A Visit To The US' Only Tropical Rainforest Feels Like A Beautiful Costa Rican Vacation

The calling of tropical birds and a serenade of the coquí are things you can experience in the lone tropical rainforest of the United States. Its name is El Yunque, and it's located a short 45-minute drive from the capital city and hub of Puerto Rico, San Juan. While it might feel like you're having unforgettable adventures in Costa Rica, El Yunque is squarely on U.S. soil, so a visit doesn't require a passport for American citizens. Yet, it offers many things you can't experience on the mainland. 


From epic hikes to natural wonders and unique wildlife viewing, this is the place to let the island show you some of her best assets. When you visit, remember that although Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, it has its own long and varied history. Due to its worldly influences, it's a land of deep cultural and spiritual beliefs. El Yunque is an example of this, and it's considered a sacred place in the eyes of the locals.

The flora and fauna of El Yunque

Covering over 28,000 acres, this is a national forest with much to discover. Hiking is a popular activity, and there are lots of trails to cater to the interest. You can either map out a plan or simply follow the signs and explore as you go. Either way, a stop at the El Portal Visitor Center is a great place to start. From easy to challenging, the trails will lead you to waterfalls, pools for swimming, and rushing river waters. As you climb, you move through a diverse landscape that includes 240 species of native trees, and may encounter plants and animals that you can't see elsewhere in the U.S.


This lush mountain terrain is the very definition of a tropical rainforest. Keep your eye out for native plants, such as the dozens of species of orchids, or the over 150 species of ferns. If you're lucky, you'll spot a tiny creature that's endemic to the region — the coquí. While El Yunque isn't the only place in Puerto Rico you might see them, of the 17 species that are native to the island, 13 can be found here. Like the tropical forests of Costa Rica, you may also spot parrots in El Yunque. If you do, it would be an exquisitely special event, since there are only a few dozen of the highly endangered Puerto Rican Parrots known to be left on the island.

Natural wonders within the rain forest

Besides the flora and fauna unique to the region, visitors can appreciate natural beauty around every turn and embrace a variety of ecosystems within the same visit. Hike the La Mina trail along the wild and scenic river by the same name, and end up at a waterfall where you can swim at the base. For a different experience, hike the trail to Mount Britton and enjoy the reward of island-wide views from the viewing tower. For an easier viewpoint, drive to the parking lot and climb the Yokahú Observation Tower. Either way, you'll be able to look out over the vast Luquillo Mountains, which rise to 3,533 feet above the ocean below. 


If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, check out the Caribali Adventure Park at the base of El Yunque National Forest. Here you can drive and ATV through the forest or ride along the beautiful Mameyes River. You can also go horseback riding along some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. There's also a lively eatery on the property so you can refuel after all of your adventures.