Note: Reservations for entry tickets for the main recreation area in El Yunque along Rd 191 are now required. They are available at Recreation.gov. To comply with health and safety directives, visitor capacity is being managed per the guidelines of the USDA Forest Service and the current governor’s Executive Order.
One of the most beautiful places for you to enjoy when you visit Puerto Rico is El Yunque National Forest. It’s located in the northeast area of the island and is 23.7 miles east of San Juan, less than an hour’s drive away. El Yunque has the distinction of being the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System. It spans 28,000 acres of land, so there is a lot for you to explore.
Things to Do in El Yunque
Whatever activities you decide on, be sure to take time to simply enjoy the beauty of nature in El Yunque National Forest. Take in the lush, verdant vegetation and sparkling waterfalls. Notice the multitude of different plants, trees, animals and birds. El Yunque is home to over 65 species of birds, most notably the Puerto Rican green parrot.
To truly see the best of the forest, put on your hiking boots and immerse yourself in the glories that Mother Nature has to offer. You are able to drive into the forest, however, to really experience this diverse and stunning habitat, walk on one of the many hiking trails. Some of the most popular (and currently open) are:
- El Yunque Trail
- Mount Britton Tower Trail
- El Toro WildernessTrail
- Vereda La Coco Trail
- Angelito Trail
- Caimitillo Trail
- Los Picachos
To find out more about all of El Yunque’s hiking trails, vist the USDA Forest Service page for El Yunque. You can learn about each trail, and get alerts and advisories to help you better plan your trip to the forest.
Note: Keep in mind that because of maintenance and reconstruction in the forest (much of it due to damage done by the hurricanes in 2017), on any given day a site could be temporarily closed.
As long as you’re hiking, you might as well check out the spectacular waterfalls the forest has to offer. These are three of the most popular.
- La Coca Falls – this 85’ stunning waterfall is easily accessible and there is parking nearby. It will get crowded, so try and go early in the day. La Coca Falls is considered a slide fall. The water slides down a smooth rock face and crashes onto the boulders at the base. The tropical rain forest surrounding La Coca is just as stunning as the waterfall itself. If hiking isn’t your thing and you want to see a waterfall in Puerto Rico, go to La Coca Falls.
- Juan Diego Creek – You can’t see these falls from the road, but take a short trail and you’ll “discover” them. There is a lower fall, about 15’, with a nice sized pool to wade and cool off in, and you can stand under the waterfall. Above, is a larger upper fall, 40’, but there are no official trails to reach it.
- La Mina Waterfall – Right now, this popular area is closed but are expected to open once the Big Tree and La Mina Trails are reopened. Make sure to visit when that happens. This waterfall has a drop of over 35 feet into a natural swimming pool. Take a refreshing swim in the pool at the base of the falls, and even go under the waterfall for an amazing experience!
- Tip: Check the weather prior to arriving at the rain forest. You’ll want to dress appropriately so you can be comfortable for your entire visit. You’ll probably get wet from rain or a waterfall. Or both! Don’t forget to bring a raincoat or a poncho. Also, it’s cooler in the rain forest, so dress in layers.
Taino Petroglyphs in El Yunque
What, you ask, is a petroglyph? Petroglyphs are drawings, writings or inscriptions on stone. These include symbols that are carved into rocks, boulders or on cave walls. At El Yunque, petroglyphs created by the Taino people can be found on rocks along the rivers and streams. The Taino people were the first inhabitants of the island of Puerto Rico.
Right outside El Yunque, there are petroglyphs carved into large rocks near an area with a swimming hole known as “El Hippie.” Learn more here about petroglyphs on the island.
- Yokahú Observation Tower – if you want a great view of the east coast of the island, don’t miss visiting the Yokahú Observation Tower. It’s a bit of a climb, but well worth it.
- Guided nature walk
There’s so much to do and such beautiful scenery, you’ll easily understand why El Yunque National Forest is one of the most popular attractions in Puerto Rico.
And, of course, since you’ll be nearby, stop in and visit our El Yunque store, located in Palmer on the way to El Yunque National Forest.
Looking to add a bit of Caribbean flair to your life? Check out our online shop for gourmet hot sauces, seasonings and other Caribbean treats and Caribbean bath and body items.
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