The El Yunque Rainforest is the only tropical rain forest under the protection of the US Forest Service and also the largest nature reserve in densely populated Puerto Rico. The site is situated in the mist-wreathed Luquillo Mountains, where year-round precipitation ensures lush, green landscapes and a healthy diversity of animal life. This includes mongoose, non-venomous snakes, the rare Puerto Rican parrot, and the Coqui frog, whose distinctive croak provides El Yunque's soundtrack.
The El Portal Rain Forest Center provides a good introduction to the area. There you can pick up a map and set out on well-defined walking trails that will take you past such sights as the La Coca Falls, La Mina Falls, the Yokahu Observation Tower, and the Mount Britton Lookout Tower observation point. Popular ways to explore independently or with a tour guide include a nature walk or a hiking tour on the reserve's many hiking trails (Big Tree trail is a favorite).
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear hiking boots and comfortable clothing; flip flops are not recommended.
- Consider bringing a bathing suit for a dip in the falls.
- Hiking trails are not handicap accessible.
- Popular combination tours include a kayaking trip on the nearby bioluminescent bay and a visit to Luquillo Beach.
How to Get There
The El Yunque National Forest (formerly Caribbean National Forest) is in the northeast of Puerto Rico, less than an hour's drive from San Juan. Driving time from Fajardo is under half an hour.
When to Get There
El Yunque is an easy half-day trip from Old San Juan. There is no distinct wet or dry season in the forest, and the temperature remains a comfortable 70°F (21°C) to 80°F (26°C) all year round.