Raring to go on a tropical escape? Puerto Rico is waving hello.

It is home to the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system of the United States. Located in the mountain range of Sierra de Luquillo, El Yunque offers a variety of nature destinations like majestic waterfalls, pristine rivers, and the lush forest itself.

El Yunque might be one of the smallest (29,000 acres) in the national forest system, but it is one of the most diverse. Visit the Island of Enchantment and go home rejuvenated and with a fresh outlook on life.

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Plan The Visit to el yunque

Assuming the traveler is already in Puerto Rico, it is highly recommended they visit the forest. It's once in a lifetime to be that close to a world brimming with Mother Nature’s wonders. From the capital San Juan, it will take 45 minutes to reach the El Portal Visitor Center.

  • El Yunque is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The visitor center opens at 9 a.m.
  • There is no entrance fee, but there’s an $8 fee for optional attractions.
  • Reservations are required via Recreation.gov (with a $2 service fee).
  • For a 180-minute reservation ticket, there’s a non-refundable fee of $2.
  • Take note that camping is currently prohibited due to physical distancing rules.

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Things To Do in el yunque

Be one with nature in El Yunque. Here, travelers can just go with the flow of life, accompanied by the scents and sounds of Mother Nature. There are lots of recreational areas to choose from, mostly hiking trails for those who want to be in the heart of the forest.

Hiking Here And There

There are more than 10 hiking trails in the reserve, accommodating any type of trekkers: from easygoing to thrill-seekers. Get those hiking boots ready for a fun-filled journey!

  • Angelito Trail: A 0.2-mile trail that will take guests to the scenic Rio Mameyes. Prepare some swimming attire, too, because the water here is always fine.
  • Caimitillo Trail: A 0.4-mile journey along this trail is filled with views of giant ferns and Sierra palms.
  • El Portal Trail: A chill 0.3-mile trail where trekkers can learn more about the forest’s undergrowth. Recommended for birders, too.
  • El Toro Wilderness Trail: A three-hour hike along this 2.3-mile trail will take guests to the peak of the Luquillo Mountains.
  • El Yunque Trail: This 2.6-mile trail will lead guests to the highest point of the forest.
  • La Coca Trail: This 1.8-mile trail is not for the faint-hearted. Expect a slippery trail, creek crossing, some climbing, and rough paths.
  • Mt. Britton Trail: A 45-minute hike will take guests to a tower, where they can observe the forest with views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
  • Río Sabana Trail: Parts of this 2.2-mile trail will take guests to the wilderness where there's no phone signal. Talk about signing off.
  • Tradewinds Trail: A 4.6-mile trail that’s perfect for hikers who want to challenge themselves.

Tropical R&R

For those who want to swim, have a picnic with loved ones, or log off and be with nature, El Yunque’s recreational areas have them covered. There are almost 20 sites where tourists can cap off the day.

  • Quebrada Grande Recreation Area: Picnic pavilions and small streams await guests here.
  • Palma de Sierra Picnic Area: Craving for barbecue? There are grills in the picnic shelters here.
  • Puente Roto Recreation Area: This is the ideal spot for swimmers and waders, thanks to the inviting river.
  • Río Espíritu Santo Observation Point: How about a panoramic view of the ocean, plus some waterfalls and a natural pool?
  • Juan Diego: This short path will take guests to a creek with a small waterfall.

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Things To See in el yunque

The El Yunque is home to brimming wildlife. In fact, nestled here is the Baño de Oro Natural Area, where a protected reserve is off-limits to the public to protect its unique ecosystem. However, there are other sites where nature lovers can enjoy sightseeing.

Fun With The Flora And Fauna

There are four vegetation areas in the El Yunque: Tabonuco forest, Palo Colorado forest, Sierra palm forest, and a dwarf forest. With that, tourists should keep their eyes peeled for nature’s surprises.

  • Endemic plants thrive in the forest, including water crocus, maga trees, and mountain cabbage.
  • Be careful because there are poisonous plants, too, like the stinging nettle, elephant ear, and cow itch.
  • There are recorded 17 mammals in the area like bats, black rats, and mongooses.
  • There are also reptiles, amphibians, and lots of invertebrates (tarantula, walking sticks, and such).
  • Birdwatchers are in for a treat, too, thanks to the population of warblers, parakeets, woodpeckers, and herons, among others.

Wonderful Waterfalls

Love the sight of waterfalls? The El Yunque rainforest is home to some of Puerto Rico’s popular cascades. Take a dip.

  • La Coca Falls: Though swimming is not allowed here because the area is too slippery, it’s still a perfect spot for some Instagram shots.
  • La Mina Falls: This is one of the most famous waterfalls in the destination, thanks to the pool below that invites swimmers.
  • La Canoa Falls: The nearby El Hippie pool is a must-visit because of the rocks that have petroglyphs.

Saying the El Yunque is beautiful is an understatement. It’s home to awesome wildlife and travelers are lucky to have a look at its elegance. The tropical rainforest is the perfect spot for those who want to get out there, away from the hustle and bustle of the urban world.

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