Our second big adventure in Puerto Rico was visiting El Yunque rainforest, which is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. To give you an idea of how much we enjoyed El Yunque, Declan turned to me at one point and said, “This is the best day of my life.” This is AFTER we experienced the Bio Bay!
All our activities at El Yunque took about 6 hours, given we had Declan (and me) with us. Meaning we did one small hike and one more extensive one (details below) as well as drove up and down the main road, stopping as we saw fit. But for those who are into hiking, there are several longer trails, especially along the peak, several of which take several hours. Point being – you could spend a lot of time in El Yunque alone, never mind the rest of Puerto Rico.
We came into El Yunque and stopped at the Forest Center. If you feel comfortable with what you are doing, you can skip this, but we got good advice on the trails (such as learning how long the ones at the peak were and OBTAINING THIS MAP!).
La Coca Falls
Right by the highway, very easy to get out and walk around. And gorgeous!
Stop here. Walk to the top of the tower. Take in the view. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. As someone commented in my Flickr stream, it’s like looking out and seeing Jurassic Park.
And there is a little shop in the tower, where people can buy batteries for their child’s camera, not that THAT happened to US or anything. You can also buy ponchos there. Which I did. Since it’s a RAINFOREST. People we met on the BioBay trip said they got poured on, and used the ponchos ALL DAY, but I have to tell you we never even opened the pack. Good to have, though.
Juan Diego Creek & Falls
I had read on the Puerto Rico Day Trips website – a goldmine of Puerto Rico information, by the way – to go walking back to Juan Diego Falls, that is was El Yunque’s “best kept secret.” THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.
As they mention, the trail is poorly marked, so look around – but it is about a 5-10 minute walk back along the creek to the waterfall you see above. In retrospect, I wish we would have had Declan swim in *this* waterfall. It was much more secluded and smaller, less powerful than the more famous La Mina Falls (below). Point being, if you have children with you – THIS is the waterfall to let them play in. But still be careful, of course, a waterfall is dangerous no matter how small. But smaller is better than huge like La Mina.
La Mina Falls
There are two trails to La Mina. Big Tree, which is through the rainforest or Palo Colorado, which is along the river. We chose Palo Colorado – and it was an amazing, almost spiritual experience. Not to mention, HOT, WET and STICKY.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk down the trail – and it is stairs and rocks and steep the whole way. We made sure we had water, snacks and our bathing suits. I have to give my son such credit here – he was SUCH a trooper. Later – not so much, ha. But by then we were ALL on the train to Crankyville, so I can’t blame him. Point being – Bryan and Declan were waiting for ME most of the time.
Of course, I *was* stopping often to take pictures.
Finally! We made it to La Mina Falls!
And La Mina Falls kicked my booty.
Seriously friends. I am a strong swimmer. I am a big gal. If you go into this waterfall, BE CAREFUL! I really did get turned around in there for a minute until the waterfall had enough of me and literally pushed me out. Yes, LITERALLY.
But is was so worth it.
Until we had to walk back up.
That’s OK. The resort had this waiting for me.
Disclosure: This trip was partially sponsored by the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort. They graciously provided accommodations for my family while we were in Puerto Rico.