El Yunque National Forest is known for having the highest quality waters in Puerto Rico, and lovely water vistas. As it is a mountainous rain forest, there are plenty of streams, creeks, and rivers that course through the Forest. The steepness of the terrain provides a number of lovely cascades and small pools. El Yunque National Forest previously referred to as the Carribean National Forest can be found in North-eastern Puerto Rico on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. This tropical rainforest is the biggest and only tropical rainforest in the United States of America.
El Yunque National Forest is a serene location, perfect for a number of activities such as hiking, swimming, and even picnicking. There are also exhibits, interpretive programs, restrooms, a gift shop, and even a cafe!
The History and Characteristics of El Yunque National Forest.
It was initially established as the Luquillo Forest Reserve in 1903 and became the Caribbean National Forest in 1906. Later on, the name was changed to what we call it today, El Yunque. It has always been the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest System.
El Yunque is a remnant of an ancient super volcano named Hato Puerco. The volcano was one of the region’s largest and most active volcanoes during the Cretaceous period 145-66 million years ago. It is assumed that El Yunque’s hardness and chemical properties came from being ‘cooked’ or constantly heated in the chamber of the volcano.
El Yunque National Forest is one of Puerto Rico’s most beloved natural gems. The park has a very diverse ecosystem, with hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including Puerto Rico’s famous coquí frog.
As mentioned before, El Yunque National Forest is located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. It encompasses over 28,000 acres of land. This makes it the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. Despite its whopping expanse, El Yunque National Forest is actually considered as one of the smallest, yet most biologically diverse rainforests.
Over 100 billion gallons of rainwater fall on the Forest per year. Here, it rains about 4 times a day. As a result of such heavy rainfall and the warm tropical climate, El Yunnque National Forest is home to 240 native tree species, masses of vines, 50 native orchids, epiphytes, giant ferns, and mosses. Different species of wildlife can also be found here; reptiles, amphibians, various insects, rodents, birds, even snails that have shells as big as a child’s fist! Imagination may probably be your only limitation.
If you are looking for the best time to visit this national treasure, you may be in luck. It has been said that there is no bad time to visit El Yunque. Generally, December to mid-April is considered a great time to visit as you can be assured of great weather and little to no rain.
How To Visit El Yunque National Forest.
Make sure you have an advance reservation if you plan to go. It is best to check with the official website before booking a trip there. The forest is available every day (except for Christmas) from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. El Portal Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. While the forest has no entrance fee, admission to some of the optional attractions will cost $8 for adults, with children under 15 years entering for free. Additionally, you can drive through the forest for a small dollar fee of $4.
You can get to the forest from San Juan by taking Route 66, which is a toll road, east to Route 3 East. Then, you can continue on that road until you see the signs that say EL PORTAL / EL YUNQUE. When you do, you can take the exit that leads to Route 191 and take that to El Yunque. You can opt to drive there or charter a taxi for your journey.
If you are stuck for what to bring, have no fears. We have got you covered. Here is a list of things that you may find useful to bring on your trip to El Yunque National Forest.
- Hiking shoes that are comfy and have sturdy bottoms
- A change of clothes as you are likely to get wet
- An asthma inhaler if you are asthmatic, as it is quite a hike
- Enough water in case you get thirsty
- A hat or a visor
- Some snacks in case you get peckish
It is advised that you wear long trousers on your hike as some plants may cause skin irritation.
Now, here is the fun part!
What to do at El Yunque National Forest!
As you already know, you can go hiking in this gorgeous paradise. It has a number of well-known trails such as the Mount Britton Tower Trail which is about 0.8 miles long and takes about an hour and a half to finish and offers amazing views from the viewing tower on clear days. You can also walk on the La Coca Trail which is a little challenging and goes down the mountain into the Tabonuco forest, crossing three times the water, climbing over fallen trees, and walking through muddy paths until reaching the Mameyes River. People often get lost here, so make sure to follow the trail.
You can also explore nature and be transfixed by all the wildlife you may find, including endangered species like the Puerto Rican parrot, which the USDA forest service has protected since 1968.
In addition to the above, El Yunque National Forest features two observation towers that allow visitors to soak in the view of the surrounding Puerto Rican Mountains. The first one is the Yokahú Tower and the second is Mount Britton Tower, which you can find at the end of a 45-minute hike.
As if that were not enough, there is also a zipline canopy, horseback riding, taking a dip in the waterfalls, and even camping (though you will need a special permit).
Other Natural Attractions in Puerto Rico
There are tons of other natural attractions just as beautiful as the El Yunque Forest in Puerto Rico. Here are a few in case you are considering visiting any.
- Luis Munoz Marin Park- found in San Juan and is an urban park filled with fun activities.
- Condado Beach- a gorgeous place to visit which is only a few minutes away from Old San Juan.
- Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico- a beautiful museum located in a historic building that has 18 exhibition halls
- Bioluminescent bays that will captivate you and make you feel like you are swimming amongst stars.
As you may know by now, El Yunque National Forest is a fantastic place filled with beauty and wonder- perfect for a little adventure. Hurry and visit soon! You will definitely not regret it.