El Yunque National Forest

La Mina Falls

El Yunque National Forest is located in eastern part of Puerto Rico and is about a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. El Yunque National Forest is the only official tropical rainforest in the United States. The forest is a massive 28,000 acres in size and is managed by the United States Forest Service, unlike the Puerto Rico State Forests, which are managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

Camping sites are available and are free of charge, but you must obtain a permit from one of the visitor centers. Overall, El Yunque National Forest is free of charge, but the impressive exihibits at the El Portal Tropical Forest Center do have a fee for entrance.

To get to El Yunque National Forest, take PR 3 (Roman Baldorioty de Castro Expressway) east and south out of San Juan until you get to PR 191. Then, go south on PR 191 which will take you to the nortern entrance, where El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center is located. Driving further south will take you past most of the major tourist attractions in El Yunque National Forest.

Next, driving south on PR 191 you will pass La Coca Falls and La Coca Trail, followed by Yokahu Tower, and then Juan Diego Falls and Big Tree Trail. Next you will see the Palma de Sierra picnic and camping grounds roughly around KM 12.0 along PR 191. The Palo Colorado Visitor Center is located at KM 12.2 along PR 191 and is a great place to stop for information, maps, restrooms, and refreshments. Several ranger guided tours also start from the Palo Colorado Visitor Center and take you along the Caimitillo Trail or the Bano de Oro Trail and are conducted in both Spanish and English.

Other trails nearby are La Mina Trail, which leads to La Mina Falls, and El Yunque Trail which leads to El Yunque Peak. Further down PR 191 is the entrance to get to Mount Britton Trail.

El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center

El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center

Located at the northern entrance to the national forest, your first stop should be the El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center which is a visitor center with lots of information, maps, restrooms, an interactive tour of the rainforest, and rainforest exhibits. El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center does charge an admission fee of a few dollars, but it is well worth the minor cost. There are also park rangers available to provide guidance and up-to-date information on weather conditions and other forest information. A gift shop is also located here with everything from souvenirs to snacks and beverages.

El Yunque National Forest operating hours are 7:30am to 6pm daily, however the rangers working hours are from 9am to 5pm daily. You can call El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center at 787-888-1880 for more complete information on the visitors center as well as the national forest including the latest weather conditions.

Yokahu Tower

Yokahu Tower

Yokahu Tower is right along PR 191 about halfway between La Coca Falls and Juan Diego Falls. There is a parking lot right off the road and there isn't a hike up a trail or anything to reach the tower. Located at the tower is also a small gift shop as well as bathrooms, so it is both an easy and convenient tourist stop.

Although the tower isn't as attractive as Mount Britton Tower, the views are still amazing and it sometimes avoids the cloud cover that can block the view at Mount Britton Tower because Yokahu Tower is at a lower elevation.

Mount Britton

Mount Britton Tower

Mount Britton has a great hiking trail (Mount Britton Trail) which leads up to a great lookout point to see the wide expanse of El Yunque National Forest on a clear day. Mount Britton Trail is about eight tenths of a mile long (0.8 miles) and is a combination of pavement and gravel. The trail takes about forty to forty-five minutes to hike up and at the top you are rewarded with amazing views which inlcudes being able to see the rain forest, the Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea on a clear day. At the top of the mountain is the Mount Britton Tower which is an observation tower that allows you to see quite a distance. The hike down the Mount Britton Trail takes a bit less time.

Overall the Mount Britton Trail is considered a moderate trail mostly because the trail has a couple steep sections and in a couple places gets a little narrow. The entrance to the trail is located on PR 9938 (also marked as PR 930), which is a loop that begins and ends at two different spots along PR 191. There is a small parking lot at the base of the trail, or you can park in a parking lot at the end of PR 191 and walk about a quarter mile along PR 9938 to the base of Mount Britton Trail.