El Yunque is a subtropical rainforest in northeastern Puerto Rico. The only tropical rainforest under the U.S. flag, El Yunque is a mere 28,000 acres (small by national forest standards), but steeped in island lore, natural diversity, and tropical splendor.
El Yunque means "The Anvil," because of its distinctive flat peak. The forest is part of Puerto Rican mythology. The Taíno Indians believed the rainforest was home to a benevolent god named Yuquiyú.
What Makes El Yunque Special
Besides being unique to the U.S. Forest Service, El Yunque boasts an amazing diversity of flora, including 150 native fern species and 240 tree species (23 of which are found only in the forest) thrive in El Yunque, thanks to its perfect climate and consistent rainfall. In addition, the forest is home to many small animals that are found nowhere else on Earth. The coquí tree frog, Puerto Rican Parrot, and pygmy anole are among its rare and reclusive residents.
How to Get There
If driving from San Juan, take Route 3 out of the city and travel an hour to Route 191, which takes you into the rainforest.
Tours are available, as well, which can be arranged from hotels in the area. Companies that offer tours to the rainforest include Acampa, Adventours, Countryside Tours, and Legends of Puerto Rico.
What to Do
Most tourists flock to the rainforest for hiking trails, which range in difficulty. This interactive map provides an overview of the forest's main trails. The most visited one is La Mina Trail because it leads to La Mina Falls. This is the only waterfall in the rainforest open to the public for swimming. On a hot day, after an hour of hiking, strip down to a bathing suit and dive under a cascading fall. The only drawback at La Mina, it is usually crowded. Also, there are no changing rooms, so wear a suit or use the foliage to your advantage.
When to Go
The forest is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Since the temperature hardly varies, it is a year-round destination.
For Adrenaline Junkies
If you crave something more daring than hiking, call Aventuras Tierra Adentro, which will take you on a canyoning tour of the rainforest that will have you zip-lining, rappelling, rock climbing, and leaping through the air.