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  • Writer's pictureLauren

What to do in El Yunque Forest


One of the most beautiful things about Puerto Rico is that it has a lot of different landscapes. You can go from the city of San Pedro to beautiful beaches only a short drive away. If you get tired of the beach you can travel to a whole different terrain, the rainforest. El Yunque National Rainforest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States and is a can't miss adventure in Puerto Rico.


To go to El Yunque you can either do a guided tour or you can do a self-guided tour. Since I was with my family and there were 5 of us the self-guided option was a much more economically friendly option. Entry to the park is free but because of COVID you have to make a reservation beforehand that costs $2. Since I didn't realize this I woke up early the day before to try and get the limited amount of tickets they release the day before. If you properly plan your trip you should reserve your ticket before that so you don't have to go through the stress of trying to get one last minute.


Depending on how much you plan on doing for the day you may want to try to get there early, although with the reservation system it did not seem to be too crowded when we got there around 11 or so. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and athletic clothes. It is a rain forest and when we were there it poured so it would be smart to bring a rain jacket, lesson learned the hard way. I also downloaded a map of the park before we went and if you like you can download their app as well, which is helpful since there is spotty service in the rainforest and truly, you should disconnect anyways. It also helps to have a plan going into the rainforest of what you want to do. There are many different trails and hikes that you can do at El Yunque so it will depend on how athletic you want to be. We decided to do one of the hikes and see the waterfalls, which was about a five-hour outdoor adventure.


El Yunque is located in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico which was about an hour drive from San Pedro. Since we were staying in Rio Grande it was a quick ride for us. It is easy to get to with navigation and there are also a lot of street signs making it even easier. When you reach the initial entrance you will continue to drive up a long high-winding slope. Unfortunately, the visitors center was under construction at the time that we went so we were not able to go in. After you pass the visitors center then you will check in with the ranger and keep going. It's easiest to navigate the park in a car, you can ride up the designated path and make stops along the way when you're interested.


La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls

Once you pass that you go up to 8.1 KM to the first stop La Coca Falls. This is a beautiful waterfall very close to the ranger station entrance of the park. It is a place to stop and take in the falls and take a great family picture before you get all sweaty and rain-forest-y.


There is also a La Coca trail hike if you want to do that. This is supposed to be a challenging trail that takes 1.5 hours in one direction.


Yokahu Tower


Next, you will come to Yakahu Tower. This is a 69-foot tower that you can climb to the top of for nice views of the forest and the coastline. On a clear day it is said that you can see the Virgin Islands from the top to the tower. Its a crazy birds-eye view of the forest. It was really unlike anything that I've ever seen, just the sheer amount of the greenery around. There's also a small convenience shop at the tower, if you didn't get a poncho for the rain, I cannot emphasize this enough just get it.


We got back in the car to drive up to the next stop. My FAVORITE STOP!


Juan Diego Creek

Enjoying the waterfall

Juan Diego Creek is the next stop. When you pull up to it you will see a small creek with a trail next to it. If you follow the easy, very quick, trail then you will come up to a waterfall and natural pool. This is such a fun stop, you can jump in, swim and enjoy the waterfall and swimming hole. My brother and I got into the swimming hole and the water was nice and cool and current from the waterfall was so strong.


To make this experience even cooler, if you look carefully behind the initial falls you'll be able to see another waterfall above it. To get to this one is a little dicey and hidden but if you look to the right of the initial falls there will be a tiny footpath. It barely looks like a path but follow it. It's really muddy, steep and tiny so if you're afraid of falling I wouldn't recommend going down this path. But, if you are prepared for it definitely do it, you end up at an even bigger waterfall that's even more exciting. The water up there is a little calmer so it is nice to relax there for a little bit and just take in the sights. Of course, when we went up there it started pouring rain even more disrupting the peace and making it harder to get down the already muddy path.


Soaking wet now, we left Juan Diego Falls for our next stop…


Bano de Oro


Bano de Oro was a quick stop, around it there is some recreation areas, bathrooms and shops but they were closed during out visit. The Bano Grande is a giant man-made pool that was created in mid-1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in pits previously excavated by Spanish gold seekers.


There is also a hiking trail connected to this stop. At the time this trail was closed. But when open, it is a short trail that takes you along a river through lush forest. You will pass Baño de Oro and an old fish hatchery tank from the 1930’s. Then you will cross over two creeks before merging with El Yunque Trail.


This brings us to our last stop.


Mt. Britton Trail and Tower


Mt Britton Tower at the end of the trail

The Mt. Britton Trail was our designated hiking for the day. This trail meets up with the El Yunque Trail but is shorter and has a path that makes it easier for beginners. It was still a really steep climb and a thorough workout. It is a 45-minute hike one way. Around the way there we saw some wildlife, ja lot of birds and snails and though I kept my eyes out I didn't see any of the famous frogs either. But maybe I'm blind. The trail leads steeply upward through the Cloud Forest and then you take a right towards Mount Britton Tower. 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.


Unfortunately, when we went up the path and it was not a clear day. It was in fact a cloud forest and was still POURING RAIN. We were so high up that we were surrounded by clouds. We got lucky for a few minutes and the clouds begin to move away , which was a pretty cool site in itself but from the top you could see the whole forest and see the coast miles away too! Made the hike up there so worth it for the views.


After that we took the route back down, which was much better than going up and that ended our adventure in El Yunque.


Even though so La Mina, one of the biggest attractions was closed and so were some of the hiking trails and other attractions like food and picnic areas it was a great time. There is so much to do in the forest and you could easily spend days exploring. You can't miss this adventure in Puerto Rico. It is full of beauty and is such a unique experience that you really cannot get anywhere else in the United States.


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