Planning a trip to Puerto Rico? If you are a nature lover or just want to be able to really relax, make sure to schedule a visit to El Yunque National Forest. Its name refers to Yuke , which meant “white lands” in the native language of the indigenous Taíno people that lived in the area.
It has the distinction of being the only rain forest within the United States’ national forest system. While it’s on the smaller side, at 29,000 acres, it is biologically one of the most diverse. It’s considered a national treasure, and is a popular tourist site for visitors to the island. You can either drive there yourself, or join one of the many tours that will take you there.
This gorgeous gem of a park offers visitors many beautiful hiking trails. After working up a sweat, you can cool down near the scenic waterfalls and swim in the natural pools beneath them. The scenery will astonish you. There are 240 plant species that are endemic to Puerto Rico, as well as many unique animals. One of the most famous is the coquí frog, the national emblem of Puerto Rico. For bird watchers, the park offers some of the best opportunities on the island. Sit quietly by the trail and you might see woodpeckers, green mangos and the elusive Puerto Rican parrot.
El Yunque opens at 7:30 in the morning. To get the most out of your visit, you’ll want to be there right when it opens to beat the crowds. There is a visitor center at the entrance to the rain forest, where you can pick up a map if you haven’t already printed one out.
One of the best trails for beginners is the La Mina Trail. Well maintained and mostly paved, the trail is only about a mile and a half round trip. Along the way, you can take breaks to swim in the beautiful river, or you can wait to take a dip when you get to La Mina Falls. These are exquisite waterfalls that drop 35 feet. If you decide to swim in the pool beneath, be aware that the rocks are slippery.
Obviously when hiking in this park, you’ll want to wear non-slip, waterproof footwear. You may also want to bring a rain poncho, as the average rainfall in the region is 120 inches a year. There is a good chance you will get wet, one way or another!
For a slightly longer hike that will give you the chance to fly out over a lagoon on a rope swing, you can try the 2.5 mile El Angelito Trail. For a more difficult but truly beautiful experience, there is La Coca trail.
While visiting the park, you should also climb one of its two observation towers. The Yokahu tower was constructed in 1963 and provides an elevation from the top of 1,575 feet. While it sits lower than the other tower, Mount Britton Tower, it actually often provides a better view since there is less chance that cloud cover will interfere. It is also more accessible, since there is a nearby parking lot, while Mount Britton Tower is located in the center of the rain forest.
After your fun-filled day in the park, you can head over to the nearby seaside town of Luquillo for a delicious meal at one of the many family-owned eateries there that use a North American Bancard payment processing companies. So what are you waiting for? You can’t get there from here, you’ve got to book your next vacation to Puerto Rico.
Northern Mat and Bridge