RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- The 28,000-acre El Yunque Caribbean
National Forest, located 45 minutes east of San Juan, provides a
natural choice for visitors to the island.
The mountainous rain forest was named after the Taino Indian
spirit of Yukiuu, the Sacred Spirit of White Earth Mountain.
El Yunque is revered by locals because the mountains help
dissipate the power of hurricanes, thereby protecting the island
and its people.
Known as the "rainiest" national rain forest within the park
system, El Yunque is the source of 14 rivers and numerous
waterfalls and pools. At higher elevations, the waters are pure
enough to drink.
Several species of wildlife and vegetation reside within the
rain forest region; 26 species of vegetation can be found nowhere
else and the inchlong coqui, or tree frog, and the endangered
Puerto Rican parrot make their homes in the rain forest.
The true rain forest, commonly called the Tabonuco Forest, is
found on the lower slopes below 2,000 feet.
One of the special educational programs available at El Yunque
is called Rent a Ranger. This program features two-hour guided
tours, led by a trained forest interpreter.
The Rent a Ranger program is available Mondays through Saturdays
at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
There are several hiking trails within El Yunque that are
well-maintained for foot travel.
Those who want to plunge in cold pools and frolic under
waterfalls can choose several trails including La Mina.
Before hiking in the forest, visitors should check in at one of
three information centers to learn the region's history: El Portal
Tropical Forest Center; Sierra Palm Visitors Center, and Palo
Colorado Visitors Center.
Many visitors recommend El Porto Tropical Forest Center, which
is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center has interpretive
displays and information on camping and picnic areas.
Discussions with park rangers and a brief movie on the forest
environment also are offered.
El Yunque Caribbean National Forest is open daily from 7:30 a.m.
to 6 p.m.
For more information and to book tours, call (787) 888-5646.