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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

El Yunque Rain Forest - Puerto Rico

One of the best parts about traveling to Puerto Rico (besides the ocean and sunshine) was getting to spend time with friends.  While in Puerto Rico to celebrate Jack and Jill, we extended the trip a few days to enjoy some extra time in the sun, exploring Puerto Rico with friends.  

Friday, a day with no plans before weekend wedding festivities, Chris had been planning on renting a car to check out the rain forest of Puerto Rico.  I was gung-ho to hang out in the rain forest, exploring another beautiful section of Puerto Rico. While you are among tourists, you are far away from the hotels and cruise ships.  El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system.  It covers roughly 29,000 acres, and has hiking trails, scenic views, historic markers, and beautiful waterfalls.

I asked one of locals from my dive charter about the rain forest and the critters living in it.  Her answer was "birds, reptiles, but as far as mammals.... stray cats". We made sandwiches, grabbed the sunscreen and bug spray, packed into the rental car and headed East to El Yunque.
Rain forest cats, here we come..

As large as El Yunque is, there is only one main road running through the park, with various access roads and trails off that main road.  We arrived at El Yunque and covered a few major sites and trails. We were looking for trails on the shorter side, and to get our heads under some Puerto Rico waterfalls. 

Rainfall:  Maximum (at the forest's highest elevations) have reached over 250 inches (635 cm) annually, while lower elevations receive only 50-60 inches (120-150 cm).
Hours: Forest is open from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm- El Portal Visitor Center is open from 9 am to 5 pm
Address: El Portal Visitor Center, PR 191 Rio Grande, PR 00745
Fees:  There is no entrance fee for the national forest.  There is a fee to access the visitors center

La Coca Falls waterfall off the main road you can drive up to and take pictures
Yokahu Tower  (elev. 1,575') - also off the main drive, can walk up to the top of the tower
La Mina Falls ~1.5 mile hike (round trip) to a waterfall 

Reference map of the El Yunque main corridor, Hwy. 191
Trail Map for El Yunque 

First stop on the rain forest tour was La Coca Falls.  We pulled into the park (no entrance fee!) and traveled through the dense green forest to La Coca falls.  This waterfall is easily accessible to all groups, as it is located right off the main road traveling through El Yunque.  There is a parking area right by the falls where you can get out to take a few pictures and enjoy the scenic first stop in El Yunque. 

La Coca Falls Viewing Area 
La Coca Falls 
La Coca Falls 

Next stop, continuing our way through the national rain forest was Yokahu Tower.  There is a parking area at the tower, and the tower is open to the public, starting at 9am.  You can climb the stairs up the tower to reach the viewing area.  From here, you can see some of the peaks of the rain forest, and views of the canopy and birds in the forest. 

Yokahu Tower 
Yokahu Tower 

View from Yokahu Tower 

Views from Yokahu Tower 

Large leaf on the side of the road 

Our last stop (and first hike) in the forest was the trail heading to La Mina Falls.  The Big Tree Trail will take you about 30 minutes to walk one-way to the falls. It is one of two trails to get to the falls (You can also follow the La Mina Trail a little further up the road),The Big Tree Trail is about 0.8 miles each way, but less steep then the La Mina Trail 0.7 miles each way.  

Hiking to La Mina falls is one of the most popular trails in the park, and a narrow trail as well.  Get here early if you want to beat the crowds to the falls.  We were on the trail by 9:30 am and passed about 5 different groups there and back. The toughest part about this trail, was the slippery sections.  The trail is paved with a concrete surface, that gets very slippery when wet (and you are in a rain forest... it is always wet).  

You will start to hear the falls, before crossing a bridge and approaching La Mina.  The water is cold, but absolutely worth it to splash around in a beautiful waterfall in a rain forest.  You should go back the way you came, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can head back through the La Mina Trail, but you will have to walk 1 mile back to your car on a busy winding road.  

Trail sign at La Mina Falls
Following the trail to La Mina
La Mina Falls
Swimming at La Mina Falls
La Mina Falls

Directions: Follow Route 3 to Rio Grande. Look for the intersection with Route 955. There’s a big sign pointing to the rain forest. Follow Route 955 to Road 191. Turn onto Road 191


  1. How was the drive to the forest? We are renting a car and are a little worried about driving from San Juan to the forest. I read somewhere that the drive was scary.

    1. I don't remember anything scary about the drive! It was fine! Do you mean scary as in crime or scary as in roadwork needed? We also took our rental car out there. i highly recommend you visit El Yunque- just a cool spot in Puerto Rico to go for a hike and spend the day.

      Thanks for reading!


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