Southeast of San Juan, the El Yunque National Forest (aka Caribbean National Forest or El Bosque Nacional del Caribe) is a lush paradise in the mountains. The forest has 24 miles of public recreation trails along with 12 miles of administrative trails. There are four ecosystems to be explored in the El Yunque reserve including tabonuco, palo colorado, palm and drawf vegetations.
Some of the popular trails include: El Yunque Trail (2.6 miles), the La Coca Trail (1.8 miles), the Big Tree Trail (0.9 miles), the Bano de Oro Trail (0.5 miles) and the El Toro / Tradewides National Recreation Trail across the proposed El Cacique Wilderness Area.
The El Yunque Trail is a 2.6 mile route leading up to the summit at 3,500 feet for an amazing view of the surrounding forest and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. The trail starts at the Palo Colorado Visitor Center.
The 1.8 mile La Coca Trail leads to the scenic, and sometimes crowded, La Coca Falls with its 85 foot drop onto a large rock foramtion. The falls, which can be scene from Route 191 at the 8.1km milepoint, derives its name from its official owner in the 14th century, Spanish settler Juan Diego de La Coca. There are two parking areas. Note: there are no maintained trails next to the falls and the rocks are very slippery.
If you are into waterfalls, you will want to try the challenging La Mina Trail (0.7 miles) leading to tropical La Mina waterfall. Many visitors choose to soak under the waterfall, but watch out for rocks coming down.The trailhead is located on Route 191 at 11.9km.
The Big Tree Trail passes through true rainforest (or Tabonuco) vegetation where there are many large trees. The trailhead is located off Route 191 at 10.4 miles.
If you are really looking to get off the beaten track, the El Yunque Machete Hike is an adventurous guided hike that takes you deep into the heart of the rainforest jungle. There are many ghost stories related to this area that a guide can tell you more about. It is a dangerous trail, complete with curious Boa Constrictors. Hikers can only experience the unique beauty of this part of the forest through a guided tour.
Other guided routes include the popular El Toro Trail and the Trade Winds Trail.
To reach El Yunque National Forest from San Juan, head east on Highway 26 to Highway 66. Continue east on Highway 66 to Highway 3. Head east on Route 3 to Palmer. In Palmer, turn right heading south on Route 191 for 4.3km to the El Portal Tropical Forest Visitor Center. It is about 40km from San Juan.
Rio Chiquito Trail (#1) - Moderate 0.9 miles
Rio Sabana Trail (#6) - Moderate 1.0 miles
Angelito Trail (#7) - Easy 0.4 miles
La Coca Trail (#8) - Moderate 1.8 miles
Carrillo Trail (#9) - Moderate 1.9 miles
Tabonuco Trail (#10) - Difficult 0.3 miles
Bisley Trail (#11) - Moderate 1.1 miles
La Mina Trail (#12) - Moderate 0.7 miles
Big Tree Trail (#13) - Moderate 0.9 miles
Arboretum Trail (#14) - Moderate 0.2 miles
El Yunque Trail (#15) - Moderate 2.6 miles
Mt Britton Trail (#16) - Moderate 0.8 miles
Los Picachos Trail (#17) - Moderate 0.2 miles
Caimitillo Trail (#18) - Easy 0.2 miles
Mt Britton Spur Trail (#19) - Easy 0.8 miles
Grand A Trail (#21) - Moderate 1.0 miles
Grand B Trail (#22) - Moderate 0.8 miles
Rio de la Mina Trail (#24) - Moderate 0.5 miles
Bano de Oro Trail (#25) - Easy 0.2 miles
El Toro Trail (#34) - Difficult 2.2 miles
Tradewinds Trail (#35) - Moderate 3.9 miles
Upper Espiritu Santo Trail (#36) - Difficult 1.3 miles
Roca El Yunaue Trail (#39) - Moderate 0.3 miles
Note: Mountain bikes and horses are not permitted on any trails within the El Yunque National Forest. Most trails are very slippery and eroded.
Overall, El Yunque National Forest is the 3rd most popular hiking trail of all 10 hikes in Puerto Rico.