If you are looking for Spanish influence and beautiful tropical weather, Puerto Rico is the place to be. While Puerto Rico may be the smallest Island within the Antilles spanning only 100 miles long, within this U.S territory is one of our arguably most important national parks, El Yunque National Forest. El Yunque is known for its gorgeous mountain top views, ever expanding vegetation and abundance of wildlife. This historic park should be on everyone’s bucket list. Read on for some interesting facts about El Yunque National Forest.
This National Forest is on the west coast of Puerto Rico in Rio Grande and spans over 28,000 acres or 24 miles. It is truly a rare phenomenon because of how it differs from other national forests. El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S National Forest system.The tropical climate and constant rain makes the rainforest atmosphere and creates an interesting recipe for some amazing vegetation. There are over 240 species of plants, making the forest extremely dense.
Given that it’s a rainforest, El Yunque gets 100 billion gallons of rainfall each year. This means, of course, that there is no dry season here. Before you visit this forest you must pack the proper gear. Due to the rain and heavy amounts of vegetation the floor is muddy and the trails can be steep so here are a few essentials: ponchos, boots, snacks, water, long sleeve shirts and pants.
Something really surprising about this park is the fact that there are no mosquitoes! This means leave the insect repellent at home, the chemicals in some repellents are harmful anyways. This park is protected so being respectful of the wildlife is a must. There are many ways we can enjoy ourselves through the Yunque forest without disturbing or harming the wildlife.
Get out your binoculars because you won’t want to miss anything while exploring through this national treasure. The sights and sounds of the native birds and animals are one of the best parts of El Yunque. The Puerto Rican Parrot, or Amazona vittata is said to have lived in the national forest for thousands of years. These bright green parrots with white ringed eyes are now endangered. Now, after hurricane Maria there are very few, so seeing these beauties is quite a treat. Another winged friend is the much smaller Little Tody or as the locals call them San Pedrito. The San Pedritos look like something pulled out of a cartoon with tiny white chests, fluffy green feathers, and a narrow beak, but seemingly large head and eyes. These adorable creatures usually travel in pairs and can be seen enjoying fruits in the treetops.
Another small but maybe less cute member of this forest is the Coqui Frog. This extremely small copper colored frog is known for jumping from the canopies to evade predators, because they are so small they actually float to the forest floor unharmed. This could either be extremely cool or very frightening if you are standing underneath and suddenly are rained upon by tiny frogs.
While there are other snakes and lizards seen on the island, there are no venomous species living in El Yunque.
To step into this forest is an other-wordly escape and there is plenty to explore. There are actually four different forests within El Yunque: Tabonuco Forest, Palo Colorado Forest, Sierra Palm Forest and Dwarf Forest. Take a slide down the waterfalls at Cascada La Mina and if you hike high enough in the mountains there is a high chance you will see multiple rainbows.
While this natural phenomenon was heavily affected by the hurricanes, relief efforts are working diligently to restore it. Now, there are many trails opened. Below are some informative links if you plan on venturing through El Yunque National forest.
You can take a variety of tours here and you can download a map and find more information here.
To Sum It Up
The El Yunque National Forest is truly an icon amidst Puerto Rico, not only for being the only tropical rainforest in the U.S National Park system but for being home to thousands of species. This bucket list worthy destination will tickle all of your travel senses and leave you with a feeling of gratification. The El Yunque National forest is just one of the many reminders that Puerto Rico truly has so much to offer when it comes to sights and adventure.