This summer my extended family ventured to Puerto Rico for the first time. In Puerto Rico, we enjoyed beautiful beaches, delicious local cuisine, the history and culture of Old San Juan, and hiking in the rainforest. Today I’m excited to share about our rainforest excursion.
El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States’ National Forest System. There are several corridors into the forest. We chose to go to La Mina Recreation Area (via 191 North). Timed reservations are required. You can make reservations up to one month in advance through the recreation.gov website. A limited number of additional reservations are offered online 24 hours in advance. Only one reservation is needed per vehicle. The fee was only $2.00 when we went.
Hiking in El Yunque
My brother expertly maneuvered our rental van up the steep, windy road until we found Juan Diego Creek trailhead. We took the short (0.125 miles) trail to a waterfall and pool on Juan Diego Creek. This was my first hike in a rainforest so I could have spent the entire day looking at the spectacular variety of plant life. However, because this area has limited on street parking, the time limit is thirty minutes.
Our next stop was Bano Grande, this man-made pool was built in the late 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Swimming is no longer allowed, but we enjoyed a nice stroll around the pool.
Mt. Britton Tower
Last, our group climbed up the spiral staircase to the top of Mt. Britton Tower and enjoyed the inspiring views. ‘Constructed of stone, the tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937-38, becoming the tallest of the Civilian Conservation Corp towers with stone masonry. On a clear day the tower’s observation deck offers a panoramic view of the forest, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the eastern coastal plain.’ – US Forest Service
According to to Discover Puerto Rico’s website, El Yunque is a sacred place in Puerto Rican culture. I’m grateful my family and I got to spend time in such a special place.
There is a visitor center called El Portal de El Yunque. It’s open 9am-5pm daily. The cost is $8 per adult and children under 15 are free. National Passes are accepted. We didn’t go to the visitor center and now I really wish we would have so that we could have seen the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. You can find out more information on the park’s website.