El Yunque Rain Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the US Forest system as per the information provided by the Visitor center. It is located ~38 KM’s east of San Juan. When you enter the rain forest, you get to experience fresh air, sounds of the birds and small animals, sounds of the waterfalls and free-flowing waters. The rain forest truly gives you the forest look which is surrounded by different types of trees, flowers and orchid collections.
Your journey to the rain forest starts at the Visitor center where you’ll collect the trail routes/hike maps. There is an entrance fee of $4 per adult and kids under 15 years are free. The visitor center is landscaped with beautiful flowers and tropical plants. The restroom facilities are clean inside this building and you’ll not find many restrooms as you hike into the forest.
If you already have the maps, you can skip the Visitor center and directly make an entry into the forest. There are trail routes with varying difficulty level ranging from low/medium/difficult ones based on the total miles and terrain types. The rainforest runs 13 Kms long and you can choose which ones to visit based on your comfort level of hiking and availability of time.
As you head through the rainforest there are several observation points to get immersed into the nature’s beauty. If you would like to see the city view, stop at the Yokahu tower. This is a small tower that contains 97 steps which leads you to the open small terrace point where you can view both the lush green, thick forest along with skyscrapers city view.
La Mina Falls is the most popular falls inside El Yunque forest. This waterfall has the maximum crowd and it’s so tough to even capture the beautiful falls photo as u’ll see people all over the falls . Many swim in this falls and few sit on the rocks enjoying with their friends and family. The hike to La Mina falls is ~ 2 to 3 mile round trip depending on where you start the hike. The hike has inclination grades with steep slopes and not a flat surface. The hike experience is really good as you’ll be walking besides beautiful rivers.
There are several trails in the rain forest. Here are the top trails that we liked and there are 10 to 12 more available in this forest :
1. La Coca falls Trail – mini trail and you can watch the falls from the road
2. La Mina falls– most popular trail and most crowded
3. Big Tree Trail – a short trail that leads to La Mina Falls
4. Mount Britton
5. Los Picachos Trail
Getting to the Rainforest – Driving directions
This was another incident in Puerto Rico that we got lost while heading towards the El Yunque rainforest. Google maps guided us to dead-end and we were winding up to a very high altitude leading to a dead-end :-). We came back to a gas station and used the local PR map to proceed to the rainforest.If you are driving east on Route# 3, there is a sign to El-Yunque to take towards Route#191. There is a small road and take right to Route#191. You can also take the intersection of Route#955 while driving on Route#3. Notice for Rio Mar Beach resort in 955 Route and turn right from this point to reach the El Yunque forest.
Things to consider before/during your trip to En Yunque
You are in a rainforest area and you never know when it will rain. As you head towards the rain forest, you’ll notice the frequency of rain slightly increasing. It either pours or drizzles, very hard to predict the weather in this place. So be prepared to carry an umbrella or rain jackets and good hiking shoes. We made our visit in the afternoon and noticed the rain pattern go up and down. It’s good to plan the hike slightly earlier during the day.
Luquillo beach is very close to the El Yunque rain forest and can be covered on your way to the forest. if you plan the rainforest in the morning, you can plan the second half of the day in this beach. This is a quite beach with white sand.