Sometimes our adventurous guests (and nearly all of them are) arrive at our inn without the preferred clothes and shoes to wear on the untamed trails which we recommend. When they call or email first we can offer recommendations but too often they show us their Tevas or trail running shoes after they get here and ask (looking down at their feet) if they would be ok. Packing for traveling is tricky. You need footwear that can do double-time. Most people bring Tevas and sneakers or even flip-flops because they know they will be walking in the city, on the beach, or at the airport. Of course you can wear anything on the developed "Disney-style" trails in the center of the rainforest where the visitor center is and also where the hordes of tourists flock together. On those manicured paved trails with the nice rest stops around each turn (to duck out of the rain) and the informative signs, you can wear flip-flops (called chancletas here) and shorts and have no problem. But on the Indiana Jones style trails we recommend at the rainforest inn (when asked by our guests for something adventurous) you would be in trouble. You have to wear long pants, consider a long-sleeved shirt and perhaps even leather gloves (if you’re going fast). I also like to wear a good hat too because I don't like how the spider webs feel in my face nor web denizens crawling in my hair. A hat is good for the constant rain too (no little trail huts to duck into on the real jungle trails).
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A poncho is really not necessary because they are hot and the hat takes care of most of the bother from our warm tropical showers. You might want to carry a windbreaker for the high cool mountain rains. I recommend Tilly hat's as they wash easily, pack well, and are comfortable. They are versatile hats that you can wear on the beach and sight seeing as well. For eyewear, you don't normally need sunglasses in the jungle but now that 70% of our canopy has been lost from hurricane Maria here in Puerto Rico you will need them as well as sunblock. Pants that are the kind you zip off the bottom legs are great especially for swimming if you don't want to go natural (the swimming holes we send you to are way off the beaten path and it's very unlikely there will be anyone seeing you). Shirts can be any of the new travel shirts. Long sleeves are best (you can roll them up). You have to protect your arms and legs because of the combination of razor grass and the "Christmas bush" which is in a few areas of some of the deep jungle trails. The Christmas bush has an intense poison ivy effect which in combination with the razor grass cuts could spoil your vacation. Please remember that we are talking about intense jungle treks not the manicured hikes that are also offered in the El Yunque rainforest. We can also recommend some easy hikes with open improved trails which are in the jungle and have some canopy and are also only hiked by our guests (hopefully no former guests will post a blog saying how to get to some of these places).
The most important thing is to bring the right shoes. Renée discovered Inov-8 shoes when we first started hiking together. Inov-8 is a small British company founded by Wayne Edy in 2003 and recently acquired by Descent. The sole has an aggressive tread with little lugs which help keep you from slipping but the big advantage is how thin it is so the flexing action of your foot knocks the mud off and your foot can hug the elevations and textures of the trail. I am raving about these shoes and my disclaimer is that the company not only didn’t give me any free shoes they were actually not very helpful (in the beginning) when I was putting together the information for this very popular blog. I learned that you can only buy their shoes easily on Amazon. Their website only ships to Great Britain. What I’ve also learned: do not buy Inov-8’s model Mudclaw 275 unless you are a woman or you have incredibly narrow feet (it is the narrowest shoe they make). They come in sizes up to men’s 13 and I ordered a pair (Amazon delivers — that evil company) but I had to return them as they are so narrow I could barely get my feet in them. They did look beautiful though. This is where my contact at Inov-8 did come in handy. Lee Procter answered my email about what model would be better and he suggested an X-Talon 260 ultra which is a number 4 width (5 is their widest). I also learned from talking to trail runners that you should buy a shoe that is a half size bigger or even a whole size bigger than your normal shoe size. So I felt weird about it but I ordered a size 14 (again from Amazon). I tried them out on our trail and they were perfect! I also recommend that you spring for a pair of waterproof socks or good cotton/polyester hiking socks like trail runners use instead of the thin socks you normally wear for running.
Regular hiking boots or trail running shoes just become caked mud ice skates. Laurie has always worn bright lime green and black inov-8 bare-grip 200 with a it’s lugged soul. I remember when she bought them we felt a little extravagant. These shoes are worth it and much less expensive than a good hiking boot. The important thing is to find a shoe with a thin flexible sole that has widely spaced lugs. The Inov-8 shoes hose off the mud easily and dry out with no damage. We stand them up on a small table with a fan on them overnight ready for our next early morning jungle escape. There are many models of these shoes out now but just be sure the sole is thin and has some wide spaced lugs. Field hockey shoes (one of our guests wore those on a hike) work well too.