Introducing El Yunque
Covering some 28,000 acres of land in the Sierra de Luquillo, this verdant tropical rainforest is a shadow of what it was before axe-wielding Spanish conquerors arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries. But, in common with other protected reserves on the island, the ecological degradation has been largely reversed over the past 50 years, and today, under the auspices of the US Forest Service, El Yunque National Forest is once again sprouting a healthy abundance of dense tree cover.
Compared with other Puerto Rican forest reserves, El Yunque is well staffed and crisscrossed by an excellent network of signposted trails. But adventurers beware. In contrast to national parks in the mainland US, there’s no true wilderness experience to be had here. Unlike North Americans, Puerto Ricans have never truly incorporated wilderness hiking in the national psyche. As a result, most of El Yunque’s hikes are short, paved and relatively mild compared with the trails of Yellowstone and Yosemite. Crowds populate El Yunque’s popular spots in peak season, but if you stray off the standard tourist routes, there are still plenty of places to slip under the radar.