El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque Puerto Rico

El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Caribbean National Forestm is in the rugged Sierra de Luquillo, 40 km southeast of San Juan (latitude 18’19″N, longitude 65’45″W). The forest covers lands of the municipalities of Canvanas, Las Piedras, Luquillo, Fajardo, Ceiba, Naguabo, and Rio Grande.

It gets its name from an Indian spirit Yuquiye, which means “Forest of Clouds.” The spirit gave the mountain that dominates the 28,000 acre of tropical forest to inhabitants.

El Yunque National Forest may not be in the continental U.S., but it’s the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System.

El Yunque Puerto Rico
El Yunque Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico

The El Yunque Rainforest is a cool, mountainous, sub tropical rainforest. The true sub tropical ‘Rain forest’ occupies very little area in Puerto Rico, only a single, crescent shaped, band on the windward side of the El Yunque mountains.

It lies wholly within the El Yunque National Forest Reserve. This life zone has an annual total of 3,400 mm of rain. The trade winds blow from the north east. The mountains ( 3,500 ft elev. ) are in the north easternmost part of Puerto Rico. As the warm moist air rises when it meets the mountains and cools off, it dumps the rain and intensifies the wind.

El Yunque
El Yunque

One of the Oldest Reserves

The Forest represents one of the oldest reserves in the Western Hemisphere. Over 240 species (26 species are found nowhere else) of trees and plants, give reason to the government of Puerto Rico to spend a great deal of money making to preserve floral species and animals that are on the verge of extinction. The total area is 11,270 ha (75% of Puerto Rico virgin forest is here).

The Forest contains rare wildlife including the Puerto Rican Parrot, which is one of the ten most endangered species of birds in the world. Its scientific name is Amazona vitatta.

Puerto Rican Parrot
Puerto Rican Parrot

The Puerto Rican Parrot

The Puerto Rican parrot is a small Amazon parrot, about a foot in length, bright green, with red forehead, blue primary wing feathers, and flesh-colored bill and feet. Its primary habitat is the upper zones of the Luquillo Mountains. Approximately 50 other bird species are found.

The Forest is a wildlife refuge; no hunting is allowed.

Natural Get-away

El Yunque is not the place to find grand, full-service resorts.

Rather, when people stay in El Yunque, they want to get away from the concrete and commune with nature, and the accommodations are designed to enhance that experience, from mountainside cabins to “eco-lodges.”

Waterfall in El Yunque
El Yunque Waterfall

Expect some precipitation and come prepared with rain gear. However, the showers are short and there are plenty of shelters, located throughout the park. Among crags, waterfalls, ferns and wild flowers are many marked trails to enjoy on foot or horseback. Hiking, picnicking and camping (permit required) is allowed.