El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest Service. The 28,000-acre park is spectacular, so allow plenty of time to explore it at a leisurely pace.
Entrance to the park is free, but there is a $4 fee to enter El Portal Visitors Center. It is well worth the cost, and a $5 donation will buy you a one hour guided tour from a Forest Service Ranger. You enter from an elevated bridge that takes you through the tree tops into the bright, modern, two-level exhibit hall. Displays and a short movie present interesting facts about the rain forest and its wildlife and plants. General conservation information emphasizes the importance of preserving the forest.
A narrow paved road leads from the visitors center into the forest. Along the way, you’ll find a few shops, cafes, and viewing areas. La Coca Waterfall pours down a hillside and into a pool at the side of the road. A bit farther up, Yokahu Observation Tower offers dazzling views.
Several trails wind through the forest, and you can pick up a map and get trail conditions at the Palo Colorado Visitor Center, located about 3 miles from the entrance to the park. The most popular, and thus most crowded, hike from the center is La Mina Trail, with little bridges crossing the river as the trail winds through the trees to La Mina Waterfall. You’ll have less company during the week and off season.