How to get to el yunque rainforest: The Guide To Visiting El Yunque National Rainforest in Puerto Rico

The Guide To Visiting El Yunque National Rainforest in Puerto Rico

Jump to section:
How to get to El Yunque National Rainforest
What is there to do at El Yunque National Rainforest?
Advice for visiting El Yunque
Conclusion
 

 

The address for the visitor center is PR-191 Río Grande, PR 00745. The best route to get there can change depending om the time of the day or the time of the year.

From San Juan, you can take Route 66, which is a toll road, east to Route 3 East. Then, you can continue on that road until you see the signs that say EL PORTAL / EL YUNQUE. When you do, you can take the exit that leads to Route 191 and take that to El Yunque.

You can always use a GPS based app on your phone or you can check Google to find the best route there and home based on the amount of traffic at any particular time.
 

There is no shortage of things to do at El Yunque National Rainforest. One of the most popular activities is hiking. There are a few different trails that vary in difficulty which you can choose from based on your level of experience. You can also opt to go on a guided tour if you are more of a beginner. We actually recommend this for anyone who does not already have specific experience hiking in El Yunque.

You normally can also try a few fun things over at the visitor center such as educational movies. However, because of damage from Hurricane Maria, the visitor center has been closed recently. There are plans to have it re-open at the end of the year but that is tentative.

As long as you bring a bathing suit, you can also even take a dip in the rivers and waterfalls that you come across. The two best and most popular spots to go swimming in El Yunque are La Mina Falls and Juan Diego Falls.

There is also ample opportunity to see various types of wildlife in the forest such as different types of birds and reptiles. This includes parrots, hawks and frogs. You can even choose a specific type of guided tour with a guide that is knowledgeable of where the exact best spots are to see wildlife. You can see some of the tours here.
 

Advice for visiting El Yunque

Before you head off to visit El Yunque, there are a few things that you should know first:

  • You will need your own car – In order to get into and out of the park, you will need to have your own car. This is because taxi’s and Uber’s are not allowed into the park for drop-offs or pick-ups.
  • Take a guided tour at first – It is advisable that you take a guided tour of El Yunque before you set out to explore it on your own. You can get hurt or lost fairly easily if you are not sure what you are doing.
  • Check out the amenities – There are a few great places that you should make a point of stopping at on your way to or from the Rainforest. One such place is called Degree 18 Juice Bar which is an outdoor juice bar that has a great reputation for delicious juices as well as great food items including burgers and wraps.
  • Prepare to spend most of the day, if not the whole day there – El Yunque is huge. Exploring just a few smaller parts of it will take several hours. So, plan to spend at least eight hours there.
  • Do not miss the falls and the trails! – The hiking trails and waterfalls are what make El Yunque National Rainforest truly world-famous. You can find a list of the waterfalls here and a list of the hikes that you can take here.
  • Bring an umbrella or a poncho – Do not forget, it is called a “rainforest” for a reason. There are seemingly sudden and random spells of fairly heavy rain at times, so make sure that you are prepared by bringing an umbrella or a poncho.
  • Be ready for poor cell signals – There are not a lot of areas in El Yunque with much cell service, so be prepared to not be able to use your phone for a while.

 

Conclusion

When you are in Puerto Rico, whether you are just visiting or you have just moved there, you will not want to miss the chance to visit El Yunque National Rainforest. You will definitely need to have a car in order to get into El Yunque so, if you do not plan on renting one, you can always plan on shipping your car to Puerto Rico.

Visit El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service.

Plan a soul-refreshing escape to an enchanted rainforest park.

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System but it is also a sacred place in Puerto Rican culture. Many believe its name comes from the Taíno word Yuke, or «white earth,» a reference to the clouds that gather around the forest’s mountainous peak; others believe it derives from Yúcahu, the Taíno deity of fertility. Today, this national treasure is an excellent destination if you want to immerse yourself in nature. Here’s a look at some of the top things to see and do in El Yunque, from bathing in natural pools beneath waterfalls to taking in the gorgeous scenery from its many hiking trails.

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, and one of Puerto Rico’s most beloved natural gems. The park has a very diverse ecosystem, with hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including Puerto Rico’s famous coquí frog.

Reserve Your Spot!

El Yunque is a very popular place to visit. To guarantee your entry, reserve your visit in advance through www.recreation.gov. Only one reservation per vehicle is required, and it can be booked up to one month before your visit. Tickets for your car are free, but the booking engine charges a small fee payable by credit or debit card. A limited number of reservations may be released 24 hours prior to opening to accommodate those spontaneous travelers.

Before your visit, check the El Yunque website for the latest info about weather, park closures, and health and safety protocols.

El Portal Visitor Center features sustainable architecture that is integrated into the natural surroundings.

El Portal Visitor Center

Located at the main park entrance on PR-191, the beautiful El Portal Visitor Center is a great place to begin your journey into El Yunque. There is an accessible interpretive trail that circles the property, along with opportunities to spot the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot. Other amenities include exhibits, interpretive programs, restrooms, a gift shop, and a café. 

Hiking trails lead to stunning waterfalls throughout El Yunque National Forest.

Hiking Trails and Waterfalls

One of the most popular things to do in El Yunque is hiking to one of the natural pools to cool off with a swim. Head over to La Coca trail and hike down to one of several ponds along the route for the perfect way to cool off. For fun in the form of a rope swing, choose El Angelito trail, where a 4km (2.5-mile) hike can end with a dive into its lagoon. There are plenty of additional options for trails with varying levels of difficulty throughout the park.

Exploring El Yunque Hiking Trails

The famous coquí frog is one of the hundreds of native plant and animal species found at El Yunque National Forest.

Unique Plants and Wildlife

During your visit, learn about the 240 plant species endemic to Puerto Rico. Enjoy the park’s pure air and some of the best birdwatching on the Island. Hopefully, you’ll catch a view of woodpeckers, green mangos, and the Puerto Rican parrot.

Sounds Like Puerto Rico: Coqui in the Rainforest

You can see the coastline from atop of the Yokahu Tower. 

Beautiful Scenery

Want more “wow” during your visit? Drive over to the Yokahú Observation Tower (Road 191, km 8.8). With an elevation of 1,575 feet, the expansive view is worth the trip. The blue beauty of the ocean in the distance and the vast lush green mountains will have you reaching for your camera. These are some photos that will make your friends on social media jealous.

Hacienda Carabalí offers full-throttle adventures with panoramic views of El Yunque.

Outdoor Adventures

What a better way to complement your day trip to El Yunque than ziplining through 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.

Ice-cold coconuts and warm, crunchy fritters – what better way to cap off a day at El Yunque?

Dining

A day of adventure at El Yunque is sure to work up an appetite! While there are no restaurants inside the park, several nearby are worth a stop. Located just 4.7 km (3 miles) from the park entrance, Don Pepe is a lovely restaurant that serves all types of delicious Puerto Rican dishes. If you’ll be returning to the San Juan area from El Yunque, consider a stop at Kioskos de Luquillo, a collection of small, family owned food stands in the seaside town of Luquillo. Here you’ll find a variety of local dishes, cocktails, and ice-cold coconuts perfect for replenishing your energy after a full day of swimming and hiking.

Search other restaurants in our directory

How to Get to El Yunque National Forest

Grab your hiking boots and an extra set of clothes (more on that later) and head to the Río Grande area, east of San Juan, via PR-66 to PR-3, and then following PR-191. Traveling to El Yunque from San Juan will take you approximately 45 minutes. If you’re driving, GPS the address to the following destination: El Portal Visitor Center, PR-191 Río Grande, PR 00745, for an exact route.

Transportation

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 visitors decide to rent cars for a day and visit on their own, which is also relatively easy. 

Operating Hours

The forest is available every day (except for Christmas) from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. El Portal Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. While the forest has no entrance fee, admission to some of the optional attractions will cost $8 for adults, with children under 15 years entering for free.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN PUERTO RICO

Additional Tips

With an average rainfall of 120 inches per year, daily rain showers are to be expected, so bring your ponchos or umbrellas and an extra set of dry clothes. The rain is often brief but intense. Hiking boots are also a must for some of the wetter trails. Most importantly, if your visit isn’t part of a guided tour, make sure to plan ahead because once you’re in the forest, cell and data service for most providers is spotty at best. 

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El Yunque Rainforest — Frankazoid’s Travel

El Yunque National Park is mostly famous for being the only tropical rainforest in the United States. Oh yes, according to several sites (including Wikipedia), Efl dupigoblin birds still live here, which I may have seen, but did not recognize 🙂 Google does not say anything intelligible about such birds.

I left at dawn, because I wake up early anyway, and I wanted to arrive before the influx of tourists.

It’s boring to take a picture of a toll road, but it’s nice to drive along it 🙂 But immediately after the exit, local village highways begin from it. Here is a vivid example of a road with oncoming traffic, where buses and trucks are quite common (infrequently, of course).

Views are quite European 🙂 Cows graze, green mountains around. The sun is just not enough.

After talking with the guys in the hostel, the discovery point for me in the forest of El Yunque was the reservoir (and river) Charco Frio — Cold pool. Having reached the point (by GPS, of course), I found that the parking lot was still closed at such an early hour. I had to knock on a couple of houses to find a man with a key. By the way, no one speaks English here, so knowledge of Spanish came in handy again 🙂 The Tsar Chicken walked along the fence and spat on everyone from above.

The parking lot itself was somewhat embarrassing with its somewhat abandoned view, including four semi-disassembled cars. The new red Accent looked blatantly defiant here (unfortunately, because of the rain that came, the colorful photo did not work out) 🙂

I asked the watchman for directions — go straight, then climb up the mountain, then another half an hour along the path. Seems easy. However, after 100 meters the path stuck into the river, and the continuation could be seen on the other side. Well, yes, it’s not the first time for us, so I crossed the ford, fortunately it’s not deep, and continued on my way. Doubts began to gnaw after 5 minutes. The only hill that could be climbed, at least theoretically, was overgrown with impassable (at least in sandals and shorts) bushes without any hint of a path. Hoping for the best, I moved forward along the ever narrowing path, breaking through cobwebs, lianas and nasty squelching clay under my feet. I was somewhat alarmed by the abundance of torn and abandoned shoes, so that I took my feet out of the mud very slowly.

After almost 40 minutes, it became clear that either the watchman messed up something, or I went the wrong way. It was easy to check — he returned to the car and asked another man (he did not find the watchman). It turned out that you don’t have to cross the river, but you need to walk along it literally 30 meters and there will be the very hill that you have to climb. Here things went faster, and after 20 minutes I reached the coveted Charco Frio. It turned out to be a small puddle, with a pair of cascades and a bungee. In the heat, it is probably great to sit / dive here, but in the rain it was dreary. Well, at least there were no people — already nice.

I was not going to swim, although there was a temptation to take advantage of the situation and force)) I got back to the car, paid the required three dollars, and moved at random on the map to the next possible place to walk.

The Río Sabana trail turned out to be such a place, which was in a very poor condition due to the off-season, and the recreation area in front of it was also closed. On the occasion of the rain, I had to take a nap in the car for an hour, but now the rays of the sun are making their way through the windshield, which means it’s time to move out.

The view of the road seemed to hint that you shouldn’t go there, but common sense has not yet awakened 🙂

The inscription on the fence — «God save Satan.»

Wild animals were just waiting for such lost travelers.

And although the recreation area was clean, it still looked sad without people. Barbecues, tables and benches, a toilet and a shower are a great place to relax in the summer.

Although I took a picture of the map, I forgot to look at it 🙂 After an hour of breaking through the dense thickets of incomprehensible grass, which looked completely harmless, but at the same time it scratched the skin to the blood and tore the T-shirt, drowning in the decaying foliage up to the ankles and slipping on earthen slush, I reached river that was impossible to ford. My strength was running out and not salty slurping went back. Only later on the map did I see that it was so conceived — the path goes across the river. Moreover, if before that she was in good condition (solid line), then the devil goes further (dotted line). Having rightly decided that what the hell I would not have passed at all, I relaxed and went home 🙂

This is how my study of the wet Puerto Rican forest ended ingloriously. Perhaps it was necessary to move along the beaten paths of tourist routes, but during the season there is an insane amount of people (judging by the reviews and comments of the hostel employees), and the Charco Frio waterfall is much more beautiful (if this one is so beautiful, then what is there then?). However, the photos of these tourist waterfalls are quite nice, and if I had more time, I would go and see. Well, next time.

On the way back, I noticed that there are bollards along the road every 100 meters.

And then while driving, I was more and more surprised at the mixed measures here.

Filled gasoline is measured in liters and fuel consumption is measured in miles per gallon (mpg). This measurement makes the distance in kilometers even less meaningful. And so as not to be bored — the speed (and its limit) is here in miles. And weight, for example, is measured in pounds and tons. Have you tried converting pounds to tons? Here is something!

Tickets: El Yunque National Park, Rio Grande

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  • Start time: 08:00
  • 6 hour walking tour
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  • Parking fee

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Visiting El Yunque

If you decide to buy tickets for an excursion to the El Yunque rainforest, you are probably wondering what animals you will see.

Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and fish all inhabit El Yunque, and while ferocious beasts can be expected in the rainforest, Puerto Rico’s wildlife is a little different.

Due to the isolation of the island (it was formed as a result of volcanic activity in the Triassic period), it does not have a land bridge with any continent. All animals get to Puerto Rico either by swimming, swimming or by plane, so their size is smaller than that of their continental relatives. The largest mammal you can expect to meet is the mongoose (or rat, but we don’t want to scare you!).

Here is a brief overview of some of the animals in El Yunque that you may encounter during your visit:

The El Yunque National Forest is home to 97 bird species, of which 45 are dogs. The cats here are feral and don’t differ much from domestic cats, so don’t expect to see big cats in the trees.

With furry and feathered friends out of the way, there is also a huge ecosystem of reptiles, insects and fish in the forest. It is home to various species of lizards, geckos and snakes, as well as various types of coca (a small frog native to Puerto Rico).

If you love insects, you might be interested to know that El Yunque is home to creatures that would make any other person’s skin crawl. El Yunque is home to fire ants, the tarantula hawk, and the tailless whip scorpion.

There are several zipline operators in the El Yunque National Forest, the average price per person is about $100. Zip-lining is often paired with a range of other adventure activities to make the most of the rainforest, such as ziplining and hiking through diverse fauna.

Your El Yunque rainforest tour from Tiqets does not include a zip line, but it does have a rope swing in the dense jungle!

El Yunque National Park Reviews

4. 9

based on 43 reviews

D

Diego,
United States

Aug 9

2022

Excellent

John and Bebo met all of our expectations and some more. We could feel that they wanted us to have a great expert and adventure and so we did.
As an owner of a business, John and Bebo are the…

John and Bebo met all of our expectations and some more. We could feel that they wanted us to have a great expert and adventure and so we did.
As an owner of a business, John and Bebo are the employees I want working in my company. BRAVO 🐠👏🏻👏🏻🌴🇵🇷

El Yunque National Forest: Hiking Tour

A

Amanda,
United States

Jun 2

2022

Excellent

John and Bebo were the best tour guides ever… So much fun. Just be sure to wear good water shoes. It is a little slippery.

El Yunque National Forest: Hiking Tour

S

Sarah,
United States

Aug 9

2022

Average

It was a shorter tour than expected….

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