The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Visit to El Yunque
When planning a visit to Puerto Rico, the number one destination travelers want to see is El Yunque National Forest. This is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service, and it’s famous for its striking beauty and diverse ecosystem. Offering relaxing natural pools, beautiful waterfalls, exciting hiking trails, and unique wildlife, El Yunque enchants every visitor. If you’re planning an escape to this magical rainforest, use this guide to ensure you make the most of your trip. We give you a breakdown of what you can do and what to keep in mind when visiting El Yunque!
When to Visit
Lucky for all travelers, there’s no bad time of year to visit El Yunque. In general, December to mid-April is a great time to visit Puerto Rico, offering warm weather and little rain. However, this is also the most popular time of year, so if you prefer to avoid crowds, you might opt for June to November, which is typically the rainy season but offers better rates on flights and hotels. You can learn more about the best timing for your visit in our guide to the best times of year to visit Puerto Rico.
One of the most important considerations is the time of day when you visit. It’s best to get an early start so you can beat the crowds and avoid the hottest time of day. El Yunque took a lot of damage during Hurricane Maria, and efforts to rebuild have been underway since. This could mean that certain trails and parts of the forest are closed during your visit. It’s always a good idea to check the USDA Forest Service website before your visit to check whether there are any closed areas or other alerts. If you’re taking a guided tour, your guide will know where you can and can’t go during your visit.
What to Do
There are so many ways to enjoy your day in El Yunque, whether you’re hoping to do some birdwatching, sightseeing, swimming, or hiking. Here are some activities you don’t want to miss.
No matter what your day in El Yunque looks like, you’ll certainly do some hiking. Walking through this lush rainforest is an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the greenery and soak in the wonders that this beautiful rainforest has to offer. There are a few different hiking trails you can enjoy depending on the level of challenge you’re looking for.
A guided hike is one of the best ways to enjoy the rainforest because you can be sure your guide will take you to the best sights in El Yunque. See stunning wildlife such as birds, frogs, bats, and more. Of course, one of the most sought-after species is the coquí, which is a small type of frog that makes a unique sound.
Scenic views abound in El Yunque, and some of the best are created by the rainforest waterfalls. La Mina Falls, La Coca Falls, and Juan Diego Falls are all amazing to behold. Which one you get to enjoy depends on the hiking trail you choose, but they are all worth the effort.
Hiking in the warm rainforest weather, you’ll definitely work up a sweat, but luckily there are plenty of ponds where you can enjoy a refreshing swim. Sit back and relax in the cool water, or keep the fun going by grabbing a Tarzan swing and jumping into the water!
If you want to turn the adrenaline up a notch, a zipline adventure is perfect for you. Fly through the trees and above the canopy as you glide along various ziplines in the rainforest, including the longest zipline in the area! This is an amazing way to get expansive views of the rainforest and experience what it must feel like to be a bird flying through the trees. Thrill-seekers absolutely can’t skip a zipline tour.
El Yunque is full of beautiful views and exciting adventures, but it’s not the only place worth visiting in Puerto Rico. If you want to experience more of the wonders of Fajardo, a combo tour is a great way to pack a lot of action into one day. For example, you could start the day with a hike in El Yunque, followed by a kayaking tour in Laguna Grande to experience the bioluminescence. A full-day experience with an expert guide ensures that not a single second of your day is wasted!
What to Wear and Bring
Your day in El Yunque is sure to be full of excitement, which means you need to be prepared to make sure you stay comfortable and have everything you need throughout your visit. Your specific needs will depend on what activities you want to enjoy, but in general, here’s what we recommend.
- Comfortable hiking clothes and closed-toe shoes: This is the rainforest, after all, so you want to have appropriate footwear that provides support, doesn’t slip on wet surfaces, and you don’t mind getting a little muddy. If you plan on ziplining, long pants are usually required, and you’ll want to tie your hair back safely with a hair tie.
- Bathing suit: With so many inviting swimming holes, you’ll definitely want to jump in at some point, especially if you encounter a Tarzan swing.
- Towel and a change of clothes: After your swim, you’ll probably want to get dry and change your clothes before you head to a restaurant for a delicious lunch or move on to another adventure.
- Water bottle: It’s essential to stay hydrated during your expedition. Skip the unnecessary disposable bottles by bringing your own reusable water bottle that you can refill throughout the day.
- Camera: This is a no-brainer! The amazing views you’ll encounter in the rainforest are best experienced in person, but you’ll also want to immortalize your most exciting moments to share with family and friends when you get back home.
- Cash: It never hurts to have some cash on hand while you’re traveling, whether it’s to tip your tour guide, buy some lunch or coffee, or pick up a souvenir.
How to Get There
The most convenient way to get to the rainforest is to book a guided tour that includes transportation. Most tour operators offer pick-up and drop-off from most hotels in the San Juan area, or you can make your way to a meeting spot nearby. This way, you don’t have to worry about transportation at all!
If you’re staying in San Juan and are planning to get to El Yunque on your own, a car rental is the best way to get around. The drive from San Juan is about 45 minutes. Be sure to use a navigation app to keep you on the right track. It’s not recommended to use a ride-sharing app because they are not technically allowed to enter the park, and cell phone service can be a little spotty in the rainforest.
Your visit to El Yunque is sure to be one of the highlights of your Puerto Rico vacation. This beautiful rainforest has so much to offer, and you’ll come out of it with amazing memories and photos of your trip. It’s a great idea to visit with a local tour guide to make sure you’re getting the best experience and exploring the most breathtaking spots. Take a look at our Puerto Rico tours to plan the perfect trip!