An Ultimate Travel Guide to Puerto Rico's Rainforests
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An Ultimate Travel Guide to Puerto Rico's Rainforests

A journey into Puerto Rico's tropical haven...


Just a 45-minute drive east of the pastel-colored colonial buildings and cobblestoned streets of San Juan lies another world entirely of cascading waterfalls, dense cloud forests, and singing coquí frogs—the perfect setting for a rainforest vacation. Spanning 28,000 acres, El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the US forest system and offers visitors a unique travel Puerto Rico experience, combining rich history, abundant biodiversity, and thrilling adventures.

A Historical Glimpse into El Yunque

The Taíno people, the Indigenous people who inhabited the island since at least 3000 B.C., considered this land sacred. The name El Yunque has two potential origins rooted in Taíno culture: Some attribute it to the Taíno word Yuke, or “white earth,” referring to its cloud forests, while others link it to “Yúcahu,” the Taíno god believed to rule from the mountaintop.

After the Spanish arrival in 1493, the area faced near-deforestation before Spanish King Alphonso XII declared its protection in 1876, turning it into one of the oldest forest reserves in the Western Hemisphere. Today, El Yunque stands as a testament to conservation efforts and offers visitors an enchanting Puerto Rico rainforest experience.

Where to Start

Your journey into this tropical haven begins at El Portal Visitor Center, situated at the main park entrance on PR-191, and open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. While there's no entrance fee to the forest itself, the visitor center charges $8 for adults, with children under 15 entering free. Here, you’ll find an accessible interpretive trail, exhibits, restrooms, a gift shop, and a café.

Flora and Fauna

The iconic Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque boasts the largest concentration of biodiversity in Puerto Rico, making it a prime destination for nature enthusiasts seeking a rainforest vacation. Wildlife abounds, including nearly 100 bird species, and over 240 species of native trees (23 of which are only found at El Yunque). Keep an eye out for the endangered Puerto Rican parrot (the Iguaca) and the Puerto Rican coquí frog, endemic to the island, and known for its peculiar song (“co-kee”).

Hiking Trails

This Puerto Rico rainforest offers abundant hiking trails catering to different interests and skill levels. Here’s a guide to some of the best:

For Waterfall Seekers

El Yunque’s most spectacular waterfall, La Coca Falls, can be viewed just off Road 191. With a drop of 85 feet over a dramatic rock wall, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most photographed falls on the island. La Coca Trail, a very challenging 1.8-mile one-way hike with an elevation change of over 650 feet, offers scenic views of even more waterfalls.

For a Refreshing Dip

Angelito Trail is an easy 0.2-mile one-way hike ending at a natural pool at the Río Mameyes. This trail is ideal for families, offering a fun rope swing and a serene lagoon for swimming.

For Cloud Forest Explorers

The demanding 0.8-mile round-trip Mount Britton Trail culminates at the Mount Britton Tower, honoring the renowned botanist. At an elevation of 3,087 feet, the trail presents a steep climb with potentially slippery sections but rewards intrepid hikers with an immersive cloud forest experience. The hike connects to El Yunque Trail for those seeking further adventure.

For Panoramic Views

Los Picachos Trail, though brief at a mere 0.2 miles, requires first conquering about two miles up El Yunque Trail. It features a challenging stairway that can get slippery when wet, but the panoramic views of Puerto Rico's eastern shoreline make it worthwhile. Alternatively, tackle El Yunque Trail in its entirety—a grueling 2.6-mile trek that ascends nearly 1,400 feet to El Yunque Peak. This summit, among the rainforest’s highest, offers breathtaking island views.

Additional Adventure Excursions

For those seeking more thrills, this Puerto Rico travel guide includes adventure excursions in El Yunque and its surrounding areas to enhance your rainforest experience.

Yunque Ziplining Soar over the forest canopy on five thrilling ziplines and enjoy an adrenaline-rushing rappel in a secluded and private rainforest tucked in the mountains near El Yunque in Luquillo,

Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park Navigate through towering trees, cross creeks, and traverse vast rainforest terrain on the back of an ATV, or opt to explore the foothills of El Yunque on a horseback trail ride.

Where to Stay in El Yunque

From rainforest villas in the heart of El Yunque to stylish San Juan vacation rentals, Dreamers Welcome offers a diverse range of accommodations throughout Puerto Rico, ensuring every guest finds their perfect island retreat. Unlike in a typical Puerto Rico rainforest resort bustling with other guests, DW rainforest villas offer a blissfully remote and secluded experience, allowing an unparalleled sense of privacy and immersion in nature—exactly as a tropical getaway should be.

Selva by DW Set on seven private acres in El Yunque’s emerald rainforest, this three-bedroom three-bath villa accommodating up to six guests feels deliriously remote, with its very own private hiking trail that weaves through the dense canopy. Indoors, the villa is adorned with soft curves, wispy lamps, and custom concrete and wood furniture. Outdoors, guests can enjoy a heated saltwater pool with dreamy views, as well as a custom deck outfitted with a gazebo and fire pit.

Waldhaus by DW Nestled at the foothills of El Yunque in Naguabo, Waldhaus by DW offers an immersive rainforest experience while luxuriously accommodating up to nine guests in a spacious four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom retreat. While modern amenities like WiFi and Roku are available, the true allure lies in its outdoor splendor: a private one-acre garden, a stunning pool, breathtaking ocean and mountain vistas—and, of course, the waterfall hikes and tremendous birding of El Yunque at your doorstep.


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