A day trip to El Yunque

When we picked Puerto Rico as our honeymoon destination, it was with the idea of having a lazy kind of trip.  The plan: five days away, a small area in Old San Juan to explore, some good food and drink, and some general relaxation at our hotel with its rooftop pool, interesting bars and secluded spaces to sit and read.  The one exception to this was a day trip we planned to El Yunque, a tropical rainforest.

Normally we’d have done this ourselves by renting a car, but as it was a lazy trip, we booked a tour to pick us up and drop us off at the hotel and take care of guiding us around.  A relatively peaceful 50 minute drive outside San Juan had us in lush, tropical surroundings.  After a brief stop at El Yunque’s main entrance and interpretive site, we started up the mountain.  A very narrow road wound itself further and further up:

El Yunque

Our first stop was at Coca Falls, right beside the main road up the mountain.  The falls have about a 60 foot drop (you can see some perspective with the people standing part way up on the left):

La Coca Falls

At this early point in the trip part way up the mountain you can feel a change in the air.  Even in the heat, the air has a fresh, clean, moist quality to it.  Some spots in this forest receive 150-200 inches of rain each year.  We were lucky we toured on this day.  Our preferred date when we tried to book was a day earlier – a day of torrential rain and violent thunderstorms.  According to our tour guide, everyone got soaked and didn’t really enjoy their day.

The next stop on the tour was Yokahu Tower.  It’s located about 1,600 ft above sea level and provided some outstanding views of the rainforest as well as the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico off in the distance.  Here’s the tower:

Yokahu observation tower

A quick hike to the top of the tower gave this view of the rainforest below and out to the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.  Although a beautiful day, the haze and humidity obscured the views looking north a bit:

View from Yokahu

Looking south from the top of the tower, there was a much clearer view of some of the mountain peaks.  I love how green everything is here.  Very different from the mountain peaks I’ve seen in Banff, Whistler, Norway and Switzerland over the past couple of years:

Rainforest view

Before we headed back down to continue the tour, here we are on top of the tower:

Us on top of Yokahu

Next up was a forest hike a bit further up the road.  It was a peaceful walk, interrupted only by the singing of the coqui frog.  They are small frogs able to make a volume of sound almost unimaginable from something so tiny.  Perhaps they sing because they get to live in such a beautiful place:

Deep in the rainforest

In most spots the forest is amazingly dense.  The plants and trees compete with each other to get to the sunlight.  A bit of sunlight managed to find its way down to us:

Deep in the rainforest

We saw a lot of small wildlife along the walk.  Here’s one guy who was very quick.  I have a great picture of just the beam about 15 feet behind this picture when he got a bit camera shy on my first try.  Second try, and I got his picture:

Some of the local wildlife

As we got near the end of the hike, I kept having to pinch myself a bit.  This forest was really beautiful, with a mix of vegetation, smells and sounds I had never experienced.  Here, away from the road and the other tour groups exploring, it felt like a bit of an oasis, very far removed from the rest of the world:

Me in the rainforest

Overall, the tour itself wasn’t the greatest (although the locale was a great and memorable part of our trip).  The guide was friendly, but I think he’s been doing it too long – he kept pointing out the same 5-6 things for most of the hike.  We stopped listening to him and had a great chat with a friendly family from Baltimore who were touring with us.  Regardless, it was a morning and afternoon well spent.  We were so glad to get this view of a bit of Puerto Rico outside of the San Juan area.

One thought on “A day trip to El Yunque

  1. Pingback: Looking back on 2013 | Travels and Football

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