I made it!  After 96 steps through a winding staircase to the top of the Yokaha Tower –  It was so worth it to experience the most breathtaking views within the El Yunque Rainforest.

Have you ever considered hiking in a tropical rainforest?  This was only one of the tours offered at this year’s W.I.T.S. (Women in Travel Summit)  #Sheswanderful.  I was undecided about it until the very last day to cancel the tour, thinking I might trade for a beach tour, I am so happy I did not!  Not only did I get to check something off of my life experience list (aka bucket list), I also hung out with some fabulous Wanderful creator sisters.  As a result, my tour included a diverse group of women creators from various backgrounds, ages and locales.

For me this hike seemed almost surreal in that my original purpose for hiking was not only to see and experience the natural beauty of Puerto Rico; but to also get moving and get in some steps.  Even though, I had read about El Yunque, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into – I would experience so much more.  As I re-visit, let’s prep.  Sit back, close your eyes for a just a moment and allow yourself to feel the sensation of warmth on your skin.   Next, imagine being in thick humidity, the kind that engulfs your breaths and upon touching your skin, you feel wetness/moisture, as humidity often creates.  Focus and feel the wet mist and perhaps the trickle of rain on your skin that occurs from a brief rainfall.  Then, take a deep breath to feel a sense of calmness while taking in all the sounds of the forest family such as birds chirping, the forest frog’s “co-qui”(pronounced co-kee – the males mating call), movement and silence between various types of vegetation. Imagine seeing many colors within this rainforest, trees, plants, shades of greens, yellows, browns, reds…can you see it and feel it? Certainly, a delight for all senses. 

Now that your mind is relaxed and open, if the sensory experience was not enough, let’s get to why you should NOT miss hiking the EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST:

1.  Health Benefits -Did you know that according to the Cleveland Clinic, hiking has great health benefits which include: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering stress levels and can reduce anxiety, just to name a few.  While hiking, periodically, I took the time to pause, close my eyes and take a deep breath, I felt an amazing sense of calm, not to mention the air quality —so much better in nature, we are not just talking about hiking, we are talking about hiking in a Tropical Rainforest and in Puerto Rico.


2.  Opportunity to Learn – Stop at the Visitors Center and view the short film to learn about the history. It’s the only rainforest within the US National Forest System which offers a unique opportunity to support Nature Tourism.  Take in the views and exhibits. In addition, don’t forget to stop by the El Portal Cafe and try an Empanada along with local Beer made by Ocean Lab Brewing Company Isla Verde, PR.  I tried the Passion Fruit which was fruity and refreshing while experiencing a quick, light rain shower. 

3.  Our tour guide pointed out that El Yunque is one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world estimated to be over 200 million years old. Also, the name El Yunque was derived from an Indian spirit, Yuquiyu, and provided shelter to the Carib Indians for 200 years.

4.  Yunque receives over 100 billion gallons of rainfall annually.  Notably, apparent in the mist while walking the trail, you may experience rain showers and slippery landscapes due to the moisture and tree matter which is why appropriate shoes with good traction are a must for this hike.  Don’t miss the waterfalls!

5.  Nature – El Yunque serves as home to many varieties of plants and animals one particularly endemic species such as the Coqui frog which is representative of it’s biodiversity. You can hear birds, rustling sounds dripping water and perhaps a “Coqui” “Coqui.” Nothing like enjoying all of the wonderful sounds of nature. There is also foliage/vegetation with some very unique characteristics.  For instance, look for the Morivivi plant – the small green leaves will close upon touching them. 



6.  Hiking – While walking the trail, you can see a variety of foliage with varying shapes and configurations in addition to varying hues of green, yellows, browns and reds, creams and others and captivating flowers in bloom. The trees and vegetation provide a unique canopy effect within the dense forest with a cozy feeling and comfort. While moving along the trail, I realized that some of the plants I saw where actually growing in my home.  However, here, they are able to really flourish and grow large, i.e. Ferns, elephant ears, philodendrons.  All of this along with peaks of sunlight, and just when you thought it couldn’t be more beautiful you see something else.



7.  Observation – While in El Yunque, you must visit the Yokahu tower.  It has an observation point of 1575 feet walkable with 96 Steps.  The view for me was breathtaking — and climbing those 96 spiral staircase steps was as well; however, definitely manageable! LOL I almost felt like I deserved a special dessert for that climb; however, as I looked at all the beauty that surrounded me, I couldn’t help thinking it was soooo worth the climb. So, do it! As you get higher, you can stop at the turn landings and experience the lower views.



8. Rainforest river –  Let me just say, as a non-swimmer that loves the beach, when I saw the river, I was a little hesitant about getting in the water (even though I was at the shallow end).  La Coca Falls is popular for swimming; however, be aware, I was warned of an 85 feet drop so be mindful of your location upon stopping for swim.  Also, there are no lifeguards so keep this in mind. The water at the shallow end was light brown and translucent, you can see the sea-life.  Then, someone pointed out the eel, I was forewarned that the eel was not the electric kind?  So, I had to put on my “Brave Big Girl Hat” and I did it! –  I had my Wanderful sisters encouragement.  The water was cool which was nice after hiking.  The major item that took away from this experience for me is that I forgot to pack my water shoes, the rocks/shells that lay on the river bottom were so sharp that it was difficult to walk. So be sure to pack these to fully enjoy the experience.



So, I hope that I have inspired you as to why you should NOT miss hiking the EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST.  This hike satisfied the explorer in me, allowed for greater appreciation of the beauty of nature and Puerto Rico and it was so relaxing.  It was definitely an opportunity to use all of my senses, taking the time to really be in “the moment” and take it all in.

Planning your visit:  If you decide to reserve a tour – group, private/custom there are options:  check into Trip Advisor, Viator, Air Bnb experiences and even FB Groups.  FB Groups are great for reviews and the ability for Q and A’s – still, be mindful that each individual has different perspectives on things – proceed with safety always being the priority.   There are reviews on the other sites as well.  Even though I am not endorsing any tour/group, be sure to read the descriptions completely & asks questions so that you are equipped to enjoy the experience and there are no surprises. If you decide not to take a tour, you can go here for more information on how to see the rainforest. https://www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque

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