Puerto Rico is a small island, but it is still a hiker’s paradise. Nature thrives here, and between the mountains, forests, and seacoasts, there are many natural wonders and great views to seek out and enjoy.
If you want to explore Puerto Rico on foot, you can visit the following 10 trails to find some the most intriguing, stimulating, and memorable hikes available on the island.
La Mina Trail
One of the highlights of the El Yunque National Forest, the La Mina Trail is a paved, 0.7-mile (1.2-kilometer), one-way path that follows the course of the La Mina River, winding downhill before terminating at the spectacular Cascada La Mina (La Mina Waterfall). The trail includes several small bridges that cross the river and is surrounded on all sides by lush forests and other greenery.
The pool at the bottom of La Mina waterfall is a popular destination for swimmers, in the summer for locals and all year round for tourists. The El Yunque National Forest is in the eastern section of Puerto Rico, about 40 minutes from San Juan by car.
The Guanica Dry Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) in southwest Puerto Rico is the best preserved dry, desert-like, subtropical forest in the Caribbean. One great way to tour this unique arid landscape is by hiking on the Lluberas Trail. At a length of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers), the Lluberas is the longest trail in Bosque Estatal de Guánica, leading from the north of the forest all the way to the Caribbean seacoast.
On the unshaded Lluberas Trail, severe heat can be a factor. Be sure to wear light-colored clothing, a hat and a lot of sunscreen, if you go there, and of course you’ll need to carry plenty of water to keep you safe during the 10-mile round trip journey.
At the top of a small mountain called Cerro de los Cielos, south of the city of Cayey in southern Puerto Rico, sits one lone mango tree. Perched like a sentinel overlooking the surrounding mountains and valleys, with a clear view of the Caribbean Sea off in the distance, this mango tree, which is known as árbol solitario, has become a favorite spot for hikers who come to enjoy the incredible view.
It’s a 2,000-foot (609-meter) climb to reach the top of Cerro de los Cielos. You will be exposed to the sun while climbing, so be sure to plan for that contingency by bringing along a good supply of water and sunscreen. The official trailhead can be accessed from PR-1 to the south of the peak, where a parking lot is also available.
Big Tree Trail
Big Tree is a straight, downward-sloping, 0.8-mile (1.4-kilometer) paved trail through the heart of El Yunque National Forest. Like the La Mina Trail, the Big Tree Trail leads directly to Cascada La Mina, where visitors can take pictures of the waterfall or swim in the cool pond formed at the base of the waterfall. You can learn more about the flora and fauna in the region from the information panels stationed along the route.
Many hikers make the round trip to the La Mina Waterfall going one way on Big Tree Trail and the other on La Mina Trail.
Cueva del Viento
The Guajataca Forest (Bosque de Guajataca) in northwest Puerto Rico is a small nature preserve interspersed with more than 25 miles of walking trails. Its prime destination is the Cave of the Wind, or Cueva del Viento, which is accessible by the 2.7-mile 4.3-kilometer path marked Trail #1. The narrow walkway immerses you in the deep woods, and at the end of the trail you’ll find the cave, which is open to the public.
The cave is unlit, so you’ll need a flashlight to explore. You should take a camera as well, since the cave features an impressive array of stalactites, stalagmites, and other impressive natural formations. Temperatures inside the cave are much cooler than outdoors, so you should include long pants and a jacket with your supplies.
Parque Nacional Julio Enrique Monagas
Parque Nacional Julio Enrique Monagas is a 200-acre nature preserve located in Bayamón in the greater San Juan area. While the entrance is urban, the park itself is a mixture of trees, plant life, and historic abandoned military bunkers, built to serve nearby Fort Buchanan. You can easily spend 2 or 3 hours getting lost and having fun on its various trails, while you enjoy the healing sights and sounds of nature.
Mountain biking is popular in Parque Nacional Julio Enrique Monagas as well, along with running and rock climbing. There is also an observation tower that provides a bird’s eye view of Old San Juan and the Caribbean.
In contrast to the Lluberas Trail, which intersects the Guanica Dry Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica), the Meseta Trail follows right along the coast on the southern edge of the forest. The round trip east and back on the trail covers about 4 miles (7 kilometers), and along the way you’ll see a variety of desert plants, many species of birds and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The Meseta Trail is rocky, and you will need hiking boots or strong shoes to handle the terrain. It is also unshaded, so sunscreen and a hat are mandatory. You can find the entrance to the trail at the end of Road 333, near the gate to Tamarindo Beach.
Charco Prieto Waterfall Trail
Bayamón is part of the San Juan metro area, but it is also home to a true natural wonder. That is the Charco Prieto Waterfall, and it is accessible by a half-mile (0.8 kilometer) trail that crosses river, forest, and rocky bluff to reach this peaceful, hidden spot.
This trail isn’t the easiest to find or track. That’s why many people choose to hire a tour guide to take them to Charco Prieto. After you arrive you can swim in the pond or relax in the quiet solitude of the surrounding forest.
Mount Britton Tower Trail
For another invigorating hiking experience in El Yunque National Forest, you can take the 0.8-mile (1.25 kilometer) hike up the Mount Britton Trail to the Mount Britton Observation Tower. At a height of nearly 3,000 feet (900 meters), the tower offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains and forest, and in the distance you’ll be able to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
From the beginning of the trail on Road 9938, off Road 191, you’ll ascend about 600 feet to reach the summit of Mount Britton. The trail is paved and passes through a tropical palm forest. Rain in the area is common, so be sure to take along your rain gear when visiting El Yunque.
Charco Azul Trail
Puerto Rico has a multitude of deep woods swimming holes. There are several such places in Carite Forest, and the most-visited is Charco Azul, a medium-sized pond that gets its name from the deep blue tint of the water. The Carite Forest is located near the city of Cayey, in Puerto Rico’s rugged, mountainous east-central interior, and includes over 6,000 acres of forest.
It’s a short one mile (1.6 kilometer) round trip to get to Charco Azul and back, and that trail is the only one officially open in the forest. But you can hike a bit off the beaten path by following the river. If you do you’ll find other ponds and a waterfall, giving you a better sampling of what this secluded mountain forest has to offer.