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Looking for a lovely nature day-trip in Puerto Rico away from San Juan. Lots of wonderful options for you to choose from, but there’s one that really stands out – the El Yunque Rain Forest, the only rainforest under the United States National Forest System. The trip was an easy choice with the rental car I had (8US$/day Hertz rental car from Hotwire), and though it was a cloudy day usually in high risk of rain in a forest that ‘attracts’ clouds and rain – I was lucky. For the most part it was a sunny and pleasant weather and I got to experience El Yunque in full glory.

 

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El Yunque Rain Forest

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To learn a bit about the rain-forest, here’s from their official website :

Located on the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico in the Greater Antilles group, the El Yunque National Forest is the sole tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. The forest’s relatively small 28, 000 acre size belies its importance. It differs significantly from all the other U.S. National Forests because of its year-round tropical climate and immense biodiversity.

The rugged Luquillo Mountains that rise to 3,533 ft. above sea level comprise most of the forest land. Their steep slopes can sometimes receive rainfall of over 200 inches (508 centimeters) per year at higher elevations. Caressed by gentle easterly winds the forest has an average temperature of 73° F (21° C), and seasonal changes are almost imperceptible. It is the ideal climate for exuberant tropical vegetation. The rain forest is noted for its biodiversity; it is “home” to thousands of native plants including 150 fern species, 240 tree species (88 of these are endemic or rare and 23 are exclusively found in this forest). The El Yunque National Forest has no large wildlife species, but hundreds of smaller animals abound in this gentle forest, many of which exist nowhere else on the planet.

Each year we welcome about 600,000 visitors from all over the world who come to sample the rain-forest’s eco-tourism pleasures while developing a greater understanding of its ecological importance by walking our many beautiful trails.

 

To start you off, there’s a tourist information center at the entrance of the road leading up the mountain, at which point you can get some maps and information about the rainforest and even join some easy trails with tourguides around the complex. From that point on, it’s up to you what it is you’re into. There are short hikes of 30 minutes going up to a whole camping experience for a few days. Being the lazy tourist that I am, I asked the volunteers at the center to point me to the ‘best value’ hikes being the shortest, hopefully circular so I won’t have to track back, yet offering the most to see. And the good news is that many of the trails there fit that description. You’ll likely to come across, well, a forest – obviously – with lots of green and the rainforest flowers and trees, there are waterfalls and pleasant cool streams of freshwater, and occasionally there’s an observation tower for you to look down the mountain towards the beautiful Puerto Rico, and the occasional local food option on the way.

 

Waterfalls…

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Flowers…

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And observations towers…

 

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For you to look down at the view…

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Or up towards the mountain..

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If you’re in need of a map, this is what they give away in the tourist information center…

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El Yunque National Forest map

 

Have a wonderful day at the rainforest!



Tags: Caribbean National Forest; day trip; El Yunque National Forest; hiking; Luquillo National Forest; nature; observation tower; scenery; trails; United States National Forest System; waterfall;


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