto Rico, we continued to bike the board walk, only to be stopped by a sound of grinding gears. Shortly after one bike had a flat (and an hour wait to replace it) the other bikes chain shifted off the gears and jammed. Nearly nine miles from "home" we were bikeless on the boardwalk again. We limped the bikes back to Puerta Del Mar to soften the blow with some cheap beer and pina coladas, before walking the bikes down the road to find the nearest hotel. The boardwalk is far off the beaten path and you will not find a cab in the area. 

$35 later, we had paid a cab driver to take our broken bikes (and our slightly broken egos) the 7 miles back to the Condado area. While the day seemed to be a bust filled with several disasters, we were so happy to escape "tourist town" and see another part of the island. We were even happier to find amazing food, cheap beer, and empty beaches. 

If you want to escape the crowd and get in some exersize, then grab a bike and head to the Pinones boardwalk. Just learn from my mistakes and make sure you have a spare tube, a few bike tools, a number for a cab service, a spanish to english dictionary, and a good sense of humor. Head to Puerta Del Mar to have a $1.50 local beer (cerveza in Spanish) called Medalla (pronounced medaya) and order yourself a $3 pinchos (skewer of meat). 

Need-To-Know Notes

1. About the trail:  The bike/nature trail is a 7 miles (11 km) each way.  There are several places to lock up your bike so you can swim or grab a bite to eat.  The area is full of litter, and most unfortunately a large stray dog population. 

2. Safety: This is a popular spot for the locals, especially on the weekend.  While all the people we met were friendly and helpful, you still need to be smart.  Lock up your belongings, and always be aware of your surroundings.  It isn't an area I wouldn't be comfortable in this area alone at night

3.  Bring: Bring bug spray (for the mangroves), and lots of sunscreen.  Some of the boardwalk is in the shade, and some of it is in the direct sun. Also bring a bike lock, cash, and a towel for swimming.

Beaches in Pinones 
Beaches in Pinones 

4.  Beach:  Pinones beach is a great way to skip the crowds and relax like a local.  There are various stretches of beach to swim in.  Some are a little rockier than other.  You will be able to find a great little stretch somewhere along the beach and it is  Travel Channel rated as one of Puerto Rico's hidden beaches

Puerta Del Mar.  Home of delicious food and cheap beer.

5.  Eats: The area is known for its food.  Cheap and delicious eats.  Make sure you stop in one of the many kiosks, shops and restaurants to enjoy the local grub and cheap beer. Andrew Zimmern of the travel channel has eaten his way around these delicious kiosks. (yet we were the only tourists we saw on the board walk!)

"pinchos" (skewers) with BBQ and Bread ($4)

6.  Bike Rentals: C.O.P.I. (at the beginning of the boardwalk) bikes were in rough shape. I would use San Juan Bike Rentals. The bikes were in great shape, had comfortable seats, bike racks, and locks. They will also be delivered wherever you are. The prices are reasonable at $20 for a half day (4 hours) and $30 for a full day (8 hours). The company will pick up the bikes and drop them off (no extra charge!).

Map of our route to the beginning of the Pinones bike path. 

7. Directions from San Juan: Take Route 26 east or Route 37 east to Route 187 east and cross the bridge over Boca de Cangrejos. Once you cross the bridge, you are in Pinones. If you are biking, just keep following the road from Condado. Use the bike lane and bike path when it is there, or ride on the sidewalk in the busy San Juan area. 

8. Don't take the bus. I am usually an advocate for public transportation, but in Puerto Rico it is a joke. The busses are supposed to come every 20 minutes, but we waited at a stop for longer than that, and most people said the schedule is highly unreliable and often come once every hour. Take a cab or bike to the boardwalk (about 7 miles) to save yourself a headache.

9.  Spanish.  I did not find anyone that spoke English here.  Thankfully I knew enough spanish to get by.  Here is what you may need.
(I am only sort of kidding)

Dos Cervezas Por Favor :  Two Beers Please
Donde Esta El Bano? : Where is the bathroom?
Donde Esta La Tienda de Bicicleta? : Where is the bike shop?
Cuanto Cuesta? : How much does it cost?
Gracias : Thank You
De Nada:  You are welcome
No Hablo Espanol : I don't speak Spanish


  1. CRAVING this weather!!!


    1. It was such perfect weather! Puerto Rico was so wonderful. SLC is getting up there to the 80s now!

  2. Thanks for this post. I travel here every year to see family and been wanting to bike through there but haven't found a trail map for biking in the area

    1. It can be hard to find information on (a map would be fantastic!) Hope this information is helpful and how lucky you get to visit this area every year!


Let's Chat!