What do beautiful vistas, rushing streams, green ferns, colorful orchids, millions of tiny Coquí frogs, and striking waterfalls have in common? They can all be found at the El Yunque tropical rainforest.
Nestled on the eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains, El Yunque covers nearly 29,000 acres and reaches elevations of more than 3,500 ft. The average year-round temperature is a pleasant 73° F, making any day a good day to visit.
It is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park System and, although small in size, it is big on fauna and flora diversity. In fact, there are four major types of forest in this small area and they are home to thousands of native plants, including more than 225 species of trees (23 of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world), 150 ferns species, and over 70 types of orchids.
Although there are no large animals that live in El Yunque, there are hundreds of small animal species that make this rainforest their home. Many of them, like the Puerto Rican Boa and Puerto Rican parrot, can only be found here in Puerto Rico.
More than a million visitors from all over the world visit El Yunque National Forest each year. There are 13 hiking trails throughout El Yunque that are well marked and maintained for visitors to enjoy. There are several short trails suitable for beginners and children, as well as, more challenging trails for the more advanced hiker.
If hiking is not your thing, you can still enjoy the rainforest by taking a leisurely drive through the park. You can drive from the main entrance straight through to the base of Pico El Yunque.
If you drive, make sure you stop along the way to enjoy La Coca falls and, a little further up the road, be sure to take in the amazing vistas from the Yokahu Tower – the views of the forest and the island are breathtaking.
For a nice finish to your visit, stop in at the El Portal Visitor Center and walk across the elevated walkway that leads into the center. It’s a great way to enjoy the views of the forest canopy from 60 ft. above the forest floor.
Once in El Portal, take in the interactive exhibit that explains anything you may want to know about El Yunque, as well as an informative movie about the forest. If you’re looking to take a break after a hike, you will find the center facilities air-conditioned, with clean bathrooms, and a cafe to take in some lunch.
Some Fun Facts About El Yunque National Forest
It’s Raining Frogs Out Here!
During high-humidity times of the year, the tiny Coquí frogs like to climb to the forest canopy (as high up as 100 feet!). Instead of returning to the ground by the same route, the frogs prefer to launch themselves into the air giving it the appearance of raining frogs. The Coquís are so light that they float to the forest floor harmlessly. If you are fortunate enough to witness this event, you will indeed be rained upon by tiny frogs.
Rain, rain, everywhere rain!
It rains an average of 200 inches a year in an El Yunque. That’s a lot of rain! In the higher elevations, the rain can reach as much as 250 inches but in the lower elevations, it only averages 50-60 inches. Nonetheless, El Yunque is a wet forest, so be prepared to be rained on.
Cloud Forest, really?
2,500 ft. above sea level, in the El Yunque National forest, one can find a Cloud Forest ecosystem. It comprises only 2% of the El Yunque total area but it is unique and mysterious. Because of the high elevations, the Cloud Forest is difficult to reach and thus it remains largely undisturbed. 40% of the Cloud Forest plants can only be found here in Puerto Rico!
Those are some tall peaks!
El Toro and El Yunque are both more than 3,500 ft. tall, making them some of the tallest peaks on the island of Puerto Rico. If you’re tough, you can hike one.
Does it have big fangs!
Although, there are several species of snakes that make El Yunque their home, none of them are poisonous and are rarely seen by humans. In fact, there are no reptiles, insects, or animals that are poisonous or dangerous to humans in the forest.
Where are the monkeys?
There are no large animals in El Yunque, like monkeys, large cats, or deer. The island was formed by volcanic activity during the Triassic period and had no land bridge to any continent. Thus, all animals in Puerto Rico arrived by swimming, floating, or flying and are therefore small in size. The largest mammals in the forest are bats, rats, and mongoose.
Come Visit Us!
So, come visit us in Luquillo and check out the El Yunque National Forest. Regardless of whether you choose to hike, drive or stop at the visitor center, you will be surrounded by the sounds, smells, and scenic landscapes of this beautiful, unique area.