Take an Easy Walk on the Caimitillo Trail
Caimitillo Trail is a short and relatively easy trail that gives you a taste of what the rain forest has to offer. If you are pressed for time time or short on energy, this is the trail might just be for you! It is perfect for people who want to see a bit of the rain forest, but don’t feel that they are able to "make it" on one of the longer trails. This trail is a very popular trail with the cruise line (and many other organized) tours. The trail originates just down the road from the Palo Colorado Visitor Center at KM 12 on Road 191 inside of the El Yunque National Forest Recreation Area.
This trail is actually made up of 2 pieces meet in the middle like an "M". Refer to the trail map and you will see what I mean. You can either take only the short part of the Caimitillo trail or you can follow my suggested route which takes you on both parts, which comes out to be more like a 1-mile walk.
The Short Walk
This is our usual path: Park at the Palo Colorado Visitor Center, then walk up the steps to see the Bano Grande. When you are done, turn around, walk down a few steps and take the El Yunque trail to the left (there is a sign where the trail begins). Walk this trail until you get to a "Y" (there will be signs). For the Caimitillo Trail, stay to the right – the sign says Caimitillo Picinic Pavilions.
As you walk on this part, look to the right – you will see something that looks like a "stove pipe" up in the trees. Also, right across the trail look for the little door in the tree. These are examples of the structures (nest boxes) used in the Puerto Rican parrot recovery program . The endangered Puerto Rican parrot nests in hollowed out tree trunks, so, to encourage nesting, the Forest department helps out mother nature and makes some! These are examples, no parrots are nesting here – they live in a different area of the forest.
As you continue walking, you will come to another "Y" and a sign. Stay to the right and continue on Caimitillo trail. This trail follows a little stream and then leads down to a bunch of picnic pavilions. You will see more little trails that go to the left – these lead to picnic areas and are all interconnected.
Eventually you will get to a "T". If you go straight, you will see stairs that lead down to the road, where if you want, you can walk up along the road to the parking area. This is how the tour groups go – the tour bus usually meets you at the end of the steps. This is the usual end of the 0.5 mile Caimitillo trail.
The Longer Walk
Instead of stopping at the half-mile point and having to walk back to your car along the hot road, it is possible to continue on the trail by taking the path to your left.
You’ll come to a nice viewing spot where, on a clear day, you can see to Fajardo. Once you have enjoyed the view, head up through the picnic pavilions, where you can turn to your left at any one of the paths you come to. Any of these will get you back to Caimatillo trail (you’ll come to a "T" with the main trail). Once you’re back to the main trail, you can turn right and take Caimatillo until you get to the El Yunque trail sign, then turn right. The trail will eventually come to a "T" at a rain shelter on the El Yunque trail.
Once you get to El Yunque trail, you have a few options of what you can do next.
- If you want to return to the Palo Colorado visitor center, turn left and follow El Yunque trail back down to the road.
- If you want to go over to the Bano de Oro trail, turn right and follow El Yunque trail up. You’ll come to the Bano do Oro trail on your left.
- If you want to go over to the Mount Britton trail and tower, turn right and follow El Yunque trail up. You’ll come to the Mount Britton Spur on your left. There’s a rain shelter with an old fireplace at that intersection.
- If you want to hike to the peak of El Yunque, turn right and follow El Yunque trail up to the top.
The Caimitillo trail is a short walk – maybe 20 minutes until you get to the steps that take you back to the road. And maybe another 20 minutes if you take the first option above and continue back along the El Yunque trail. The trail is rated as moderate to easy, but it is NOT handicapped accessible. It is asphalt-paved, but it is very uneven in places.
The trail has many picnic pavilions, each containing tables, a barbecue and water spigots. It even has bathrooms along the early part of the trail, though they’ve been locked every time we’ve been on this trail. Be forewarned, this is a very popular trail on summer weekends and holidays with locals – so you may not experience the tranquility you were expecting to find in the rain forest.
Parking is available in a parking lot adjacent to the visitor center, and in the designated areas near the trail head.
There is no entrance fee for the national forest.
The national forest is open daily 7:30am until 6:00pm . Ranger stations are open 9:00am until 5:00pm. The gates close at 6:00pm.
Allow 20-30 minutes to take this walk on the Caimitillo Trail.
You can visit the El Yunque National Forest web site for more information.
Follow Route 3 to Rio Grande. Look for the intersection with Route 955. There’s a big sign pointing to the rain forest. Follow Route 955 to Road 191. Turn onto Road 191 (there’s another sign for the rain forest here) and you’re there!
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.