El Yunque National Rainforest

#5 in Best Things To Do in Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Rainforest picture
epslight/Getty Images

Key Info

Route 191

Details

Natural Wonders Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.1scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Sometimes referred to as the Caribbean National Forest, the El Yunque National Rainforest, or simply El Yunque, this lush expanse is the only tropical forest in the U.S. National Forest System. It's also a particular favorite for vacationers who like to hike  but even if nature really isn't your thing, travelers urge you to make the trip just 35 miles east of San Juan. Remember to wear layers that can get wet  the site receives more than 100 billion gallons of precipitation annually — and pack a water-resistant camera to capture some of the area's splendor. Keep your ears peeled in the evenings, when Puerto Rico's tiny coquí tree frogs begin their serenade.

The forest has 13 well-marked hiking trails that range in difficulty. The two most popular, La Mina & Big Tree Trail, are a combined two-hour hike that snakes by La Mina River and ends around La Mina Falls. 

Travelers agree that El Yunque is too much to handle in one day; many choose to camp or find accommodations in the area. You can obtain a free permit (before 3 p.m. each day) to camp on El Yunque's premises, but facilities are few and far between. Many hotels in San Juan offer day trips or excursions to the rainforest, so be sure to inquire with your concierge.

Entering the forest is free, but there's a modest admission charge into El Portal visitor center or to arrange an overnight tour of the forest. Visit El Yunque's official website for further details.

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More Best Things To Do in Puerto Rico

Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay (Vieques)
El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro)
Type
Time to Spend
1 of 11
#1 Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay (Vieques)

This south Vieques beach might not sound like much, but it's one of travelers' favorite experiences in Puerto Rico. During the day, Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay is your stereotypical Caribbean hideout  but at night, the sky and waters emit a blue glow from the half-plant, half-animal microorganisms that live there. More than 700,000 bioluminescent dinoflagellates live in each gallon of bay water, and recent travelers have been amazed by just how much visibility these tiny creatures provide.

But avoid visiting the bay during a full moon; the microorganisms aren't as visible then. Also aim for a quiet approach: "I would definitely go in a group with kayaks-not a motorized boat," one TripAdvisor reviewer said. "It is very peaceful and beautiful to be on the water at night but the sparkling water is a real treat."

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