El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico - Part 1

Do you ever get ants in your pants?

We work from home throughout the week - teach English online as well as write, edit, and publish every Tuesday through Saturday - so by the time Sunday rolls around, we are ready to get out and about! Can I get a witness?

Our typical weekend plans include going to church on Sunday (grabbing a coffee and pastry either before or after), then hitting the beach just outside our apartment complex, and finally relaxing at home as we catch up on a favorite streaming series. (Currently watching The Chosen, which is very good!)

On Mondays (when everyone else is at work and the crowds have diminished) we head out on a local excursion. We just try to get out and about and explore the area around us. Sometimes we have a specific plan, other times it's more of a general see-what-happens type of day trip.

During the winter we are more likely to go hiking than to spend a morning at the beach, so that’s what we decided to do for our Christmas Eve daytime explore-around-the-island activity.

Even though Puerto Rico is a relatively small island - roughly 110 miles wide, and 40 miles north to south - it will take us years to explore all the outdoor sites. We had not been to the east side of the island since we moved here seven months ago, so on one of our weekly treks (this time Saturday, December 24), we headed to El Yunque National Forest. Interesting to note, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US national forest system.  

Before we headed to the main entrance of the rainforest, we stopped at a section that we had heard was closed, but wanted to check it out anyway. We parked the car by some small waterfalls and enjoyed the view. Then we took off on a small trail, about half a mile each way up to an abandoned camping area. It was a nice walk in a beautiful green area with a lot of different types of trees and plants. Refreshing!

Our best guess as to why the area is closed and abandoned is that only the major sites get refurbished and reopened after a major hurricane, so apparently this one is going to be left closed for some time. There were signs of work being done in the area, fixing the road and maybe some construction work in the campsite, but it really didn’t look like it was going to be open anytime soon. We hiked a little further along some really overgrown, abandoned trails, but we didn’t get very far and turned around and came back.

To enter the rainforest through the main entrance, you need to reserve a spot in advance, which we did not do. Pro Tip: You can reserve online 30 days in advance and then again the day before your desired date. Click here for more info.

We decided to drive to the interior of the park anyway, first heading towards the main entrance to see if it was possible to get in without a ticket, and it was not. Right before the main ticketed entrance, however, was a beautiful lookout area where you could see all the way to the ocean.

After we took in the view from the lookout, we drove to another section of the rainforest along a public highway, and stopped to take a very brief hike and see a small waterfall and fresh water river area.

From there we went on to park down the road and go see a bigger riverbed area and hiked the Angelita Trail to the Río Mameyes. It was about a half mile each way. The downhill was great. The hill was OK. It wasn’t too difficult, as it was a maintained path. I do think it was interesting that while we were hiking, we mostly saw tourists. On this day we did not hear much Spanish, but heard languages from all around the world. Maybe we looked like we knew what we were doing because some people even asked us for directions in English!

Although we didn’t see the official national forest section of El Yunque, we did see plenty of the outer section of the rainforest. We actually hope to be heading back this Saturday when we pick up a friend from San Juan to trek to the interior of the park. It all depends if we can get that pass this Friday! Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, when you have ants in your pants and need to get out of the house, what type of adventure do you end up going on? Comment below and share some fun or interesting ideas.


  1. So fun to learn what you both do when you are antsy! I am looking forward to seeing that wonderful rainforest! Cyndi

    1. We're excited about your upcoming visit! Should have great weather, too.

  2. I'm enjoying the blog. Loved the pictures and reading about your adventures. Looks like you're settling in and loving the new lifestyle. Take care and know that you are in our prayers.

    1. Thank you! We need the prayers. So far, settling in - but not without some adjustments. But that's probably true about anywhere one moves to! We'll try to keep the adventure stories coming. ;-)


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