El Yunque National Forest Things to Do

  • Path to the visitor center
    Path to the visitor center
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  • Rainforest exhibits
    Rainforest exhibits
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  • Rainforest exhibits in the visitor center
    Rainforest exhibits in the visitor...
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Most Recent Things to Do in El Yunque National Forest

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    El Yunque

    by Gypsystravels Updated Jul 29, 2015

    El Yunque is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Comprised of some 240 different species of trees, it is actually a series of forests, each one determined by its altitude.

    More than 100 billion gallons of precipitation fall each year which creates the jungle-like ambience of lush foliage, sparkling leaves, shining wet rocks, and shadowy paths occasionally pierced by sunlight.

    Spectacular waterfalls rush alongside its well-maintained (but slippery) trails.

    It is here where you will hear the the noisy, ubiquitous tree frog, el coqu?. No one really knows how many species there are. This little tree frog is very elusive, but you'll hear them here for sure. This is also home to the endangered Puerto Rican parrot.

    The best way to see the forest is on foot. You can also appreciate it during a slow drive up and down the mountain. Exploring can be done on your own or take a guided tour.

    I love my visits to the rain forest, walking along the many hiking paths and enjoying the cold waterfalls is a nice way to spend a hot day.

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    La Mina Falls & La Mina Trail

    by xoxoxenophile Written Jan 31, 2015

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    We spent the morning in El Yunque hiking down La Mina trail to the falls. El Yunque National Park isn't super big, and only really has one road through it, so to make the most of your trip there it's best to try to do a hike or too. La Mina Trail is a popular one, because at the end you're rewarded by being able to swim in a pool beneath a beautiful waterfall.

    The way down was not really strenuous at all. It's partially paved, with some stairs and places that are cracked or rocky along the way. Most of this was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, so that's understandable. The trail more or less follows the stream down to the falls. It's only 0.7 miles, and so it probably only took 30-45 minutes to get down to the waterfall, and along the way there is some really beautiful plant life to see. At the bottom is the waterfall, which is really pretty, and will likely be surrounded by tourists in swimsuits hanging out beneath it. We didn't swim because we hadn't brought our suits down with us (and we'd be heading onto Luquillo Beach afterwards) but we enjoyed walking on the rocks below, feeling the spray of the falls and people-watching. The way back up though, was of course much harder. It's only 0.7 miles but you ascend/descend over 2000 feet, and by that point in the day it was very hot and humid and we were very sweaty! We made it back to the top to our (mercifully) air conditioned car. Anyone who's in reasonable shape shouldn't have trouble on this trail--you can see the variety of tourists that made it down in the pictures--but you may have to take your time on the way back up. I'd also recommend doing the trail either earlier in the day or later in the evening both because it will be cooler and because you may encounter fewer tourists. That wasn't an option for us, but we still had a great time hiking through El Yunque down to La Mina Falls!

    Hikers on La Mina Trail Tourists swimming beneath La Mina Falls La Mina Falls Ryan and me at La Mina Falls La Mina Falls
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    Visitor Center

    by xoxoxenophile Written Jan 31, 2015

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    A visit to El Yunque is free if you don't stop by the visitor center, but I recommend doing so. It's only $4 a person, and you can glean a lot of information about both El Yunque and rainforests around the world from the exhibits there. It's also a good idea to stop and get a map and information on any hikes you'd like to do from one of the very helpful staff members there before you head out to explore. The area round the visitor center has some nice raised pathways where you can get some great views of the surrounding forest, and I would imagine that would be a great way to see some of El Yunque if you don't have full mobility or can't hike on any of the trails. There's also a gift shop where you can purchase anything you forgot, such as bug spray!

    Path to the visitor center Rainforest exhibits Rainforest exhibits in the visitor center Stream near the visitor center Palms near the visitor center
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    La Coca Falls

    by xoxoxenophile Written Jan 31, 2015

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    La Coca Falls is really easily accessible in El Yunque--it's one of the first stopping points along the road after the Visitor Center and right near the road (no hiking involved!). We were there in summer and so the flow of the waterfall was more of a trickle--I imagine it might be stronger in the fall when there's more rain. It's a nice little place to get out of your car and check out the falls, and I even saw a lizard nearby (the only animal we actually managed to get a picture of in El Yunque). This is a nice stop, but if you are able to, I highly recommend hiking down to the much larger La Mina Falls, where you can even swim beneath the falls!

    La Coca Falls Tourist on rocks near La Coca Falls Lizard near La Coca Falls Into the canopy La Coca Falls
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    Photograph amazing creatures at rainforest

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    You can hear the Coqui frogs singing in the rainforest, “Ko’Kee..” But I was not able to photograph this small frog.

    We did see a lot of lizards though, even by the pool of our hotel and a lot at the El Portal Visitor Center. We also saw snails, woody insects on the plants, lots of birds…but not the elusive green parrot which has a very low number and chances of seeing it in the wild is close to NIL.

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    Here is a video of the Jumping Family enjoying the beaches
    and the rainforest of PUERTO RICO
    to the tune of the Flintstones theme song, haha:

    PUERTO RICO RAIN FOREST AND BEACHES

    Lizard by our hotel pool in Puerto Rico (Marriott) Lizard in Puerto Rico Another Lizard in Puerto Rico Wood-like insect at the El Yunque Rainforest, PR
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    Yokahu Tower for panoramic rainforest views

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    Yokahu Tower Observation Point at an elevation of 1575 feet above sea level (at Km 8.9) is a great place for panoramic views of the rainforest.
    Also known as the Lookout Tower, the Yokahu Observation Point was named after the supreme being of the Taino Indians --- it looks like a one of the towers on a chess piece set, and I told my daughter that Rapunzel would let down her hair at anytime.
    The climb up is a bit tiring, but the view is worth the trek going up! There is a little viewer at the top which my five year old son played with, and also by the time we were to go down, it started to rain again.
    There is a little store at the bottom of the tower as well.

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    Here is a video of the Jumping Family enjoying the beaches
    and the rainforest of PUERTO RICO
    to the tune of the Flintstones theme song, haha:

    PUERTO RICO RAIN FOREST AND BEACHES

    Yokahu Tower Observation Point, Puerto Rico Yokahu Tower Observation Point, Puerto Rico Yokahu Tower Observation Point, Puerto Rico Yokahu Tower Observation Point, Puerto Rico View from Yokahu Tower, El Yunque, Puerto Rico
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    La Coca Falls at El Yunque Rainforest

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    There is a famous waterfall in the El Yunque Forest called la Coca Falls, sometimes people call it Coco Falls…but either way, it’s a great waterfall to see in the rainforest.

    A favourite stop for tourists and even with the rain, I saw some people walking onto the rocks for picture taking – I thought the rocks would be a bit slippery, but it seemed people still ventured out to it (for a better shot without the rails). But I suggest you do that only if you have good footing!

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    Here is a video of the Jumping Family enjoying the beaches
    and the rainforest of PUERTO RICO
    to the tune of the Flintstones theme song, haha:

    PUERTO RICO RAIN FOREST AND BEACHES

    La Coca Falls at El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico La Coca Falls at El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico La Coca Falls at El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico Tourists at La Coca Falls, Puerto Rico rainforest
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  • jumpingnorman's Profile Photo

    Bano Grande at El Yunque

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    There are some natural pools around the El Yunque Forest and our guide brought us to a big pool, appropriately called Bano Grande.

    Our guide said that when he was a little boy, they were able to swim in it.

    But now, there are metal bars around the pool, and I think swimming is not allowed anymore. It may be because it may be dangerous when the water level goes up fast after a rainfall (I understand since I myself almost drowned swimming in a waterfall lagoon which turned murky brown in just a few seconds with flash flooding after a rainfall in the Philippine island of Catanduanes).

    But there are nice paved pathways where you can enjoy walking around the pools, and maybe trying to listen to those singing “Coqui” frogs that sound like “Co-gui”…

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    Here is a video of the Jumping Family enjoying the beaches
    and the rainforest of PUERTO RICO
    to the tune of the Flintstones theme song, haha:

    PUERTO RICO RAIN FOREST AND BEACHES

    Bano Grande at El Yunque, Puerto Rico Bano Grande at El Yunque, Puerto Rico Bano Grande at El Yunque, Puerto Rico
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    Drive Through El Yunque Rainforest

    by risse73 Written Feb 26, 2012

    If I remember it correctly, there is a drive up the rain forest road (Rd#191?) that will allow you to pass one of the falls (I think it's La Coca) where you can pull up the road and take a picture of it. On this drive, you will see various tropical foliage.

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    • Eco-Tourism

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    Mt. Britton

    by Dabs Updated Feb 10, 2011

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    We still had a lot of time after hiking the Big Tree/La Mina trails so we decided to drive to the end of the access road and do one more hike to the Mt. Britton tower. This trail is almost entirely vertical so you should be in decent shape to do it. Follow the signs to the trail head and park there, you have to take a right off the main road and continue driving to get to where it starts.

    The Mt. Britton trail isn't as well marked as the more popular trails but it's easy enough to figure out, once at the top of the tower you have a spectacular view over the park. The Mount Britton trail is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) in length, estimated at 40 minutes one-way, difficulty level is challenging.

    The Mt. Britton tower, named for botanist Nathaniel Britton, was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. From the top of the tower you can see out to the Atlantic, the Caribbean and off in the distance you can see San Juan.

    Mt. Britton tower View from Mt. Britton tower

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    La Mina Trail

    by Dabs Updated Feb 10, 2011

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    The La Mina trail is the continuation of the Big Tree Trail or you can hike it down and then back up if your time is short in El Yunque. The trail is .7 miles (1.2 km) and estimated to take 30 to 45 minutes one way, rated as challenging although I thought Big Tree required more exertion. La Mina was the prettier of the two trails, it follows the water as it flows down to the falls. At the falls, you can take a dip in the cold water so bring a bathing suit. Try to do this or Big Tree first, as the day progresses the ship tours and daytrip buses start arriving and it becomes crowded and not at all tranquil. We were followed by a giggling group of American college students, once they were in the water at La Mina falls there was no way to get decent pictures so we were glad we beat them down by 20 minutes.

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    Big Tree Trail

    by Dabs Updated Feb 10, 2011

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    The Big Tree Trail is one of the two most popular hikes in El Yunque, it's .7 miles in length (1.4km) and the estimated time to hike it is 40 minutes with a moderate level of difficulty, all of the trails we hiked including this one were paved. The Big Tree trail leads to the La Mina waterfall and from there you can hike the La Mina trail back up or you can do that in reverse and hike down La Mina and then back up Big Tree. After doing it, I'm still not sure which is the better route, Big Tree left me winded even going down to the falls as it's more of an up and down trail, whereas La Mina seemed like it was all descent going down. If you do the two trails in combination, you will be about 1 mile (1.8km) from where you park, we had to walk along the road to get back to our car. From La Mina you are going downhill, from Big Tree uphill. So I think it's kind of a toss up as to which is the route that requires more exertion.

    If you only have time to hike one, I'd suggest La Mina, it was the more scenic of the two routes as it follows the water down to the waterfall.

    Big Tree Trail

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    El Yunque National Forest

    by Dabs Updated Feb 10, 2011

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    El Yunque National Forest, located about an hour southeast of San Juan, is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. The forest’s 28,000 acres is home to 240 species of trees, 150 types of ferns and you may see tropical flowers depending on when you visit. You may come across tiny tree frogs, the rare Puerto Rican parrot or Puerto Rican boa although sightings are rare.

    You can start at the El Portal Rain Forest Center or if you know where you are going you can drive and park at any of the trail heads and save the $4 fee for the visitor center. You can print off the information for each of the different trails from their website which lists the length of the trail, the level of difficulty and estimated time to complete. We found the time estimates to be a bit inflated but the level of difficulty accurate.

    Although we didn't see a drop of rain, this is a rainforest and if you come during the rainy season, you may want to come prepared for a shower or two. The three trails we hiked were all paved and there were rain shelters dotted along the trails.

    El Yunque

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    Bird Watching

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 8, 2009

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    At El Yunque there 50 species of birds, 11 species of bats, 8 species of lizards, and 13 species of coquí (a tree frog - photo 5). Also found here are several species of shrimp and fish. So sounds you hear may be either those of birds or frogs.

    There are 17 endemic species of birds in Puerto Rico and many other birds that stop on the island on their migration routes.

    A list of birds seen in the Forest include
    * Red Tailed Hawk (Guaraguao)
    * Mangrove Cuckoo
    * Puerto Rican Lizard-Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti)
    * Puerto Rican Woodpecker
    * Scaly-naped Pigeon (Patagioenas squamosa)
    * White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
    * Green Mango: [Anthracothorax viridis] hummingbird
    * Puerto Rican Emerald
    * Puerto Rican Tody (San Pedrito)
    * Gray Kingbird
    * Pearly-Eyed Thrasher
    * Red legged Thrush
    * Bananaquit (Coereba flaveola)
    * Cape May Warbler
    * Black Throated blue warbler
    * Black-Cowled Oriole
    * Shiny Cowbird
    * Striped Headed Tanager
    * Antillean Euphonea
    * Indigo Bunting
    * Black-faced Grassquit (Tiaris bicolor)
    * Black Whiskered Vireo
    * Pin Tailed Whyoah
    * Greater Antillean Oriole
    * Puerto Ricon Bull Finch
    * Puerto Rican Fly Catcher
    * Great White Egret (Casnerodius albus)
    * Black-and-White Warbler (mariatilta varia)
    * American Redstart (sectophaga runticilla)
    * Northern Parula (Parula americana)
    * Antillean Mango (Anthracothorax dominicus)
    * Puerto Rican Tanager (Nesospingus speculiferus)
    * Puerto Rican Screech Owl (otus nudipes)
    * White-crowned Pigeon (Columba leucocephala)

    The endangered species Puerto Rican Parrot (amazona vitatta - photo 4) lives only in a few hidden areas of the Caribbean National Forest. There are presently approximately 102 birds alive, but only about 40 in the wild. That is up from about 11-16 birds in 1968

    A good book is Puerto Rico's Birds in Photographs (Paperback) by Mark W. Oberle. The book includes a CD-ROM of bird sounds and photographs and is available at El Portal visitor
    Center in El Yunque

    We had no need of this book because we were not in the area long enough to photograph any of the birds or the frogs. The only pictures I have are those of the signs at various sites.

    Sign at the Visitor Center Book on birds at the Visitor's Center Sign about birds at the tower Sign about the endemic parrot Sign about the frogs at the Visitor's Center
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    Waterfalls

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 8, 2009

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    Because this is a rain forest, there is a lot of water around, and some of it falls down cliffs - making waterfalls. Apparently sometimes people swim in pools that form at the base of the waterfalls. I've been in a ship's pool where there was a waterfall, and it seems like this is more fun to think about than to actually do. Because the water isn't hot like in a shower - it is cold. And it can be harder hitting than your regular shower at home.

    A lot of the better falls - those with pools that you can swim in - have to be hiked to. I wasn't going to do any hiking so the only falls we saw were the ones by the road or at the visitor's center. These pictures are of the La Coca Falls which is the first one seen by the visitor traveling up to the Forest . The waters of La Coca Falls drop 85 feet (26 meters) onto a huge rock formation at the bottom of the falls.

    According to the official website of the U.S. Forest Service: La Coca Falls derives its name from its official owner in the 14th century, Spanish settler Juan Diego de La Coca. Historically in Puerto Rico properties have been referred to by the owner name. However, throughout time, names have undergone some evolution resulting in shortened versions. Thus, the property of Juan Diego de la Coca is presently known as La Coca Falls.

    Surprisingly, these falls have never dried up. This is quite unusual given the fact that the Forest has periodic dry spells. Yet, La Coca continues to run freely and greet visitors each day. Rocks are extremely slippery and no trails are maintained around the falls. Two parking areas are available for visitors.

    La Coca Falls Waterfall by the road Another waterfall photo Waterfall Picture of me by the waterfall
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