Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Park can be a highlight for any trip to Puerto Rico, but here’s some advice for enjoying the park without dropping $65 a person on a group tour: rent a freaking car!
My ex and I spent a day hiking, sweating, hiking some more and finally splashing into a waterfall during our visit to the gorgeous National Park. The fact that we rented a car meant that we could explore at our own leisure without worrying about keeping up with the tourists.
There are over a dozen hikes at El Yunque, but none more crowded, and probably refreshing as La Mina. The moderate hike takes you down a muddy trail to a waterfall full of locals and gringos swimming in freshwater. We were told by a native that if you go during the week, you can beat the crowds, but we were there on a Saturday so bite us.
Still, even if you find yourself surrounded by an entourage of humans you don’t know, you can climb over a bridge at the base of the waterfall, and make your way down to two lower pools which are usually empty. That’s what we did and basically had an entire piece of the park to ourselves. After dressing down to our swimsuits, we hopped in the water and swam out to underneath a waterfall where we enjoyed the views and mother nature’s soundtrack of wildlife. After that, a power bar I packed along for the hike and a few pictures before calling it,
Some of the other hikes you may want to check out are El Yunque Trail, Big Tree and Juan Diego Falls.
There’s currently a moretoreum on camping inside El Yunque, so you tree huggers are out of luck. That being said, there are other accommodations near the park for those of you interested in spending a few days in the area. We stayed in San Juan, but didn’t mind the 45 minute drive to the park from the city.
THE COST: Entry into El Yunque is free and so is parking. And most, if not all, of the parks hikes are marked with trailhead signs so you don’t need someone else’s grandma or Dave, Sarah and their six kids from the cruise ship slowing you down.
GETTING THERE: The rain forest is located in the NE corner of Puerto Rico, with the main entrance in Rio Grande, just off Rt 3, on Rt 191. The drive from San Juan can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on weather and traffic.