El Yunque, in the Sierra de Luquillo mountain range of Puerto Rico, is said to be the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System. It is located approximately 40 kilometers (or about 25 miles) southeast of San Juan. El Yunque is a tropical wonderland with waterfalls and clear pools, 240 native tree species (which 26 are only found in El Yunque), 50 species of birds and 13 species of coquí and the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot!
We’d taken a tour by bus of El Yunque many years ago, but during our most recent stay in Puerto Rico, we decided to explore much more of this beautiful, tropical, albeit very wet area. Our goal this visit was to explore several of the gorgeous waterfalls in El Yunque and swim in the pools beneath them.
Average rainfall in parts of the forest are well over 200 inches a year, so one day on our visit, when the forecast was for an all day rain, we decided to go to El Yunque! After all, we thought, we’d probably get wet anyway and maybe the rainfall would keep some of the visitors away. We stopped at the local drug store, purchased some rain ponchos and headed up to the rain forest.
Well, it not only rained that day, but it was a torrential rainfall and the park ended up closing early to flooding concerns, but we had a fantastic time anyway! Did some hiking, took some pictures of glistening flora and ended up at The Rum House at the end of the day. We’d love to go back again someday to swim in the waterfall pools AND to hike to the top of the Mt. Britton Observation Tower, but here’s what we got to see this time.
The entrance to El Yunque is in Rio Grande off of Rt 3 on Rt 191 (see map). There is no fee to drive through El Yunque, but if you elect to stop at the Visitors Center for more information on the area, there is a small charge per person. A stop at the Visitors Center is worth it if you’d like to learn more about the flora and fauna found within the park and learn the history of the area.
First stop – the overlook of La Coca Falls. Right next to the road, you can park just a few yards away and walk down to the overlook.
Next, a quick stop at the Yokahú Tower. Given that we’d climbed the tower to take in the view during our past visit, we weren’t completely disappointed that it was closed due to the rain this day, but, when open, it’s worth the climb.
Just a little ways up from the Yokahú Tower parking area, are a few small parking areas along the side of the road along with a Juan Diego sign. This is the least known, but from what we hear, the best series of falls to explore in El Yunque. Due to the weather and the danger of mudslides, we reluctantly decided not to hike to Juan Diego Falls that day, but you can find out more about them here: El Yunque’s Best Kept Secret: Juan Diego Falls.
Not much farther, we pulled into the Big Tree Trailhead parking area, donned our stylish rain gear and set off for a hike down Big Tree Trails to spectacular La Mina Falls.
Find El Yunque on our Puerto Rico Map
To see more posts on Puerto Rico and other islands, check out our Island Blog Directory
Pictures and other content may not be re-used without written consent from Rum Therapy, LLC