Photo Credit: TN
Your Guide To Navigating Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Rainforest
El Yunque National Rainforest is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular attractions. It was hit hard by Hurricanes Maria and Irma over the years, but it’s finally welcoming visitors back into its gates. As the only rainforest within the US National Park system, it’s definitely a must-do while on the island.
Many of the trails haven’t reopened, but on the flip side, there are several new additions like a state-of-the-art visitors’ center and more. Navigating the national forest can be a bit tricky, and while hiring a guide is possible, we’ve curated this written guide for those who prefer to explore on their own.
From where to stay to places to eat, here is your complete guide to navigating El Yunque National Rainforest.
1. Where to Stay
The Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham Rio Mar is the best choice for those who want to explore El Yunque in all its glory. Situated only a few miles away, the resort not only has a beautiful beachfront, but the other half of the resort also faces El Yunque— giving guests the best of both worlds.
In addition to the views of the rainforest and the beach, there’s a swim-up bar, several pools, restaurants, and a full-service spa on the property.
Beyond visiting El Yunque, you honestly won’t have to leave the resort.
2. Where to Eat
There are a couple of food stalls located within El Yunque National Park, but for an authentic Puerto Rico street food experience, you’ll want to check out the Luquillo kiosks.
Within a 10-minute drive of the park and the Wyndham Rio Mar, is a popular strip of local food vendors and shops. Locals and visitors alike head to the kiosks for their favorite local treats like cod fritters, rice and peas, the famous Puerto Rican corn sticks, as well as plenty of frozen cocktails.
Be sure to take your appetite and pace yourself, because there are literally 60 stalls to check out.
3. Navigating El Yunque
There are two entrances to the national park. The first is for those who want to check out the visitors’ center. Keep in mind that you will need to pay an entrance fee before you can even park.
Once in, you can opt for a short guided nature walk with one of the park rangers. They will explain all the changes that have occurred since the park reopened. The actual visitors’ center has been completely renovated and has lots of information on the park and maps for self-guided hikes.
The second entrance, off of Rd. 191 N, will require a ticket for a timed entrance. The tickets are free, but they are limited in number. Once they are at capacity for a specific day, no additional tickets will be issued, so try to reserve your slot in advance.
Within this entrance are the main trails as well as the popular waterfall and lighthouse outlook. There are currently only about 2-3 trails open to the public, so check the park’s website before visiting.
You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, because it can be very muddy along the trails. You’ll also want to pack a poncho or light rain jacket because after all, you are in the rainforest, and it does randomly rain.