Take your next vacation off the beaten path with a trip to El Yunque National Forest. Ranked among Puerto Rico’s best outdoor activities, this diverse rainforest offers a “choose your own adventure” style retreat. New discoveries await around every corner and we’ve got you covered from the first step to the highest peak with a shortlist of things to do in El Yunque – courtesy of the Serafina Beach Hotel team!
So, kick off your sandals and trade in those flip flops for a pair of hiking boots. Don’t worry, we’ll leave a beach towel out for you when you get back.
Discovering Nature in Puerto Rico
As the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service, El Yunque is home to 29,000 acres of trails, waterfalls, and native flora and fauna. This radiant ecosystem is one of the smallest tropical rainforests in the world, yet one of the most ecologically diverse. In fact, there are many exotic plant and animal species that are only found in El Yunque.
Rich and vibrant, the island forest has attracted visitors from across the globe eager to create unforgettable outdoor experiences. Intrepid travelers will be pleased to discover that this secluded paradise is only a short, 40 minute trip from San Juan. Highly accessible and home to many guided and solo activities, El Yunque is a must-see for both first-time visitors to the island and longtime wanderers ready to explore new territory with each visit.
Pave A Trail with These Amazing Hikes
El Yunque is home to many beautiful trails from difficult treks to peaceful strolls. Even the most mellow routes offer incredible views and chances to spot local wildlife. The most popular route is the scenic La Mina Trail. This heavily trafficked hike is a fairly easy 0.7 miles with picnic areas and rests stops along the way. A great trail for families, the route follows La Mina River and ends at 35 ft. waterfall. If you’re feeling a bit warm from the hike, visitors are invited to dive right in and cool off in the refreshing pools! La Mina is the only waterfall open to swimming within the park.
Mount Britton is another “must hike” path for visitors to El Yunque. History enthusiasts will love getting an up-close view of the stone tower, built in the 1930s by the civilian conservation corps or the CCC.
More experienced hikers will fancy a trek up the ridge of the Luquillo Mountains (Sierra de Luquillo). Be prepared for a day hike and pack plenty of water! You’ll also want to look out for flash flood warnings and trail closures during hurricane season.
There are a total of 16 different trails to choose from. Be sure to pick up a guide at the visitor’s center before heading out!
Bird Watching, Photography, and an Island Safari
Meeting the locals is one of the main reasons to visit El Yunque — the local wildlife that is! The forest is home to many exotic avian species, including the Puerto Rican parrot that was recently released as part of a collaborative effort to help re-establish populations of this endangered species back into the wild and recover from Hurricane Maria. Bird watching is a popular pastime throughout the expansive series of trails.
Visitors will also enjoy a little nature photography throughout the park. The heavy rainfall combined with the tropical climate has given rise to a dense evergreen forest containing 240 native tree species along with floral wonders such as orchids and giant ferns. Abundant wildlife captivates hikers with many rare and exotic species, such as the mysterious coqui frog. Legend claims that a few lucky travelers may even experience the “raining frogs” of El Yunque!
Mountain Biking in the Rainforest
The bustling city streets of San Juan can be daunting for a bike excursion. Ditch the big city and pedal your way through the El Yunque National Forest for an alternative off-road experience. There are plenty of bicycle rentals in San Juan and nearby the park. A guided bike tour is the best way to explore the slopes and foothills like a local. The most popular routes follow the coast and include a pit stop at the beach.
Looking to take your day an extra mile? Pair a cycling tour package with a zipline through El Yunque!
Go Chasing Waterfalls
Follow the mystical waterfall trails of Puerto Rico’s rainforest! El Yunque boasts some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Caribbean. Many of the falls can be viewed from the road, such
as La Coca and Juan Diego Falls. Others, like La Roca, are a short hike away. La Roca features Taino petroglyphs depicting the indigenous mountain god, Yikiyu, who was believed to bring light and life to the forest below.
If the ethereal majesty of El Yunque is any testament to Yikiyu’s power, the old mountain god is still as active as ever! Don’t forget to check out El Yunque’s natural waterfall slide at Las Paylas.
Camping in the Caribbean
Take a day or two to spend time with nature. El Yunque is a great camping destination for solo hikers, couples, and families. The park offers numerous camping spots and plenty of services to
access during your wild adventure. Parking is available throughout the area along with restrooms and concessions. You’ll want to secure a permit at least two weeks in advance as the park can fill up quickly. Preparing for sudden storms is a must when packing your gear. Remember the golden rule of adventuring; pack it in, pack it out, and take only pictures with you. We promise that memories make the best souvenirs.
El Yunque hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the park, while the visitor’s center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Finding hotels nearby El Yunque is easy when you make the luxurious Serafina Beach Hotel your base camp. From premium guest rooms to oceanfront terraces, there’s a stay for every adventurer.
Looking for more unforgettable experiences in Puerto Rico? Check out the Top 5 Instagram Worthy Spots in San Juan!
Apr 1, 2020
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