Once you arrive at El Yunque National Forest be sure to stop by El Portal Visitor Center before hitting the trails. Take some time to grab some water, if you don’t already have some, and a map while you’re there. Make sure that you bring a bathing suit, a towel, some sunblock, and insect repellant.
El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Caribbean National Forest, is in the rugged Sierra de Luquillo, 40 km (25 mi) southeast of San Juan. The forest covers lands of the municipalities of Canóvanas, Las Piedras, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, and Rio Grande. It gets its name from an Indian spirit Yuquiye, which means “Forest of Clouds”, that gave the mountain that dominates the 28,000 acre of tropical forest. It is the only tropical forest in the United States National Forest System.
The forest was set aside in 1876 by the Spanish Crown, and represents one of the oldest reserves in the Western Hemisphere.
With over 240 species (26 species are found nowhere else) of trees and plants, give reason to the government of Puerto Rico to spend a great deal of money to preserve floral species and animals that are on the verge of extinction. The total area is 11,270 ha (75% of Puerto Rico’s virgin forest is here).
It has very nice landscape with grassy land.
El Yunque National Forest is a cool, mountainous, and sub-tropical rainforest. The eastern portion of the Luquillo mountains get the most rain. El Yunque is the rainiest of all the National Forests with up to 240 inches per year. More than 100 billion gallons (380 billion L) of rainwater fall on the forest per year. The climate is frost-free and ranges in moisture from semi-desert to rain forest conditions within very short distances. There are strong easterly trade-winds and cool weather is normal at the higher elevations.
Considering arranging for a rental car. You can enjoy a day at the rainforest without a car, but you’ll be severely limited in terms of going off the beaten path or spending any extra time at the park. The drive from San Juan to El Yunque will take about an hour regardless of which one of the most common routes you take. From San Juan, all of them will take you along Route 3 for the majority of the trip, so head east on it until you reach Route 191. Transitioning from Route 3 to Route 191 will take you through the small town of Palmer in Río Grande.
There are no entrance fees to visit the forest, you just drive up, though El Portal Visitors Center cost $4 per person. A Forest Service one-hour guided tour cost a $5 donation.
To get around, you will go with a group of people and the tour guide will show you most of the animals, caves, and water falls. Consider wearing boots or shoes with a bit of ankle support – while most of the trails in the forest are fairly well worn it is still uneven terrain and a sprained ankle is no fun no matter where you are.