Atabey Tours is a young company based in Puerto Rico that aims to reconnect travelers to the true source of life through Atabey (Mother Earth) while enjoying fun experiences around what is known the world over as the Island of Enchantment. The company combines expertise on the island’s natural gifts with in-depth international experience in the field of ecotourism, offering custom adventure tours throughout Puerto Rico. Atabey Tours offers a free consultation (via email, phone or in person) to interested parties as well as a commitment to the preservation of the environment – two excellent reasons to consider them on your visit to the island. We spoke with Atabey Tours’s co-founder, Andrés Carrero, about his company and his thoughts on Puerto Rico greatest attractions.
EyeTour: When did you decide to start Atabey Tours?
Andrés: I first had the vision for Atabey Tours in 2008. I was recording in Iceland at the time and the idea just came into my head. I didn’t pursue it for a while because I was busy with other work but during my latest voyage to South America (Andes/Amazon) I was truly blessed to have met some incredible tour guides. They weren’t ordinary tour guides. They were beyond professional. They were almost shamans in a way; guiding me through these surreal journeys along the way to an epic destination (sacred Inca temples, flooded forests in the Amazon River, etc.).
But the deepest and best part was the journey itself and the way the guides would lead you, instilling their wisdom and local way of life. I met many different guides along the entire Andes to Amazon mission and I believe they planted a seed in my consciousness. When I arrived back home in Puerto Rico, I felt transformed. I knew I was ready to do the same for travelers coming to enjoy Puerto Rico. So it was only natural timing for Atabey Tours.
EyeTour: What type of traveler did you have in mind with this venture?
Andrés: As for the type of traveler I had in mind, I thought of travelers not tourists. Tourists are the people who come to enjoy a new country in a more superficial manner. Travelers are more independent minded and are looking to explore the depths of the country they find themselves in. I’ve always been a traveler wherever I’ve been, even here in my own island of Puerto Rico and I believe there’s a lot of visitors who truly want to get the real experience behind Puerto Rico. This island is a place of contrasts and it can be challenging getting to the soul of it, but I’m here to bridge that gap and guide our visitors to the most rewarding adventure PR has to offer.
EyeTour: How many tours have you given around the island?
Andrés: I’ve given many tours around the island, too many to count. At the beginning most of them were for friends and family. Then, I did some tours for visitors from the US and other countries (some of them old friends, others had heard about me through acquaintances, etc…). Eventually I realized I had a gift and a passion for this and I decided it was time to make it my profession.
EyeTour: You currently list two different treks on the Atabey Tours site – are you developing other experiences or routes for your clients? How are tours customized for each individual?
Andrés: I only specifically list 2 of the most popular treks/adventures just to give the travelers a sense of what we do and to provide them with some structure. However, there are endless options for Atabey Tours and that is my favorite part of the job. At the bottom of the “Tours!” section in the site, under “Custom Adventure Tours!” I have some pictures and text that touch on some of the dynamic possibilities. Each tour will not be a mere reproduction of the last with just new faces.
We get to know our visitors during our free consultation via email, phone or in person and that helps us understand the needs and desires of our customers so we can design the custom tour of their dreams. We have explored so many varied havens in Puerto Rico throughout the years that we have the right spot for just about anybody.
Some people like more intense adventure, some want something more contemplative and relaxing, others something spiritual and others just good old FUN! In these tours, there’s a definite sense of exploring the inner kid (going back to play in nature and that feeling of excitement and curious wonder…) in you, while simultaneously nurturing your spirit and your evolution. But its not forced. It’s just something that happens naturally when you explore within these magical places.
EyeTour: What are some of your favorite experiences in Puerto Rico? What should be on the top of every visitor’s list when he or she comes to the island?
Andrés: I believe every visitor must go to the highlands of Puerto Rico. The coast is fantastic and there’s a whole world of alluring beaches to discover but I think anyone who comes to Puerto Rico must experience 3 essential sides of the island:
- The Coast: different beaches to suit different tastes but just traveling the coast is a wonderful adventure as long as you don’t stay exclusively in the touristy/well-known beaches
- The mountains: This is the heart & soul of the island. Known as “La Cordillera Central”, this vast expanse of lush greenery, waterfalls, rivers and rain forests is also home to the true Puerto Rican culture. Drive through the roof of Puerto Rico and you’ll be in a more authentic, joyful and simple environment where the jíbaro mountain folks add to the wonder of it all. And then, to top it off, this is where the Taínos retreated to when the Spaniards colonized their coastal settlements. Their spirit and influence is still seen and felt here like nowhere else. Karsts country is a mesmerizing and most under-rated region in the interior as well. This is my personal favorite.
- Viejo San Juan: This is the real reason why you MUST spend some time in the city. Old San Juan is just miraculous. The walled-city the Spanish built starting in the 1500’s with its colonial ambiance and its massive impenetrable forts (used to keep British, Dutch and other European powers at bay) facing the tropical Atlantic Ocean is just a stunning combination. I’ve been to many, many colonial cities around the world and Viejo San Juan is up there at the top.
EyeTour: Puerto Rico is often advertised as a tourist destination for its resorts, nightlife, and more recently, for its culinary experience. Do you think ecotourism has or will become synonymous with Puerto Rico?
Andrés: I don’t think ecotourism has become synonymous with Puerto Rico unfortunately. Other tropical Latin American countries like Costa Rica and Brasil, among others, have become synonymous with ecotourism because of their incredible natural treasures and most importantly, because of the development of ecotourism infrastructure along with the government’s support and appreciation for the country’s natural resources and genuine ecotourism practices.
There’s a consciousness about it there that extends to the government in some ways and specially the people who value nature. Puerto Rico is gradually getting there but I believe the government has to do its part to educate the masses here about the value of our environment and perhaps the government itself is not truly aware of its value or is just undermining it in preference of short-term profit schemes that cost us our most precious natural resources.
But I do see more environmental activism, which is a great sign and I do hope that PR can become a green ecotourism destination in the near future because the reality is that we have incredible gifts of nature much as other ecotourism destinations, only we contain them within a much more accessible 100 X 35 miles.
EyeTour: What would you write someone who is considering coming to the Caribbean for his or her vacation, but has yet to make his mind on which island to visit?
Andrés: Well, Puerto Rico makes a great case for being the quintessential Caribbean destination. Its got a great mix of cultures and sights, from the classic white sand Caribbean beaches to tropical rain forests to charming colonial city gems like Viejo San Juan and Ponce. Then, there’s the mountains and the unique Puerto Rican culture that brought Salsa to the world. Our friendly people are one of our greatest gifts. It’s a truly warm place in many different ways.
EyeTour: How can people contact you for more information about Atabey Tours?
Andrés: For more information on Atabey Tours, I can easily be reached through our website:www.atabeytours.com by clicking on the “Contact Us” link at the top right side of the page and also by phone (787) 415-1291. We encourage every visitor to experience the real Puerto Rico and wish you the most fun and happy time in our magical island of Enchantment.
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