Discovering El Yunque National Forest: Puerto Rico’s Rainforest Paradise

El Yunque National Forest is a tropical rainforest located in the northeast region of Puerto Rico. It is the only rainforest that is part of the U.S. National Forest System. Covering almost 29,000 acres, it is one of the smallest national forests in terms of land area, but it is also one of the most biologically diverse. The forest is home to hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including the famous coquí frog, which can only be found in Puerto Rico.

The forest’s name, El Yunque, comes from the Spanish word for anvil, which is a reference to the forest’s shape resembling an anvil. The forest’s highest peak, El Toro, rises 3,494 feet above sea level and is a popular hiking destination for visitors. The forest is also home to numerous waterfalls, including La Mina Falls, which is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking.

Visitors to El Yunque National Forest can explore the lush vegetation, hike through the forest’s trails, and learn about the unique ecosystem of the rainforest. The forest is an important ecological and cultural resource for Puerto Rico, and it is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature and conservation.


El Yunque National Forest is a tropical rainforest located in northeastern Puerto Rico. It is the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System and is one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world.


The history of El Yunque National Forest dates back to the Taíno people, who were the original inhabitants of Puerto Rico. They called the mountain range that is now known as El Yunque “Yuké,” which means “white lands” or “white mountain.” The Taíno people believed that the mountain range was the home of their gods.

After the arrival of the Spanish in the late 15th century, the Taíno population declined rapidly due to disease and enslavement. The Spanish began to use the forest for timber and agriculture, which caused significant deforestation. In the late 19th century, the forest was designated as a forest reserve by the Spanish government to protect the remaining trees.

In 1903, the forest reserve was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture and was renamed the Luquillo Forest Reserve. It became a National Forest in 1906 and was renamed the Caribbean National Forest in 1935.

Recent History

In 1946, El Yunque National Forest was designated as an Insular Wildlife Refuge by the US Department of Agriculture. In 1948, a technical assessment determined that 4 million trees and 22 tons of seeds comprising 34 tree species had been planted in the forest over an 11-year period starting in 1934.

In 2007, President George W. Bush signed an executive order renaming the national forest the “El Yunque National Forest,” paying homage to Puerto Rico’s original people. Today, the forest covers an area of 28,000 acres and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The forest is home to thousands of native plants, including 150 fern species and 240 tree species, of which 88 are endemic or rare and 23 are exclusively found in this forest. It has no large wildlife species, but it is home to many smaller animals, including the Puerto Rican parrot, which is an endangered species.

Overall, El Yunque National Forest has a rich history and is an important part of Puerto Rican culture. It is a testament to the resilience of nature and the importance of conservation efforts in preserving our planet’s natural resources.

Visitor Information

When planning a visit to El Yunque National Forest, it is important to be aware of the entry and reservation policies, as well as the recreation opportunities, visitor center, and public safety measures in place.

Entry and Reservations

Entry to El Yunque National Forest is free, but visitors should be aware that there is a daily visitor capacity of 300 vehicles per day. To avoid disappointment, it is recommended that visitors make a reservation ticket through Reservations are not required for entry outside the Road 191 corridor (Roads 988, 186, and 191 South in Naguabo).

Visitor Center

The El Portal de El Yunque Visitor Center is the official visitor center for El Yunque National Forest. It is located at Km. 4.3 on PR 191 and provides information on the forest’s history, ecology, and recreational opportunities. The visitor center also offers interpretive programs, a gift shop, and restrooms.

Recreation Opportunities

El Yunque National Forest offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, picnicking, and swimming in natural pools and waterfalls. The forest is biologically diverse and home to hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including Puerto Rico’s famous coquí frog. Visitors should be aware of the natural hazards present in the forest, including slippery rocks and uneven terrain.

Public Safety

Visitors to El Yunque National Forest should follow safety rules and guidelines for reduced crowding, trash management, and parking. It is important to stay on designated trails and to avoid disturbing the natural environment. Visitors should also be aware of the weather conditions and the potential for flash floods and landslides. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, some areas of the forest may still be closed or have limited access.

Overall, a visit to El Yunque National Forest offers a unique opportunity to explore the natural beauty and diversity of the Caribbean National Forest. By following the guidelines and respecting the natural environment, visitors can enjoy a safe and memorable experience in this special place.

Geography and Climate

Location and Elevation

El Yunque National Forest is located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains in Puerto Rico. The forest is the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico, covering more than 28,000 acres (43.753 mi2 or 113.32 km2). The forest is located about 40 kilometers east of San Juan, and is accessible by car via Road 191.

The forest’s highest mountain peaks rise to 3,494 feet (1,065 m) above sea level. The elevation of the forest contributes to its unique ecosystem and breathtaking scenery, with clear mountain rivers, creeks, and panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Rivers and Water

The forest is home to several rivers and creeks, including the Río Grande, which flows through the forest and is popular for outdoor recreation opportunities such as swimming, hiking, and birdwatching. The forest’s clear mountain rivers and waterfalls are a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Visitors should be aware that flash flooding can occur in the forest during heavy rains, and should take caution when hiking near rivers or during rainy weather.

Peak and Observation Tower

The forest’s highest peak is Los Picachos, which offers a panoramic view of the forest and surrounding area. Visitors can access the peak via a trail that leads to an observation tower, where they can enjoy a breathtaking view of the forest and its surroundings.

Visitors should be aware that the trail to the peak can be muddy and slippery, and should wear appropriate footwear and exercise caution when hiking.

Weather and Climate

El Yunque National Forest has a tropical rainforest climate, with an average temperature of 73°F (21°C). The forest receives an average of 200 inches (5,080 mm) of rainfall per year, which contributes to its lush vegetation and unique ecosystem.

The forest is also known for its clouds, which can create a mystical atmosphere and contribute to the forest’s beauty. The USDA Forest Service operates El Portal Rain Forest Center, which provides information about the forest’s climate, ecosystem, and native plants.

Overall, El Yunque National Forest offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience a tropical rainforest ecosystem and enjoy outdoor recreation opportunities in a breathtaking natural setting.

El Yunque Wildlife

El Yunque National Forest is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a popular destination for nature lovers. Here are some of the highlights of the wildlife in El Yunque.


The forest is home to over 240 species of trees and plants, including the Sierra Palm, which is native to Puerto Rico. This palm tree is known for its tall and slender trunk, and its large, fan-shaped leaves. The Sierra Palm is an important part of the forest’s ecosystem, providing food and shelter for a variety of animals.


One of the most famous inhabitants of El Yunque is the Puerto Rican Parrot, also known as the Iguaca. This bird is native to Puerto Rico and is critically endangered, with only a few hundred individuals left in the wild. The forest is home to a breeding program for the parrots, which aims to increase their numbers and eventually release them back into the wild.

El Yunque is also home to a variety of other bird species, including the Green Mango, the Adelaide’s Warbler, and the Black-throated Blue Warbler. Visitors may also spot lizards, coqui frogs, and a variety of insects.

Here is a table summarizing some of the animals found in El Yunque:

Animal Description
Puerto Rican Parrot Critically endangered bird native to Puerto Rico
Green Mango Small bird with bright green feathers
Adelaide’s Warbler Small bird with yellow and green feathers
Black-throated Blue Warbler Small bird with blue and black feathers
Coqui Frog Small frog known for its distinctive call
Lizards Various species of lizards can be found in the forest

Overall, El Yunque National Forest is a treasure trove of biodiversity, with a range of flora and fauna that is unique to the region. Visitors should take care to respect the natural environment and adhere to any guidelines or regulations in place to protect the forest and its inhabitants.

Trails and Tours

Visiting El Yunque National Forest is an experience that you won’t forget. The forest offers a variety of hiking trails and tours that allow you to explore the lush vegetation and stunning waterfalls.

Hiking Trails

There are several hiking trails in El Yunque National Forest that vary in difficulty level. The La Coca Trail is an easy 1.7-mile hike that takes you through a beautiful forest of bamboo, palms, and ferns. If you’re up for a challenge, the El Yunque Trail is a strenuous 8-mile hike that takes you to the peak of El Yunque, the highest point in the forest. The trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.


If you’re not up for hiking, there are several tours available that allow you to explore the forest. The El Yunque Natural Waterslide and Rainforest Hike is a popular tour that takes you on a journey full of history where you will learn about different natural gems. You’ll visit waterfalls, natural pools, and even a natural waterslide. The tour includes transportation, so you don’t have to worry about getting there.

Another popular tour is the El Yunque National Forest Half Day Tour, which takes you through hundreds of native plant species, waterfalls, and other fantastic views. Your certified tour guide knows all about the area and offers a live narration in English for you to learn and explore at the same time.

No matter which tour or hiking trail you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience at El Yunque National Forest.


El Yunque National Forest is a unique and biodiverse ecosystem that is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, including the famous coquí frog. With its stunning scenic views, clear mountain rivers, and outdoor recreation opportunities, it is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

The Palo Colorado Forest, located within El Yunque, is a particularly beautiful area that is worth exploring. With its towering trees, rushing streams, and vibrant flora and fauna, it offers a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.

The Conservation Corps has played an important role in preserving and maintaining El Yunque National Forest over the years. Through their efforts, this precious ecosystem has been protected for future generations to enjoy.

In conclusion, El Yunque National Forest is a natural wonder that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. With its breathtaking beauty and abundant wildlife, it is a true gem of Puerto Rico. Whether you’re hiking through the forest, swimming in the rivers, or simply taking in the stunning views, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience in this magical place.

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