I have always loved rain forests and try to get a hike in whenever a region has one to explore. Luckily, part of our itinerary in Puerto Rico included a trek out to the El Yunque Rainforest, which is a cool, mountainous, sub tropical rain forest on the Eastern side of the Luquillo Mountains. While it wasn’t typical rainy season, this region gets rain even when it’s sunny elsewhere on the island – we had some cloud cover and sprinkles but were able to keep dry for most of the hike.
It lies within the El Yunque National Forest Reserve yet doesn’t take up that much of Puerto Rico, which is known for its lovely beaches being surrounded by water on all sides. Its’ main features are the Sierra Palms and a superabundance of epiphytes, all at a high elevation, so you’ll need to drive to the very top of the road and then from there, you’ll find the entrance to hike in.
While we were there, we hiked La Mina Trail, which follows La Mina River so along the way, you’ll hear that lovely swishing sound from the river nearby. La Mina Trail has a drop in elevation from 2100 feet to 1640 feet and takes roughly two hours to complete the trail. You’ll pass through an area where the path is somewhat narrow and there’s also a series of steps along the way, so while it is by no means an advanced or difficult trail, it’s not one to take if you’re not a moderate hiker with some experience.
I’m not sure if the trail is slippery during every season, but it was something we had to consider when hiking it the afternoon we were there. You begin your hike at the Palo Colorado Ranger Station and very soon, you’ll come across many vibrantly colored large leaves as well as other interesting fauna to explore. Towards the start of the trail (you can choose a longer route if you wish), you’ll get the prettiest views around the bridge, where you can view the pond here as well as the luscious trees surrounding it on all sides. It makes for great photography if the lighting is good, which wasn’t the case when I was there – white skies and drizzle so there isn’t a great contrast between the rainforest “green” and crisp blue Caribbean skies.
Let’s get into the “thick” of it, shall we? As you make your way through the trail, you’re reminded very quickly that you’re in a rain forest. The leaves are vibrant and the ground feels wet even when it’s not raining. Join me on a visual journey through the heart of the forest!
Our guide Edwin Ortiz, who not only has a fabulous sense of humor but is mesmerized and fascinated with the environment, from protecting it to knowing every little detail about the forest. We came across an amusing warning sign to watch out for small Indian Mongooses although truth be told, we didn’t see any along the way. The best part about the hike was the contagious energy from Edwin who knew more about the plants, vegetation and climate of the region than you’d expect to learn from two hours of online reading and research.
If you go off the beaten path a little, you’ll find ancient trees and concrete getaways of sorts that don’t look like they’ve been touched in years.
A little over half way, you hit a lovely waterfall (roughly 0.7 miles in from the start of the trail), with fresh spring water you can actually drink – here, people gather to swim under the fall or in the waterhole at its exit. The waterfall is called La Mina Falls, and it can be accessed by either of two trails: La Mina Trail or Big Tree Trail but La Mina is the shortest trail to get to the falls.
The water cascades over a cliff into a pool or waterhole area where you can either swim or just wade in the water. It’s also a great place to have a picnic, although honestly, it was fairly busy when we were there, so check on the busiest seasons and if you can do the hike mid-week opposed to on a weekend, that may cut down on the foot traffic. It’s a great thing to do as a family so the kids can swim under the waterfall at the falls. If you have time to do both trails, I’d recommend it.
For those who wanted a tribal drawing on their arm, using nothing but natural substances from the Puerto Rican earth, Edwin was happy to oblige. Each drawing of course had a meaning!
Two thumbs up! Taking in La Mina Trail and the El Yunque Rainforest was a great way to explore one side of Puerto Rico. Of course, foodies should read my Puerto Rican food write-up, as well as view the photos from my trip to Palomino Island.