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Top Things to do in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

Raksha Kulkarni Dec 4, 2019
El Yunque, a beautiful rainforest, is a tropical heaven in northeastern Puerto Rico. It was also known as the Caribbean National Forest. The breathtaking waterfalls and the lush foliage make it all worth a visit.

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Welcome to
El Yunque National Forest!

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Such fascinating are the views that you see on your trails. But, if you’re unable to walk, you can also drive through the forest.
The climate in El Yunque National Forest is constantly tropical all year round.

So you can visit it anytime of the year and enjoy various exiting things to do!

1. Go Hiking

Some trails are paved and some have a few steps. The trails are also clearly marked.

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I. La Mina Trail
The most popular trail here, it is of around 1 km and takes about 45 minutes to complete. It ends at the La Mina Falls, the only one open to public for swimming. You can dive under the fall after the hike.
II. La Coca Trail
It’s one of the easiest to spot as it’s near to the parking area. There are several ponds along the way. Just a little ahead, you can hike to Juan Diego Creek.

III. El Angelito
This is a 4 km route. At the end of this route, you can swing over a rope and jump in the lagoon.
IV. Mt. Britton Trail
This is a slightly steep trail that ends near the Mt. Britton stone tower. It was built in the 1930s. The tower has narrow stairs to reach the top. Enjoy the stunning view of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
V. Bano de Oro Trail
This short trail goes along a river and is quite a secluded trail. You can truly enjoy nature without the bustling crowd here. It ends near a big natural pool which is no longer usable. There is a stone bridge on it where you can enjoy the view. It takes only 20 minutes to reach the end and is a very easy one.
VI. Sierra de Luquillo
This trail is not for the faint-hearted and is recommended only for serious hikers. This trail is known for dangerous flash floods.

VII. El Yunque Peak
This is one of the highest peaks here and is further ahead from the Mt. Britton Tower. There is a viewing tower above which gives you a great 360 degree view.

2. Visit the Yokahu Observation Tower

You can drive to the Yokahu Observation Tower which is at an altitude of 1575 ft. The panoramic view from here is incredible as you’re surrounded with the lush green forest. You can also see the ocean at a distance. There’s a small store here if you need something while you return.

3. Indulge in some adventure

I. If you’re an adventurous soul, you can try a canyoning tour which will take you rock climbing, rappelling, and zip-lining.

II. You can also stay in the forest - at the Casa Cubuy, a spectacular place, which is right inside the park. The place has stunning views of the waterfalls.
III. You can also go for Horse Riding at the foothills of El Yunque.

IV. Camping is allowed here, but you must take a permit at least two weeks prior to your trip. But keep in mind, no developed camping sites or camping facilities are available here. So, you’ll need to carry every essential thing with you.

How to Reach?

It’s a less than an hour drive from San Juan. Take the Route 3 and then Route 191 to reach the rain forest.

You can also opt for a guided tour where you will have pick up and drop from your hotel.

It is recommended to rent a car or else opt for a guided tour.
It is open every day all day from 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The El Portal Visitor’s Center opens at 9.00 a.m. and closes at 5.00 p.m. Stop here for a map and some information.

There is no admission fee to enter the forest but expect a cost of $2 - $5 for extra activities there.

Update on the Current Situation

In El Yunque, repairs and construction work to recover the damage caused by Hurricane Maria is in progress. So, the La Mina trail is unfortunately closed completely for repairs. But, to know about the other parts of the park you can visit, check the USDA website for exact status.

Points to Remember

Start early! There are hundreds of people visiting and you might get stuck amidst the buses on the two-lane winding roads.

El Yunque experiences a lot of rain each year. The trails can be slippery so take utmost care during hiking. Also, carry your hiking shoes and ponchos with you.

Carry your swimsuit with you!
It’s a forest. So grab your bug repellent too!

It’s very easy to be tempted to wander beyond the trails. But, it is not at all recommended. You might easily get lost. So, do stick to the trails!

Don’t take an Uber to reach here because you might get stuck there. There is hardly any network in the forest and the park doesn’t allow entering of Uber cabs.

Some Interesting Facts about the Forest

  • The name “El Yunque” meaning “anvil” - a flat top - is said to have originated from the name of one of the Native spirits.

  • It is the only tropical rainforest that comes under the U.S. Forest Service.

  • Standing tall about 3532 feet high, El Toro is the highest peak in the forest.

... and Did you Know?

  • El Yunque is 28,000 acres in size, which is very less compared to other forests.

  • The forest has thriving biological diversity of around 240 endemic tree species and 150 native fern species.

  • It is the only forest in the world where animals such as Puerto Rican Parrot, pygmy/limestone anole, and coqui tree frog are found!