Puerto Rico: Sea Turtle Nesting and Immersive Ecology & Social Studies

Unique Geological Insight

Certificate of Completion

Local Interpreter

On this unique and deeply enriching expedition, you will help conserve the leatherback sea turtle by volunteering to patrol nesting beaches and assist local scientists with data collection and monitoring of this endangered species. Being in the company of a leatherback as she ends her arduous journey to lay her eggs is a moving experience and a privilege offered to only a few! Learn about the rich natural and cultural history of this beautiful island, hike through a tropical rain forest and kayak through a mangrove channel into a bioluminescent bay. Throughout, we will be immersed in the local Puerto Rican culture.

Why Choose This Program

Option to Receive Graduate Credit—This course is accredited through the Dominican University of California (2-3 CR available)

Aligned with your Curriculum—Enrich your lesson plans by gaining first-hand experience of Puerto Rico’s rich natural, historical and cultural heritage

Every traveler participating in the trip receives a Certificate of Completion from Discovery Expeditions

Observe the wonder of sea turtles nesting and participate in patrols and data collection of nesting beaches to aid in their protection

Hike in Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest and swim under a tropical waterfall

Take a guided tour through Camuy Caverns and enrich your understanding of geology and Puerto Rican history

Listen to talks from expert conservationists on conservation issues

Gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges of marine conservation through direct, hands-on experiences

Trip Details

Tour Duration

6 days


Availability

All our tours are individually customized to your interests. While we loved guiding this private tour, it is purely an example of what can be possible and we will tailor your day to day program to your interests. If you would like to go on this tour, or a similar trip, please get in touch.


Group Size

Min 12 | Max 20 people


How You’ll Travel

Private motor coach with professional driver & all transfers provided.

  • Professional General Liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy ($10,000,000)
  • Private bus transportation and driver for long drives between San Jose and San Vito and Ujarras
  • Accommodations in shared facilities or homestays on site (6 nights total) – San Jose Casa del Parque (2 nights), San Vito (2 nights), Ujarras (3 nights)
  • Custom designed itinerary
  • Entrance fees to all program sites and activities listed on the itinerary
  • Demonstrations from LEAF International teaching artists and students
  • Site visits to LEAF International programs
  • Opportunities for free time on the beach (Dominical) and city exploration (San Jose)
  • Full time local interpreter and cultural guide (Member of Proyecto Jirondai)
  • Breakfast and dinner each day (lunches are on own)
  • All taxes
  • Complete tour participant accounting including an option to pay by credit card
  • “Cancel for Any Reason Insurance” (CFAR) – Cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive a 75% refund minus the insurance premiums. This applies to all travelers (except New York residents) and is included in the trip price

Number/Type of Staff

Full time professional Discovery Expeditions tour escort and local interpreter and cultural guides from the National Park Service and Government of Puerto Rico; tour of the Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve and El Faro (lighthouse) (Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico); local sea turtle logistics coordinator (Rosa Fiel, Proyecto Tinglar Dorado) and marine biologist/sea turtle expert; Tour of BioBay by expert marine biologists (Pure Adventure).

  • Airfare and baggage fees (to be purchased at the discretion and responsibility of each participant)
  • Customs and immigration fees at airports or border crossings
  • Airport transfer to first night hotel (we will try to collect flight information from each traveler in an effort to help you share taxis with similar arrival times
  • Various meals or drinks listed as “on own” in the itinerary when the group is dispersed for self-exploration
  • Additional nights lodging or any additional days if one chooses to remain in country longer

Detailed Itinerary

Please note that this is simply a sample itinerary to give you an idea of what we've done before and what we could create for you.

Day One: Flight from DCA, Arrival and Welcome Dinner

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Make your way to San Juan (a mid-day flight arrival to San Juan is recommended), get settled in to your hotel and enjoy some relaxing time on the beach! Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise, and as San Juan is often cited as one of the Caribbean’s best city beaches, you’re guaranteed to never want to leave! Once you’ve had your fill of endless white sandy beaches and calm blue waters, join us for a welcome dinner at beautiful Tacos & Tequila restaurant with the local Chapter of the Sierra Club, the local sea turtle conservation groups, Chelonia & 7 Quillas, and our Discovery Expeditions guide.

Day Two: El Yunque Rain Forest

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After breakfast at your hotel, we’ll travel to the Fajardo region to hike in cool and mountainous El Yunque Rain Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service ecosystem. We’ll arrive in time for a morning hike led by your Discovery Expeditions tour leader along the Mina Falls Trail ending at a very beautiful waterfall and swimming hole (swimming is optional but recommended—bring water shoes!). For lunch, we will visit a cultural icon of northern Puerto Rico, the long row of food kiosks at Luquillo Beach where you can take your pick of local Puerto Rican cuisine, on own, and spend some time relaxing on Luquillo Beach. We’ll return to the hotel mid-afternoon to rest up for a full day and long night tomorrow. *For those interested in a little local nightlife, taxis and company can be organized to La Placita de Santurce for a relaxed dinner at the popular Jose Enrique’s.

Day Three: Historic Old San Juan & Leatherback Sea Turtle Nesting Patrol

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Buenos días! This morning we’ll visit Old San Juan for a day of historic tours of the Castilla San Cristóbal led by the National Park Service and La Fortaleza led by the Government of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan has been called “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean” because Puerto Rico’s geographic position at the western edge of the Caribbean made San Juan one of the key frontier outposts of Spain’s West Indies dominions. For lunch, we’ll eat authentic Puerto Rican food at El Jibarito restaurant, a local favorite. We’ll depart Old San Juan in time to arrive back at the hotel in the mid afternoon to allow time to relax, rest up, and eat (on own) before a late night of leatherback patrols on Dorado Beach. Just before sundown, we’ll gather in the conference room to hear a brief seminar on sea turtle biology and the survey methodology. Afterward, we’ll head for Dorado Beach to begin our nesting patrols, which will last until 1:00am. During peak nesting season, we expect (but cannot guarantee) to see leatherback sea turtles.

Day Four: Reserva Natural de Las Cabeza de San Juan & Bioluminescent Bay

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Prepare for yet another day of geological wonders! At noon, we’ll travel to Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Preserve near Fajardo for a guided tour of the coastal habitat and lighthouse. Explore the history and nature of Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve by taking a guided trolley tour through dry forests and seagrass beds. Take a boardwalk through mangroves and above Laguna Grande, and get to know the different beach types before visiting the Fajardo Lighthouse. From here we can explore several exhibitions about the organisms and ecosystems found at the reserve, and enjoy the impressive vistas of the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico, including El Yunque rainforest! The day is not quite over yet! Embark on a kayaking excursion led by a Pure Adventure marine biologist on the Bioluminescent Bay. The Bioluminescent Bay (AKA ‘BioBay’) luminescence is triggered by dinoflagellates, oceanic plankton which is able to generate an emerald green and ultramarine illumination when water is physically disturbed. A truly unique system to explore!

Day Five: Rio Camuy Caverns and The Arecibo Observatory

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Depart mid-morning to tour the Camuy Caverns – an incredible opportunity to learn about the geology of the region! Camuy River has the third largest water volume in the world in an underground river system and is one of the largest, and most spectacular, systems in the western hemisphere. We’ll then venture a very short distance to The Arecibo Observatory, the site of the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope. The Observatory is recognized as one of the most important national centers for research in radio astronomy, planetary radar and terrestrial aeronomy. We’ll return to the hotel in the mid-late afternoon, leaving you plenty of time to coordinate a final group dinner or to explore the city solo!

Day Six: Time to Say Adios!

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We have reached the end of the trip! Depending on flight times and dates, you can enjoy more sites and activities in San Juan, soaking up the incredible atmosphere before you have to depart! If you decide to extend your stay in Puerto Rico, you are free to travel on to your next destination. We truly hope this rare experience has enriched your life and where relevant brought depth to your teaching. ¡Felices viajes!

Frequently Asked Questions

What's Included?

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  • Professional General Liability and Errors and Omissions Insurance Policy ($10,000,000)
  • Private bus transportation and driver between sites in Puerto Rico and shuttle service to and from the airport
  • Hotel accommodations based on double occupancy (5 nights total)
  • Custom designed itinerary
  • Option for graduate credit from an accredited university, Dominican University Click Here
  • Course alignment with National Science Standards and Common Core
  • Recommended resources/teaching materials (age appropriate books, lesson plans, and online resources)
  • Peer connections
  • Certificate of Completion—Every traveler participating in the trip receives a Certificate of Completion from Discovery Expeditions.
  • Entrance fees to all program sites and activities listed on the itinerary, some meals (see itinerary)
  • Opportunities for free time on the beach and hiking in a rainforest and swimming in a tropical waterfall (La Mina Falls, El Yunque)
  • Donations from our group to Chelonia and the Puerto Rico Chapter of Sierra Club, our conservation partners.
  • Full time professional Discovery Expeditions tour escort and local interpreter and cultural guides from the National Park Service and Government of Puerto Rico; tour of the Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve and El Faro (lighthouse) (Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico); local sea turtle logistics coordinator (Rosa Fiel, Proyecto Tinglar Durado) and marine biologist/sea turtle expert; Tour of BioBay by expert marine biologists (Pure Adventure)
  • All taxes
  • All gratuities where the group is together (tour leader and driver included)
  • Complete tour participant accounting including option to pay by credit card
  • Comprehensive Accident, Medical, Liability, and Travel Protection/Cancellation/Interruption Insurance for the Land portion of the trip
  • “Cancel for Any Reason Insurance” (CFAR) – Cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure and receive a 75% refund minus the insurance premiums.
What's Not Included?

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  • Airfare and baggage fees (to be purchased at the discretion and responsibility of each participant)
  • Customs and immigration fees at airports or border crossings
  • Various meals or drinks listed as “on own” in the itinerary when the group is dispersed for self-exploration
  • Additional nights lodging or any additional days if one chooses to remain in country longer.
Who Can Travel?

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The trip is open to any adult or child age 12 and up who is accompanied by an adult. The trip has some special benefits for teachers or people seeking professional development, outlined below. Should be physically in good enough condition to hike up to two hours at a time in hot, humid conditions in steep forested trails and walk on sand at night for turtle patrols in one hour stretches for up to seven hours with short breaks every hour.

What Should I Bring?

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Refillable water bottle, good walking shoes. You must have a valid U.S. passport (not expiring in the next 6 months)

Good to Know Before You Go

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• A full time local interpreter and cultural guide will accompany this trip.
• Remember to bring some cash/credit cards for lunches and additional food/drinks.
• Dietary requirements can be catered for – just let us know when booking.
• This itinerary is entirely flexible and customizable. Simply get in touch with a member of our staff to craft your ideal trip.