Did you know there is a tropical rainforest in the United States? It’s wet; it’s green; it’s beautiful; and it’s in Puerto Rico.
The El Yunque National Forest gets anywhere from 50-250 inches of rain annually, so be prepared for it to be a little damp and watch the slick ground. It’s a great stop for people of all ages and abilities because you can drive through it and stop at some very cool sites just feet off the road.
About 10-15 minutes past the Visitor’s Center you’ll find a parking area for La Coca Falls. There’s no need to hike or even exit your car because you can see it from the road. Of course I didn’t just look, but climbed on the rocks and waded in the cool water.
Next we stopped at the Yakahu Tower, which is at elevation 1,575 ft. I thought it may have originally been built for defense, but learned the US Forest Service constructed it in 1962 as an observation tower. I recommend climbing because the views from the top are spectacular. You can see some of the 240 native tree species and even the ocean!
If you want to spend more time in the woods, I recommend hiking the La Mina trail. It is a 30-40 minute hike to a beautiful waterfall. Note: you can either start up and walk down first or start down and walk up first. I was there on a Monday and the falls were crowded, so I can’t imagine how busy it is on a weekend. Still, we got down to our swimsuits and jumped in the cold water. If you make it to the falls, how can you not get in them??
On the walk we also found some abandoned shelters just off the trail. The woman at the gift shop said people used to rent them in the mid 1900s and spend the night, but not anymore!
It is free to drive and walk through El Yunque, but costs $4 for people 16 and up to stop in the visitors center, which has exhibits and a gift shop. I went inside for a map, but all they had was a hand drawing and you can’t take with you, so bring your phone and snap a photo.