Escape to El Yunque National Forest

November 1st 2023 in Explore
Escape to El Yunque National Forest

Escape to El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. It is also a sacred place in Puerto Rican culture. Some believe its name comes from the Taíno word Yuke, meaning “white earth.” This refers to the clouds that gather around the forest’s mountainous peak. Others believe it is named after Yúcahu, the Taíno deity of fertility.

Today, El Yunque is a national treasure and an excellent destination for nature lovers. There are many things to see and do, from bathing in natural pools beneath waterfalls to taking in the gorgeous scenery from hiking trails. The park boasts a diverse ecosystem, with hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including the famous coquí frog of Puerto Rico.

El Portal Visitor Center is a must-visit, showcasing sustainable architecture that blends into the natural surroundings.

El Portal Visitor Centre

The El Portal Visitor Center is situated at the main entrance of the park on PR-191. It is a beautiful place to start your journey into El Yunque. The property has an accessible interpretive trail that circles it, and visitors can also spot the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. The centre offers amenities such as exhibits, interpretive programs, restrooms, a gift shop, and a café.

Waterfalls & Hiking in El Yunque

El Yunque is a popular hiking destination where visitors can cool off by swimming in one of the natural pools. La Coca trail is an excellent option for hikers looking to enjoy a swim in one of the several ponds along the route. For a more adventurous experience, try the El Angelito trail and enjoy the thrill of a rope swing into the lagoon after a 4km (2.5-mile) hike. There are several trails with varying levels of difficulty available throughout the park.

El Yunque National Forest is home to hundreds of native plant and animal species, including the famous coquí frog.

Beautiful Scenery with Unique Plants and Wildlife

While exploring El Yunque, you can discover and learn about the 240 plant species exclusive to Puerto Rico. The park provides fresh and pure air, making it an ideal spot for birdwatching. With some luck, you can spot some fascinating birds, such as woodpeckers, green mangos, and the Puerto Rican parrot. Additionally, you can catch a beautiful view of the coast from the top of El Yunque's Yokahú Tower.

If you're looking for something more exciting to do during your visit, drive over to the Yokahú Observation Tower located at Road 191, km 8.8. With an elevation of 1,575 feet, the breathtaking view is worth the trip. You'll be able to capture the stunning blue beauty of the ocean in the distance and the vast, lush green mountains with your camera and make your friends on social media jealous with these photos. Additionally, Hacienda Carabalí offers thrilling adventures with panoramic views of El Yunque.

Outdoor Adventures

What better way to complement your day trip to El Yunque than ziplining through the beautiful green canopies? Make sure to check out Yunque Ziplining for availability and pricing.

How about some horseback or ATV riding in the foothills of El Yunque? Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park offers horseback and adrenaline-fueled tours through the area for the entire family.

Take the chance to enjoy a celebration of the beloved coconut in Luquillo every December!


After a full day of adventure at El Yunque, you will get hungry. Although there are few restaurants within the park, there are several nearby that are worth stopping by. Don Pepe, a lovely restaurant that serves a variety of delicious Puerto Rican dishes, is located just 4.7 km (3 miles) from the park entrance. If you're headed back to the San Juan area from El Yunque, consider a stop at Kioskos de Luquillo, which is a collection of small, family-owned food stands situated in the seaside town of Luquillo. Here, you'll find a variety of local dishes, cocktails, and ice-cold coconuts that are perfect for replenishing your energy after a full day of swimming and hiking.

No Reservation Required!

El Yunque is a highly sought-after destination that attracts many visitors every year. Starting in August 2023, there will be no need to make a reservation to visit the place. However, it is essential to check the El Yunque U.S. Forest website for the latest information regarding the weather, park closures, and safety protocols.

How to Get to El Yunque National Forest

If you plan hiking, grab your hiking boots and an extra set of clothes (more on that later) and head to the Río Grande area, located east of San Juan. The easiest way to get there is by taking PR-66 to PR-3 and following PR-191. If you're driving, use GPS to navigate to the El Portal Visitor Center, located at PR-191 Río Grande, PR 00745, for exact directions. It should take you approximately 45 minutes to travel from San Juan to El Yunque.

What Else You Should Know


Tour guides depart from most major hotels in San Juan. It is recommended to reserve a tour with your hotel or tour provider in advance to confirm availability. Alternatively, many cruise ship visitors and vacationers choose to rent cars for a day and explore the area on their own, which is also relatively easy.

Operating Hours

The forest is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except for Christmas. The El Portal Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The forest does not charge an entrance fee, but some of the optional attractions require an admission fee of $8 for adults, while children under 15 years of age can enter for free.

Additional Tips

It's essential to be prepared for the rainy weather in the area. The average rainfall is 120 inches per year, so it's likely that you'll experience daily rain showers. Bring a poncho or umbrella and an extra set of dry clothes. The rain is usually brief but intense. Additionally, hiking boots are a must-have for some of the wetter trails. If you're not part of a guided tour, plan because once you're in the forest, cell and data service for most providers could be more reliable at best.