What is el yunque: El Yunque National Forest — Home

Diverse, Resilient and Unique: El Yunque National Forest

Puerto Ricans have a strong and intimate connection to the El Yunque National Forest not only for its vibrant forest ecosystems, diverse native species and abundant recreation opportunities, but also because of its geography. El Yunque sits on the island’s eastern edge, on the slopes of the Luquillo Mountains.

The Taino were the island’s first human inhabitants, and El Yunque loomed large in both their mythology and their day-to-day existence. They considered the Luquillo Range sacred for more than a thousand years. According to ancient Indian legend, the good spirit ‘Yuquiyu’ (or ‘Yúcahu’) reigned on his mighty mountain-top throne, protecting Puerto Rico and its people.

There are differing opinions as to where the El Yunque actually gets its name. The Taino are said to have referred to the tallest peak in the range as Yuke, which means “white lands” and refers to the thick clouds that encircle the peak. Others attribute its present-day name to the deity Yúcahu, who represented everything from agriculture, peace, tranquility and fertility to the notion of “goodness” itself. Yúcahu resided on El Yunque, where it was said he did battle with the god of chaos and disorder.

Frogs, Birds, Water, and More

El Yunque is one of the oldest natural reserves in the western hemisphere—first set aside by King Alfonso XII of Spain in 1876. It is home to hundreds of native plant species and almost 200 vertebrates, many of them endemic to El Yunque, including one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Puerto Rican parrot. Like many National Forests, El Yunque is a critical source of water, providing nearly 20 percent of Puerto Rico’s fresh water.

Photo by Geoff Gallice

It was established as the Luquillo Forest Reserve in 1903 and became the Caribbean National Forest in 1906. Eventually, the name was changed to its present-day moniker. It has always been the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest System.

The forest’s relatively small 28,000-acre size belies its importance as one of the most biologically diverse National Forests in the country. It is home to a dazzling diversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems, from sweltering lowland rainforests that hum with chirps of Coqui frogs, to chilly, cloud-covered dwarf forests – all providing habitat for hundreds of animal and plant species. The El Yunque contains over 240 species of native trees, of which 88 are rare and 23 are only found in the Forest. Along with the trees, the El Yunque hosts 50 species of native orchids, over 150 species of ferns, and 127 species of terrestrial vertebrates.

The steep slopes of the rugged Luquillo Mountains rise to 3,533 ft. and can receive rainfall of over 200 inches per year at higher elevations, providing water to Puerto Rico and helping sustain its remarkable diversity.

Island Protector and Recreation Destination

The landscape of El Yunque National Forest has long been valued for its role as island protector and for its importance to the health and quality of life for Puerto Rico’s citizens. Today, it serves as an economic engine that helps propel Puerto Rico’s economy. Visitors come to Puerto Rico and El Yunque to experience tropical forests, lush mountain terrain, and recreation opportunities. Each year, the El Yunque welcomes about 600,000 visitors from all over the world, making it the most visited natural attraction on the island.

It is home to a dazzling diversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems, from sweltering lowland rainforests that hum with chirps of Coqui frogs, to chilly, cloud-covered dwarf forests – all providing habitat for hundreds of animal and plant species.

Despite its small size, El Yunque provides impressive recreational opportunities for visitors and residents. From the El Portal Visitor Center, a walkway winds through the surrounding treetops. More than a dozen hiking trails cross the forest, including some that run to La Mina waterfall and Mount Britton, and then up to the high-altitude dwarf forest. In the southern part of the Forest, ancient petroglyphs left by the Taíno people captivate modern day visitors. Picnic pavilions, stone towers, rivers, waterfalls, and a visitor center packed with interpretive displays add to the recreational opportunities.

Hurricane Impacts and Forest Recovery

Hurricanes Irma and Maria passed over Puerto Rico in September 2017 and left a swath of destruction across the El Yunque. Whether addressing the massive number of downed trees or crippled facilities and severely impacted infrastructure, recovery operations on the Forest have required an increased dedication and a long-term collective community effort.

Through the El Yunque Stewardship Fund, the NFF, the U.S. Forest Service and community partners are working together to expand restoration efforts while increasing the collective capacity of local groups to engage in hands-on stewardship and recreational infrastructure improvements.

A repaired bridge on the El Yunque National Forest.

This NFF effort is rehabilitating damaged trails and repairing impaired watersheds and habitat, all while connecting citizens and communities to the land through collaboration, volunteering and learning opportunities. To date, the El Yunque Stewardship Fund has supported work on the Angelito Bridge and Trail, the Rio Sabana Recreation Area and Trail, and a scenic byway on the Forest. Learn more at nationalforests.org/elyunque.

Rich in history, teeming with life, and unique among our incredible National Forests, the El Yunque is a captivating destination beloved by locals and visitors alike. Rising impressively from the Caribbean Sea, this rugged and resilient landscape proves that amazing things come in small packages.

El Yunque National Forest — All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5

6,784 reviews

Excellent

Very good

Average

Terrible

Matt H

1 contribution

Had a great time.

Nov 2022 • Couples

Awesome adventure with great guides. Only concerning thing is that I haven’t yet received the pictures as promised. 100% must do if you’re visiting Puerto Rico. Just need those pics!!

Written November 17, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


Summer B

4 contributions

The Illustrious El Yunque National Forest

Oct 2022 • Friends

Soooo beautiful with some breathtaking views. Some parts of the trails offered were closed off, but if you plan to go, you MUST check Juan Diego Creek, Angelito Trail, and if you have the time and energy, Mt. Britton tower. The latter is quite a climb (not literally) and the incline will feel like a workout to the less physically active folks like myself, but the view is worth it. Just take your time and go at your own pace.

Written October 31, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


distewave

New Jersey209 contributions

A must when you are on Puerto Rico

Aug 2022 • Couples

How can you go to Puerto Rico and not go to El Yunque Rainforest!  We were staying in Rio Grande so instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a tour we booked the tour ourselves.  You must go online and reserve your spot 24 hours in advance, there is a $2 entrance fee per vehicle.  I wanted to swim in the waterfalls, one was closed and we could not find the other.  We ended up climbing Mt Britton. This was not our intention but I am pleased to say I was able to do it.  There really isn’t much else to do there, but you can’t go to PR and not visit El Yunque.

Written October 3, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


MSG

Houston, TX24 contributions

Overhyped, not full of waterfalls

Aug 2022

Bring water and good hiking shoes if you plan to hike. We reserved the day before and had no problems getting a spot (they open up reservations at 8 and 11 the day before). It was OK. We are from Houston and lived in Green Country of OK for years, so it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen. Lot of green and palm trees. Saw no birds or wildlife. At least, the hikes are shaded. We went straight for the peak; however, as of end of August 2022, it was still closed, so you get diverted to an alternative path that is not quite the peak. I think it took about an hour each way. It was cloudy and hot once we arrived with just more green to see. The hike was rocky and steep with a small stream. There are only a couple waterfalls in the park and the big one (La Mina) was still closed. La Coca falls is right at the entrance right by the road and has a sidewalk and rope in front of it — you can’t go in it — it’s just a wall with water running down it for pictures. The Juan Diego Creek trail takes you to the only other waterfall open. Walk past the small waterfalls with girls taking pics of themselves in thongs and children playing and keep climbing (very steep) to the right and take a left at the «Y» (there will be a rope to guide the way) and you will come to a very large waterfall with a swimming hole for good pics. This wasn’t busy because it is hard to get to. The water is VERY cold, so, we weren’t interested in swimming and this was August. I think the forest is way overhyped.

Written September 14, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


Paige C

2 contributions

Tourist scam

Sep 2022 • Family

So excited to get a guide for our tour of the rain forest! Only costs $56! What a steel! …. More like a scam. As we got to the entrance of the rainforest they told us we were scammed, there were no guides for the forest and an entrance fee over $2 was not real, it is a common scam that is under investigation. We were stranded with no service but still made the most of the trip.

Written September 13, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


Shalice M

1 contribution

What. An. Adventure!

Aug 2022 • Friends

What an adventure! So happy we were able to do this. It was fun, educational, and 10/10 recommend! Thankful for the guides and their information about this beautiful rainforest!

Written August 22, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


anarr44

Washington DC, DC3 contributions

Beautiful!

Aug 2022

We didn’t do any of the hikes but if you like to hike, this is definitively for you! The peak is about 2.5 each way. My girls played at the San Diego waterfall and loved it. Wear water shoes or crocs since its very rocky! The scenery is breathtaking. You do have to make a reservation (about a month out) and if you miss it, they release limited tickets the day prior at 8am on the rec.gov site. It’s $2 per car and there’s parking. Bathrooms available near parking. Bring bug spray.

Written August 22, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


rpecuch511

Philadelphia, PA11 contributions

Worth the Planning Ahead

Aug 2022

You can get a park pass for $2.00 a month in advance. It is not always possible to get them closer to the date of your arrival. There are lower trails and water play areas where the pass isn’t needed but to get to the upper part of the park with the waterfalls and beautiful views, a pass is needed. There is a windy road leading to the gate to present the pass. Prior to that there is a kiosk with some good food and a shop. As of 8/1/22, a portion of the upper park is closed off. You can still hike up there, but a half day is needed. We chose the La Coca Trail which was very steep and muddy as noted and never saw a waterfall at the bottom. The rangers at the Visitor Center said the map at the trailhead was old and they had a more current one. However, it does cost $8.00 an adult to go to the visitor center. The Caimatillo Trail was short, but beautiful and there was a little hidden offshoot on the trail for those who want a little challenge. Overall the park was stunning and I wouldn’t miss it if you are in the area.

Written August 16, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


Scheirerfam5

United States8 contributions

Beautiful!

Aug 2022 • Family

There are so many beautiful things about El Yunque Rainforest. My family of five recently visited and enjoyed the scattered waterfalls and various swimming holes. We climbed up a couple towers and hiked up to Mt. Britton. Mt. Britton is what I want to talk about because that hike was tough!!! It is about a 45 minute hike up to the tower, but when I say up, I mean the incline is hell!!!! Maybe if you are young and in great shape, but my husband and I are 43 and not in great shape and it was brutal. My kids ages, 15, 13 and 11 did fine. The incline, the heat and humidity made it difficult. But we didn’t quit and we made it to the top! Going down was easier. The view at the top is amazing and the breeze felt wonderful considering how hot and sweaty we were.

Written August 9, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


MARY

Springfield, MA6 contributions

make reservations!!

Jul 2022

I love the forest and there is so much beauty to see but they are requiring reservations now to go into it. There are some other trails that are accessible but without a reservation you wont see the beautiful waterfalls.

Written August 3, 2022

This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.


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El Yunque is a unique tropical forest

El Yunque is a unique tropical forest — Secret World