El Yunque Rainforest is the perfect day trip for adventurous travellers. It’s the only ecosystem of it’s kind in the United States National Parks system, and easy to get to from all over Puerto Rico. The rainforest home to hundreds of different species, and full of beautiful trails, waterfalls, and scenic views. It’s best to visit with a little bit of planning and knowledge about what to expect.
My trip to El Yunque was one of the highlights of my time in Puerto Rico. I love experiencing new ecosystems, and there’s nothing like relaxing by a waterfall!
Here’s what you need to know before hiking in El Yunque Rainforest!
Getting to El Yunque
Visiting El Yunque rainforest was a somewhat spontaneous decision. It was too late to book a day tour, so we took an Uber. This is a great way to get around in Puerto Rico, it’s very cheap in the city of San Juan. Uber is also a great (though yes, expensive) way to get to El Yunque if you haven’t rented a car! The Uber app does not work in the rainforest, so make arrangements with your driver to pick you up later.
It is expensive to take an Uber all the way to El Yunque, but is still comes out to less than going on a group tour. Particularly if you’re two people!
Many visitors to Puerto Rico rent cars for the week, another great way to get around. Consider how often you want to drive, though. I spent most of my trip in San Juan and booked a snorkelling tour to Fajardo for another day which included hotel pick up, so renting a car did not really make sense for us.
Experience Rainforest Wildlife Away From Large Groups
Many people will visit the rainforest and not see any wildlife. Tour groups power through the rainforest at alarming speeds, talking loudly. One group even had music playing. This is why I told you about the Uber option – it’s better to experience the El Yunque on your own!
If you want to see wildlife, go slow and stay quiet. Hold back and let large groups pass you. Remember that you’re walking through someone else’s home, and do your best to be respectful.
I saw two hummingbirds on my hike! You just have to move slowly, stay quiet, and watch for movement.
It Rains in the Rainforest – a lot
Rain in the rainforest is it’s own category of weather. Raindrops pool on the leaves above you, and double in size before spilling over the edge. On our hike back, we got completely drenched. The rain still hadn’t let up when we left over an hour later.
It rains of average of 4 times a day in El Yunque, so be ready to get wet. Anything that needs to stay dry must be in a waterproof bag. If you’re bringing any electronics, make sure you have a waterproof case or bag for them.
Wear Good Footwear
The trails in El Yunque are more like walking paths than hiking trails, so you won’t be out of breath, but you will need sneakers. The trails are laid out with stone tiles that become very slick when it rains. It rains often, so you will probably be making on wet stones at some point.
Wear close toed shoes with a little bit of grip. People wearing flip-flops and sandals were struggling on the trails when the rain came down.
Seek Seclusion at the Waterfall
The rainforest is fairly crowded in some areas, but it’s also massive and well marked. Many tour groups require their participants to stay in designated locations, and I recommend walking right past those areas.
At La Mina falls, the trail keeps going and it’s easy to access lower levels of the waterfall that are secluded and quiet. Climb down a few rocks and follow the trail further, and you’ll have a waterfall to yourself.
Respect the Rainforest
The earth fell away on one side of the trail, and I stopped to look down in to the array of plants in search of wildlife. My eyes were drawn to something bright and red, only to discover that it was a candy bar wrapper.
This part of the day broke my heart. There were wrappers, empty drink cups, and bottles along the trail, too far out of reach to have been forgotten there by accident. This is absolutely not okay, so if you’re bring snacks please tuck the wrappers back in your bag. The rainforest is free and open to any number of visitors each day, but it won’t stay that way if we don’t protect it.
We must respect this beautiful ecosystem if we want to keep enjoying it!
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