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Visiting El Yunque National Rainforest

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Creek in forest, El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico
DC Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

Introducing El Yunque:

El Yunque is a subtropical rainforest in northeastern Puerto Rico. The only tropical rainforest under the U.S. flag, El Yunque is a mere 28,000 acres (small by national forest standards), but it is steeped in island lore, natural diversity, and tropical splendor.

El Yunque means "The Anvil," and it is so called for its distinctive flat peak. The forest is part of Puerto Rican mythology: The Taíno Indians believed the rainforest was home to a benevolent god named Yuquiyú.

What Makes El Yunque Special:

Besides being unique to the U.S. Forest Service, El Yunque boasts an amazing diversity of flora, including 150 native fern species and 240 tree species (23 of which are found only in the forest) thrive in El Yunque, thanks to its perfect climate and consistent rainfall. In addition, the forest is home to many small animals that are found nowhere else on Earth. The coquí tree frog, Puerto Rican Parrot, and pygmy anole are among its rare and reclusive residents.

How to Get There:

If you're driving from San Juan, take Route 3 out of the city and travel about an hour to Route 191, which will take you into the rainforest.

Another way to go is to take a tour, many of which can be arranged from your hotel. Among the companies that offer tours to the rainforest are:

What to Do There:

Most tourists flock to the rainforest to enjoy its hiking trails, which range from easy to expert. This interactive map provides an overview of the forest's main trails. The most visited one is La Mina Trail, because it leads to La Mina Falls. This is the only waterfall in the rainforest that is open to the public for swimming. On a hot day, after an hour of hiking, there is nothing like stripping down to your bathing suit and diving under a cascading fall. The only drawback at La Mina is that it is usually crowded. Also, there are no changing rooms, so wear your suit or use the foliage to your advantage!

When to Go There:

The forest is open daily from 7:30 am to 6 pm. Since the temparature hardly varies, it is a year-round destination.

El Yunque For Adrenaline Junkies:

If you crave something a little more daring than hiking, call Aventuras Tierra Adentro. Aventuras Tierra Adentro will take you on a canyoning tour of the rainforest that will have you zip-lining, rappeling, rock-climbing and leaping through the air.

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