We signed up for the El Yunque Rain Forest excursion at the tour desk of our hotel. The cost of the tour was $45 per person and included the 45-minute rides to and from the Caribbean National Forest, where the El Yunque Mountain is located, and a guided tour of a portion of the forest.
I had never been in a rain forest, so I was excited about this trip. The Caribbean National Forest spans 29,000 acres and is the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. We were driven up the winding mountain roads and made our first stop at the Yokahu Tower. We walked up the 90 or so steps of the 75-foot tower and got a panoramic view of the rain forest. As one would expect, the forest is very green. This is because of the 240 inches of rain this area receives each year. There are telescopes at the top of the tower to help you observe the forest canopy below and the northeast coast.
Next on our tour itinerary was a 30-minute hike. There are 13 trails in the forest, one of which leads to the top of El Yunque Mountain. The purpose of our hike was to learn about the species of plants and animals that inhabit the forest; therefore, our tour guide kept us on a relatively flat trail feasible for all fitness levels. We were shown tiny orchids, very old trees, and all types of intriguing plants. We were even shown a carnivorous Venus Fly Trap-like plant whose leaves immediately close to trap an insect that lands on it. We were allowed to touch the leaves and watch them close. We did not see any animals but heard a few. Our tour guide would whistle and cause the coqui frogs in the area to chirp.
We boarded the bus after the nature hike and were driven to La Coca Falls. La Coca Falls is probably not the most impressive waterfall you'll ever see but is accessible from the main road. We climbed onto some of the rocks to pose for a picture and moved on.
Our visit to the rain forest, including the three stops and the hike, was probably no longer than 2 hours. Our tour guide asked if we wanted to make another stop on the way out of the park, but there was a unanimous "no" from our tour group. I guess we had had enough of looking at trees and plants.
I would recommend the El Yunque Rain Forest excursion to those visitors who have an interest in rain forest flora and fauna but don't have access to a car. Otherwise, I recommend driving there on your own and spending the day exploring the trails. The entrance fee to the forest is only $3 and there are maps and educational brochures at the visitor center.