Yunque puerto rico: El Portal de El Yunque

El Yunque, Puerto Rico Rainforest: The Easy Way to Tour It!

Want to know the safe, easy way to bring a baby to El Yunque? Read on.

Puerto Rico Rainforest Questions…

2023 Update: Please check the official El Yunque website for up-to-the-minute updates. 

My original 2014 article begins here:

This is the article I wish I’d found before my husband, baby, and I traveled to Puerto Rico. In the weeks before our trip, I agonized: “Will El Yunque be safe for our cute little son?”

The park is famous for being the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System, but… is it dangerous? I pictured beasts, treacherous paths on slippery rocks, and pouring rain.

Wildlife in El Yunque abounds. On a side note, do you see the graffiti ON the bamboo?!

El Yunque is Easy to Tour by


Thank goodness we decided to drive to El Yunque to check it out, despite those fears. Not only is the rainforest gorgeous, but it is also extremely customizable in how you can visit, meaning that almost everyone can enjoy its lushness… even an eight month old traveling baby like ours.

The accessibility of El Yunque is thanks to something that I didn’t realize before coming: The road called PR-191 runs right through the park, and the mouth of that road is an easy hour drive from Old San Juan, or thirty minutes from a cute beach town like Luquillo.

Don’t let fear stop you from magical rainforest sights like this.

Just Drive Right Through the Rainforest

What the road through El Yunque means is that, if you are limited in mobility (say, you are schlepping an increasingly portly infant and don’t want to risk slipping on rocks while hiking) you can do the following: Drive the length of the road into the heart of El Yunque, stopping every few minutes at the various attractions.

This became yet another reason it’s so useful to rent a car for Puerto Rico travel. Read on for a summary of our favorite stops in the rainforest, each of which was a one or two minute walk on smooth ground from the road, and baby-friendly.

The Visitors Center in El Yunque is excellent… and pretty, too.

The El Yunque

Visitors Center

We started our drive at the exceptional “El Portal” Visitors Center. Parents, note that this center boasts clean bathrooms, a cafe with a tranquil patio for eating outside, and an informative movie about El Yunque, in addition to museum-style exhibits. The quality is right up there with the excellent welcome building at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

As an architecture lover, I also have to point out the delicious design of the El Yunque Visitors Center building, pictured above. Well done, National Park Service! 

Watch out for wild babies trying to eat your cafe food in the Visitors Center!

The Puerto Rico Rainforest

Tour Begins

After eating like beasts, we hopped into our air conditioned car, turned on some groovy bachata music from a local radio station, and drove about twenty minutes to where the road ends, right in the middle of the rainforest.

We chose to start at the top and work our way down like this so we could take our time coming back down, stopping at various attractions without worrying about how much further there was until the end of the road.

Behold the glory of nature!

You Can Hike in El Yunque as Long or Short as You Want

To be clear, if you are NOT carrying a wee baby, there are miles upon miles of trails to hike through and waterfalls to swim in, deep within the forest of El Yunque. This article, however, focuses on the gems you can see in just a few hours (or even a single hour), with minimal risk to your littlest traveler.

Baño Grande is a lovely body of water to walk around in the rainforest.


Parking for El Yunque Attractions

The first attraction we pulled up to was Baño Grande, a relaxing man-made pool that was constructed for recreation in the 1930s: the early days of the park’s supervision by the U.S. Forest Service.

We were easily able to park the car in one of the many small lots dotting the roadside, strap the baby into our front backpack, and trot up a few steps to take in the view. Baby Devi was utterly entranced by the rainforest. The entire visit, his face looked like this:

Our baby was completely in awe of the rainforest. He made this face the whole time: “Wooow!”

Listen for

Coquí Frog Sounds

Meanwhile, Colin was mystified because we kept hearing the ubiquitous coquí frogs of Puerto Rico sing: “Coh-KEE! Coh-KEE!” but my beloved husband could never get close enough to actually see one of the frogs. He started a running joke that the frogs may not actually exist, and are really just a recording played by speakers all over the island. Hehe.

A side view of Baño Grande.

The Must-See 

TOWER of El Yunque National Forest

Back to the car we went! We paused briefly to change a diaper in the back seat and nurse the baby, then proceeded down the mountain until we came to the next attraction: Yokahu Tower. This is the most fulfilling and fun stop on the road, so if you make no other stop in El Yunque, make this one.

Peeking at the view while climbing Yokahu Tower.

Climbing Yokahu Tower

Yokahu Tower is about four stories tall, and you climb it by a narrow spiral staircase. All the way up, there are windows through which you can glimpse the rainforest as you rise higher and higher off the ground.

At last the sky bursts into view at the top steps of Yokahu Tower.

What a

View of Puerto Rico’s Rainforest!

At the top of Yokahu, the blue sky suddenly breaks into view! Pant with excitement and exhaustion as you scale the last few steps to gaze out onto a sea of undulating emerald green in all directions. Look far enough and you can even see the blue ocean at the coast of Puerto Rico, misty as blends with the edge of the sky.

The view from the top of the tower: The rainforest stretches on and on. Can you see the sea?

The Best Place for

Photos in El Yunque

This is your primo number one photo opportunity, folks. Snap those pics, and don’t be shy about asking strangers to take a family portrait! Experiment with different angles, and make funny sounds until your baby gives some form of a smile.

Oh and make sure you note what time the tower closes, because we got out just in time before it locked for the evening.

The view from the top of Yokahu Tower is gorgeous, and totally doable with a baby.


Waterfall in El Yunque National Forest: Wow!

We had a few more stops as our car chugged down the mountain, but the most exciting happened at silvery La Coca Falls: a waterfall that you can ogle just steps from the road. In the parking lot there, we met a boisterous gaggle of friends who offered to take our picture as a family, if we photographed them in return.

I had an awkward moment where one of them asked me how I became a travel blogger, and I handed her my card and replied, “It’s a long story. Just read the ‘About page of my blog.” Tacky? Whoopsie!

La Coca Falls in El Yunque is just a few feet from the road.

Anyway, those people were as nice as the rainforest is beautiful, and we had a great time posing for them while they snapped photos with my camera. They egged us on to funnier and funnier poses, until we ended up with this gem right here:

Dangerous chomping beasts of El Yunque: Overly loving parents!

So there you have it! El Yunque rainforest is very safe to rock out with a little baby, provided you skip the slippery hiking and stick to the enjoyment that can be found just off the road, still nestled deep in nature’s embrace. El Yunque was a shining highlight of our Puerto Rico trip, so don’t miss it!

Where to Stay near El Yunque:

Affiliates below provide a small commission at no extra cost to you.

  • We stayed at this lovely San Juan hotel (click for info) which is just 45 minutes from El Yunque.
  • We also enjoyed the Luquillo Sunrise Inn, which is just 15 minutes from the rainforest.
  • Another great option is to get a vacation rental in Puerto Rico (click for my favorite site for this).

Tours and Guidebooks:

  • Check out this awesome search engine for Puerto Rico tours of all kinds!
  • Browse Puerto Rico travel guidebooks on Amazon.

Lillie Marshall

The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs and Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!

Your Guide To Navigating Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Rainforest

Photo Credit: TN

Photo Credit: TN

Cuisine , Puerto Rico

DeAnna Taylor • Apr 15, 2022

El Yunque National Rainforest is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular attractions. It was hit hard by Hurricanes Maria and Irma over the years, but it’s finally welcoming visitors back into its gates. As the only rainforest within the US National Park system, it’s definitely a must-do while on the island.

Many of the trails haven’t reopened, but on the flip side, there are several new additions like a state-of-the-art visitors’ center and more. Navigating the national forest can be a bit tricky, and while hiring a guide is possible, we’ve curated this written guide for those who prefer to explore on their own.

From where to stay to places to eat, here is your complete guide to navigating El Yunque National Rainforest.

1. Where to Stay

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

The Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham Rio Mar is the best choice for those who want to explore El Yunque in all its glory. Situated only a few miles away, the resort not only has a beautiful beachfront, but the other half of the resort also faces El Yunque— giving guests the best of both worlds.

In addition to the views of the rainforest and the beach, there’s a swim-up bar, several pools, restaurants, and a full-service spa on the property.

Beyond visiting El Yunque, you honestly won’t have to leave the resort.

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

2. Where to Eat

There are a couple of food stalls located within El Yunque National Park, but for an authentic Puerto Rico street food experience, you’ll want to check out the Luquillo kiosks.

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

Within a 10-minute drive of the park and the Wyndham Rio Mar, is a popular strip of local food vendors and shops. Locals and visitors alike head to the kiosks for their favorite local treats like cod fritters, rice and peas, the famous Puerto Rican corn sticks, as well as plenty of frozen cocktails.

Be sure to take your appetite and pace yourself, because there are literally 60 stalls to check out.

3. Navigating El Yunque

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

There are two entrances to the national park. The first is for those who want to check out the visitors’ center. Keep in mind that you will need to pay an entrance fee before you can even park.

Once in, you can opt for a short guided nature walk with one of the park rangers. They will explain all the changes that have occurred since the park reopened. The actual visitors’ center has been completely renovated and has lots of information on the park and maps for self-guided hikes.

The second entrance, off of Rd. 191 N, will require a ticket for a timed entrance. The tickets are free, but they are limited in number. Once they are at capacity for a specific day, no additional tickets will be issued, so try to reserve your slot in advance.

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

Within this entrance are the main trails as well as the popular waterfall and lighthouse outlook. There are currently only about 2-3 trails open to the public, so check the park’s website before visiting.

You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, because it can be very muddy along the trails. You’ll also want to pack a poncho or light rain jacket because after all, you are in the rainforest, and it does randomly rain.

4. Bonus Stop

Discover Puerto Rico

If you have the time, we highly recommend planning a stop in Loiza. It is home to Puerto Rico’s African descendants, and it’s where many say Puerto Rico’s Black culture lives.

You can check out our guide on visiting Loiza here.

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Puerto Rico | El Yunque : the only rainforest in North America

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