on May 28, 2012
El Yunque rainforest is one of Puerto Rico's claim to fame. It is located in the northeastern quadrant of the country. Tours are offered from San Juan but are generally expensive considering the time spent traveling to get there and the amount of time at the stops. Some of the buses were large while others were mini-buses. Driving a car enable me to arrive at the stops at different times than the buses. Locals, obviously, visit the park during the weekends. School field trips are scheduled during the week. The rainforest is free, but El Portal Rain Forest Center is $3.00. The displays were more about statistics such as what percentage of the plants found in the rainforest are used medicinally and the number of species that live there than details about flora and fauna. There is a gift store with educational books as well as postcards and souvenirs.I was able to complete all the hikes in the park except the one to the peak. That is to say the ones reachable from the north entrance. The south entrance had recently been opened and I did not have the chance to enter from there but was told there were far fewer people.La Coca Falls is right off the main road and serves as a nice warm up to the area. Parking is on the shoulder as people don't spend too much time here. Less than a kilometer down the road is Yokahu Tower which is a stones throw from where you are in the parking lot. Made of brick in 1962, three stories high, it provides a nice view of the top of the rain forest. A good place to wet your appetite for more.Less than 2 kilometers down the road is the parking lot for La Mina Falls. Don't be surprised if you have to park on the shoulder somewhere before or after the lot. Guaranteed there will be buses of some sort here. The trail has some steep stretches but is basically an easy to moderate hike. Thirty to forty minutes you will arrive at the falls where so many feel compelled to wade into in spite of the fact it is quite cold. A short suspension crosses the falls only to lead to a sign indicating the trail beyond which leads to a different parking lot is closed. The trek is lovely along the way with tiny white and lilac flowers, bright green ferns, bromeliads and incredibly large snails.At the end of the road the trail to Mt. Britton Lookout Tower begins. It is a steep hike, but takes just under half an hour to reap the rewards. Four flights up and the panoramic views of the rain forest are further enhance by Caribbean Waters and Puerto Rico's smaller islands. What a great way to end a day of hiking.
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