If you’re a fan of hiking and are planning a trip to Puerto Rico, El Yunque better be included in your itinerary. I say that with love but also I very much mean it, ha. Now, El Yunque rainforest is a super unique place to hike because it’s a literal rainforest, so it’s going to be a little bit different from other places you’ve hiked. Because of this, I’ve got a few tips I think will help you prepare for your day at one of the most unique national forests in the US.
1 – Reserve Multiple Time Slots
This may seem like overkill, but the weather in El Yunque rainforest is truly minute-by-minute and you’ll want to keep an eye on rain for the day. Since COVID, you now have to reserve your time slot via Recreation.gov, and there are two timeframes you select from each day. I suggest booking multiple time slots so you can try your best to get to the park when it’s not raining. It’s only $2 to book a time slot, so if you’re feeling feisty, book a few.
If you’ve got a freer schedule in your itinerary, book a couple days so you can monitor the weather beforehand and then go on the clearest day. If you’ve only got one day to spare for El Yunque rainforest, book both timeframes in a single day. That way if there is rain in the morning, you can go in the afternoon and vice versa.
2 – Pack for Rain… Lots of It
Not to beat a dead horse re: rain in a rainforest but.. it’ll probably rain. Or it will have rained recently. Basically, it will be wet in some capacity, and you need to pack for that. I’ve got a “Rainforest Days” section in my Puerto Rico packing list I’d recommend checking out for specific product recommendations, but the definite must-haves are:
- Hiking sandals
- Waterproof camera
- Waterproof backpack/bag
3 – Also Pack for Swimming
There are lots of hiking trails, waterfalls, and natural pools in El Yunque rainforest; these are some of the things that make it so special and unique! When it isn’t actively raining, there is lots of swimming areas available. You’ll definitely want to pack a swimsuit and towel, since hopefully you’l be frolicking around in waterfalls against the recommendations of T.L.C.’s most famous song.
4 – Monitor the Weather Closely
Again.. I am sorry to the horse I’m currently abusing but seriously, check the weather. We spent our entire day hiking in the pouring rain because we didn’t check the weather. Had we checked, we would have seen it was raining, waited until the afternoon when the weather cleared and then gone later. So definitely make sure to be checking the weather the day before your reservation as well as the morning of.
5 – If Weather Allows, Go Early
I know this is completely dependent on the weather, but if the morning is clear I highly recommend going early. That way you have the popular hikes and photo spots all to yourself. Not to mention there won’t be a long line to get into the park itself. Always a win in my book.
6 – Check the Forest Site for Popular Site Closures
For many reasons, certain areas of El Yunque rainforest will likely closed to the public during your visit. Before you plan your trip, visit the parks site and scroll down to the Recreation Conditions Report section. Once you know what’s open you can plan according to what you can access. For example, this picture below is of Yokahú Tower was open to explore the grounds of but not go inside.
7 – Download the Park Map Beforehand
If you’re familiar with any national parks or forest, you’re probably used to not having service in the parks. El Yunque is no different, so I definitely recommend downloading a map of the park before your day in El Yunque rainforest.
8 – Hike Mt. Britton Tower Trail
As I mentioned, we hiked all day through the rain. Wherever we hiked needed to be safe when wet. Mt. Britton Tower Trail is well maintained and safe to hike, wet or dry. Not to mention, the top of the tower also has one of the best views of the whole island. Due to the clouds, I wasn’t able to see that full view unfortunately. That just means I can save it for next time, right? 🙂