I know there is a ton of reviews on El Yunque. But I just loved it! The path to La Mina Falls is probably the most busy, but very enjoyable. It is a serious hike up and down steep hills to finally find the destination of the falls and the pool where you can swim. The pool is very cold, fyi. They have paved most of the path which helps the muddiness. But be prepared, it rains! We hiked through 2 downpours. At the tourist center you can buy ponchos and umbrellas.
**Please just suffer the rain if you forget to buy rain protection. People were pulling leaves off of the trees and that is just stupid. Damaging the forest and it hardly provides much rain protection.***
OPEN daily 7.30am-6pm, $4 per person entrance
La mina is one of the biggest attractions in El Yunque. You must do the hour hike to reach the falls. Be prepared it does rain in the rain forest! We were caught in a downpour 2 times. The falls can be reached from two different paths. Supposedly "big tree" is the easiest. Over all it isn't bad. The hills can be very steep, but the path is paved which helps with the muddiness and the slipperiness. Once you reach the falls you can swim in the pool. That wasn't an option for me because it was really cold water!
La Coca Falls is right next to the main road. I'm glad we stopped there early in the morning to take pictures because as we were driving out in the afternoon is was packed. I don't think I could have got a picture without a million people in it!
El Yunque is Puerto Ricos gorgeous rain forest. It is part of the US national parks and forests, if you have a Golden Eagle Parks pass, entrance is free, otherwise it is $3 per person.
We started our Rainforest adventure in the visitors center, it's a lovely modern building with beautiful mountain views, information exhibits, a cafe, a giftshop, bathrooms and the most incredible orchid display on the top level. After having a snack at the cafe,( the smoothies were delicious), we contnued on Rt 191, stopping at La Coca Falls and Yokahu Tower, where we climbed to the top to enjoy panoramic views, before getting to the Big Tree Trail. The Big Tree Trail is the most popular in the park. It is a moderate hike about .86 miles each way. The foliage is so lush. We saw 1000 year old trees, wild impatiens, tree snails, lizards, ect. Unfortunately we did not get to see the bright green, endangered Puerto Rican parrot. (not that we really thought we would, but we were hoping) The trail stops at La Mina falls, where many people stop and take a dip. It's refreshing after a sweaty hike through the forest. You can also access La Mina falls via the La Mina trail which is a tad bit shorter than the Big Tree trail. After completing our hike, we continued along the road to the end just enjoying the scenery.
My husband and I, for the second year in a row, have visited La Mina falls in El Yunque/Carribean National Forest. We get in slowly, watching our steps on the large rocks underneath the water, and then we swim under the waterfall, kiss, and then come back out. We consider it our good luck adventure.
A lot has been written already about El Yunque, so I'll write down more of how I would plan a visit rather than what there is to see and do.
The park rangers told me the crowds start ot build at the waterfall, which is the big draw, at about 10:30 in the morning, so get there early and see them first. Since it takes about half an hour to hike down the trail (assuming you have women or children with you) you should try to get there as early as possible. You take highway 191 south from PR3 and you do NOT gave to stop at the visitor reception. That will only take time and there isn't much to see unless you are an academic specializing in ecological conservation, and even if so, you would probably know most of what they tell you anyway. Visiting the visitor center is also the only reason you would need to pay as the park itself is free, as is parking. Parking is very limited at the trailheads of the falls, so the earlier you get there, the better. There are no changing facilities at the bottom of the falls, so change on the way as you get a chance or wear your suits under your clothes.
The falls are very crowded, especially as the tour buses start disgorging their denizens into the park, and will also slow down your hike. Even without the buses, the falls have limited space, and nothign in the way of comfort. Bring aqua shoes if you have them, the bottom is loose stone and hard on your feet. The water is five feet deep at its deepest with three feet being more typical. BBQ facilities are available up towards the trailheads. There are no concessions anywhere along the trails.
Unless you want to do extensive trail hiking, the rest of the easily accessible areas of the park can be found in fairly short order. There is another falls, purely photographic, you can't go in there, plus a scenic lookout and a tower that gives you a great view. Trails loop through the park, the longest of which is about 11 kilometers. Hiking is the only way to visit the Britton tower, which basically marks the end of the park.
If you have a GPS and are coming into the park from the south FRoute 191 is closed and has been for 20 years according to the park service. But your GPS will give directions to come in on it from the South.
Route 191 from the North is open!!!!
All I can say is WOW! What a wonderful place! This was the highlight of our trip to PR in July 2008. El Yunque is easily accessible via rental car (don't listen to tour operators who tell you otherwise) and has some fantastic hikes! Skip the first visitor's center where you have to pay $3 per person to go inside. Further up the road past a couple of other visitor info spots is a visitor's center at km 11.6 and this is where all the major trails start from. Parking is free and the park is free, but a donation is always appreciated at the gift shop. We hiked the El Yunque Trail and did the Mt. Britton spur on the way back (a must see - the clouds fly right into your face) - overall about 5 hours. We touched clouds in the cloud forest, had some fabulous views of the island, saw birds and enjoyed the wonderfully maintained trail system. There are no trail maps, just maps posted along the trail, so make sure you are keeping an eye on those trail markers because it's easy to get turned around and start on a whole new trail. Bring plenty of water, snacks and keep in mind it's cooler in the forest and at the windy lookout points.
The US National Park Service operates this park--the only tropical rain forest in the NPS system. Since the prevailing winds are out of the east, the eastern slopes of the mountains receive far more rainfall than the western ones.
Tours are available from San Juan, and if you're unfamiliar with the island, I recommend taking one. Trails vary in length and degree of difficulty. Generally, the all-day tours offer more hiking than the half-day ones.
Better known as El Yunque, the Caribbean National Forest preserves 28,000 acres and is both the only tropical rainforest in the United States Forest system and the largest protected area of land in Puerto Rico. Consisting of four different forest types, El Yunque is home to more than 200 native species of trees, numerous species of animals, and, at least on the weekends, seemingly every resident of San Juan and most of the international tour groups. If you are hoping to escape from society and avoid the crowds, it is best to camp. The gates close at 6:00 p.m. and don’t reopen until 7:30 am, and it is possible to have the entire forest to yourself (and a million or so coqui and a few other creatures) for the first few hours of daylight. Once the tourist crush arrives, birdsong and coqui chirping fades out and the scene changes dramatically (for example, La Mina Falls becomes eerily reminiscent of a Roman orgy). Plan your visit according to the type of atmosphere you prefer.
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