The rainforest is so lush and beautiful and although we didn't spot much wildlife the fauna is spectacular. For avid hikers their are a number of trails meant for individuals of different levels of ability. La Mina Trail takes about an hour roundtrip and leads down to stunning La Mina Falls, where you can take a swim and cool off. The Mt. Britton Trail, will lead you to Mt. Britton Lookout Tower, which offers breathtaking panoramas of the rainforest's canopy. If you are not much into hiking, you can just drive along the main paved road, from which you can view La Coca Falls or check out the views from a lookout tower. If you really want to avoid the crowds and just get into nature, then visit the rarely visited South entrance of the rainforest where you are more likely to catch a glimpse of the rare Puerto Rican Parrot. Happy Hiking!
The only tropical forest in the US forest system, El Yunque is also the smallest. The name comes from the Indian spirit Yuquiye meaning Forest of the Clouds. It's beautiful and definitely a "must see" There are lots of trails and sites accessible from the road and while I didn't have time to spend an entire day here, I recommend you do so. There are about 250 species of plants here, about 25 of which are endemic to Puerto Rico. There aren't too many animals here, though...given that PR is an island it's much easier for plants (seeds) to travel by way of water or wind to end up here. (I DID learn something in Biogeography!) However, this is the home of the Puerto Rican parrot, one of the most endangered animals in the world. You'll hear lots of birds and of course, the Coqui frog, the symbol of PR. In addition to these things, you'll also see remarkable waterfalls and are able to go swimming at La Mina waterfall. You can go horseback riding, hiking, camping (w/ a permit) and participate in additional activities.
Of course, I recommend that you see this without a tour group, but most hotels in San Juan organize daily trips out here. You can rent a car for a day and come out here or take one of these tours. Unfortunately no publicos come this way.
Bring rain gear and good shoes...some of the trails are steep and chances are it will rain. What's really cool is that the further you go up the road, the chances that you will be level or above the clouds, increases. We went past the Yokahu tower up to Bano Grande and Bano Oro where we were at the level of the clouds.
There are a few stands to get refreshments in the park as well.
This is a great place to start if you're going to spend some time to see El Yunque. There are multiple public buildings and it's definitely the best visitor center I've seen. The whole thing is built like an atrium--huge vaulted ceilings but no walls to close it in. It's open air, protected from the rain. The forest rangers have maps and will recommend things to see and do around the center and forest. There's lots of exhibits (in Spanish and English) to see and read, a 12 minute video, a gift shop. It's impressive, I must say:)
Admission is $3.00 and is good all day so you can come here, tour the park and hike some trails and then come back, if you want to. I always feel it's useful to learn about what I'm going to be seeing, see it and then come back to learn again about what I saw.
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.
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.
It is hard to describe the beauty and charm of El Yunque.
The soundtrack of El Yunque is a unique one. Its a blend of El Coqui (the singing frog native to PR), Rio Grande and consistent rain.
The sights an smells are unbelievable! Its hard to describe until you see it yourself. Its an experience you don't want to miss.
I stayed at a friend's family Case del Campo for a few days. Wow!!!!
El Yunque is a definite visit. I think it took us about an hr and 1/2 to drive to from San Juan.
Right before the entrance there is an amazing empanada stand. MMMM...you have to try the empanadas and coconut juice. When you're done drinking the juice, theyll cut the coconut for you.
El yunque can get crowded, so I would recommend trying to get there on a weekday. ITs very hot and humid in there, but the great thing is that you can cool off at one of the many falls!
Its a beautiful forest, not as much of a rainforest as I thought it would be, but nevertheless beautiful. Be prepared to do a bit of walking, it is very hilly and can get tiring in the heat.
El Yuunque Rain Forest is the only rain forest in the US National Park system, and is a unique experience. Make sure you hike to the top of the mountain on the marked trails, and you will be able to see the North AND South shores of the island of Puerto Rico from the peak on a sunny or partly cloudy day.
Also, you will see waterfalls, and vegetation growing everywhere.
This is a mountainous rain forest, accessible to humans, without disturbing the wild life. I have never been to a more beautiful place in my life. If you don't see anything else in Puerto Rico, you must see this! There are many hiking paths, and most of them lead to a gorgeous waterfall. Bring a bathing suit- you can swim in the water!!
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
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