Our world is replete with natural wonders, and of these, a great many are found in Puerto Rico. Left as is, without protection, these bounties of nature would be exposed to exploitation and degradation. Fortunately, conservationists and other nature-supportive groups are active in keeping the bounties of nature preserved.
Preservation, however, does that mean that such bounties are always off limits to the public. In fact, many of them have become tourist attractions that are well-maintained and a delight to experience.
A good example would be El Yunque National Forest, the premier destination in Puerto Rico for eco-tourism. In the National Forest System of the United States, El Yunque holds the distinction of being its only tropical rainforest.
This review of El Yunque National Forest is intended to provide the most useful and relevant information for tourists, in support of the advocacy of the Forest Service in “caring for the land and serving people.”
A Feast for the Senses
Upon entering El Yunque, you are immediately and pleasantly engulfed by sensory stimuli. Your eyes take in the beauty of the foliage all around, especially the giant tree ferns that only grow in the forest.
Your ears will also be treated to the melodious sounds coming from tropical birds, of which the Iguaca or Puerto Rican parrot is one of the most captivating, with its brilliant green feathers, white rings around the eyes, and red forehead. Since 1994, the World Conservation Union has placed this parrot on the Critically Endangered list, so if you happen to see them while in El Yunque, consider yourself extremely lucky.
Meanwhile, it is also only in El Yunque where you can see panoramas of both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean – thrill to the sensation of fresh breezes coming from two of the largest bodies of water on earth.
Relax or Be Energized
El Yunque is famous for offering several recreational opportunities that may either be relaxing or invigorating. As part of this review of El Yunque National Forest, the following activities and their associated amenities are recommended:
• Camping – there are many Dispersed Camping or Boondocking opportunities available. Remember that camping permit requests need to be made two weeks in advance. As part of camping, you can:
Go hiking on the trails (Be careful! Some of them are steep!)
Indulge in Nature Viewing
Take part in Outdoor Learning – visit the Interpretive Areas or the Visitor Centers to find out more about the wildlife in El Yunque
• Picnics – you can bring your own food for cooking and dining, or try the
Yuquiyu Delights, delicious local food such as:
quesadillas with pico de gallo sauce
carne fritas with rice and beans
The concessionaires also serve hotdogs and cheeseburgers for those who miss Western food.
In case you want to barbecue your own food, remember that campfires are forbidden. You can only use small campstoves and these must be at least 30 feet from rivers or other waterways or a developed trail.
• Swimming – there are waterfalls in El Yunque that provide refreshing pools to swim in. These spots are also great for taking souvenir shots.
There’s so much to do and appreciate in El Yunque that a simple review is not enough to present all that it has to offer. So, when you’re in Puerto Rico, make sure that a visit to El Yunque is part of your itinerary.