6 Must-See Stops When Visiting El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest is the only tropical rain forest found in the U.S. Parks System and one of Puerto Rico’s top attractions, so a visit to El Yunque is a definite must when traveling in Puerto Rico. Covering over 13,000 acres and thousands of miles of trails, you may only have time for a few. Here are the 5 must see stops for your trip to El Yunque:
Take a Hike
There are so many excellent trails leading off of Carr 191 and Carr 988. With varying levels of difficulty, these trails will take you through the 5 different ecosystems to be found in the rain forest. El Yunque is dominated by a mix of amphibians, reptiles and birds, so keep an eye out for the many lizards and anoles, coqui frogs, and the Puerto Rican Parrot if you are lucky. There are trails at all levels of difficulty. The Angelito and Caimitillo trails are short and low-impact or you can go for a full day with a more intensive hike to the Mt.Britton tower. This handy guide will give you some more options to choose just the right hike for you:
Stop in at El Portal
El Portal is the visitor’s center and is worth a stop at least once. There is a $4.00 parking fee, but it is worth it if you want to get a base understanding of the forest and it’s ecosystem. There is a great gift shop there and there is a 20 minute video narrated by Benicio del Toro that shows every half hour that is excellent. There are also artisans set up on the weekends showing their wares, and a small trail that gets it start here.
Visit the Observation Tower
Located along the side of Carr 191, this Tower has 96 steps and offers the opportunity to get great views of El Yunque, the Northeast Coast, and on clear days all the way to St. Thomas. A great way to get a birds’ eye view of the forest.
Swimming at La Mina Falls
The only waterfall available for swimming in, the hike to this waterfall is about 1 hour with an easy to moderate difficulty. It can get very busy, so going earlier in the morning means you will have the swimming hole in more privacy. It is best to wear shoes with good traction. You can get to this gem of a waterfall via the Big Tree Trail or the La Mina Trail.
Stop in at the El Yunque Art District for Shopping, Art and Food
El Yunque Art District is the main center of Palmer, Puerto Rico. Palmer is at the base of El Yunque and is the welcoming sister community to El Yunque National Rainforest. It is made up of souvenir shops, art galleries, eateries and basic services like a post office, gas station, notary and doctor’s office. Although very small, it is well worth a stop. It is the home of local art and culture on the east end of Puerto Rico and is worth a stop for breakfast or lunch and shopping on your way to or from El Yunque. You can stay up to date by following their Facebook page here.
Private Adventure Activities
Although not part of the actual National Forest, there are many operators offering excellent activities within the rainforest and in its tributary forest areas. From horseback riding to ziplining, bike riding and river kayaking, there is plenty of adventure to be had. Information on these providers can be found on all the major tourism and travel websites.
About the Author:
Written by “Pilot Meg” – the General Manager of Caribbean Trading Company, which operate three souvenir gift shops throughout Puerto Rico, as well as working with convention and groups on their amenities. As General Manager, Pilot Meg works in partnership with the clients and the crew to determine the direction of the crew and ship, making sure that all elements are available to provide for a terrific experience! www.caribbeantrading.com
Boulevards and Byways would like to thank Meg for writing this informative post and sharing her local expertise about things to do when visiting El Yunque.