El Portal de El Yunque Visitor Center & Walking Trails
El Yunque National Forest (aka "the rain forest") is one of the many places you can visit in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico. It covers 28,000 acres of land, and is the watershed for much of the northeast of the island.
El Portal de El Yunque is the main visitor and information center in El Yunque National Forest. It features an elevated walkway through the tree tops, educational displays, a short wheelchair-friendly interpretive trail, a short interpretive walking trail through the lower forest, a counter-service restaurant, some beautiful “selfie spots”, and a small gift shop. Though completely optional, the visitor center is an informative stop for first-time visitors to El Yunque.
A Visitor Center Reborn
The visitor center was essentially destroyed by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September of 2017. After about 3 years of rebuilding, and an $18 million dollar investment, El Portal de El Yunque officially re-opened to the public on 20 January 2022. Originally built in the 1990s, the new facility design incorporates current building, sustainability, and accessibility codes. It is much more locally-oriented, with more Spanish and local colors and themes, showcasing local artists. They even used trees felled by hurricane Maria for the information desk and some signs!
A Walk Through the Visitor Center
The entrance to El Portal de El Yunque is along an elevated walkway that provides a view of the forest from the tree tops. One of the first things that you come to is a topographical map that gives some perspective of El Yunque National Forest in relation to the eastern part of Puerto Rico. If you look down at the floor, you’ll see a map of islands in the Caribbean.
This initial area in the visitor center contains a bunch of displays and information about the rain forest. You’ll also find an information desk, staffed with some really helpful people. There is a large map of the forest, showing the recreation trails. Talk to the staff and they can help plan your visit to make the most of your time in the forest. This is where they will post the “ranger talks” of the day. You can get your “Junior Ranger” badges/books here, too!
A big new thing is the display of endangered Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vittata), locally referred to as cotorras. This is probably the only chance you will get to see them, as there are so few of them in the wild.
Across from the information desk you’ll find the gift shop, where you can get compostable rain ponchos, forest trail maps, snacks, and souvenirs.
When you venture out into the courtyard area, you’ll find the movie theater and the stairs/ramp leading to the second floor. The short movie shows distinctive features of the forest, its history, and the important role it plays in larger “ridge to reef” ecosystem. Note that currently (January 2022) the movie theater remains closed due to COVID. They are working on setting up an open-air theater in the courtyard on the second level.
Making your way up to the second floor, you’ll find a courtyard that serves as a rain-water collection system, a counter-service restaurant, and a room filled with educational displays about conservation, ecology, water, rain forests, wildlife, and other nature-oriented themes.
Two Trails – One is Wheelchair-friendly!
Once through the building, you will find two interpretive trails: the Discovery Trail and the Science & Conservation Trail. Both trails begin on the right as you exit, going toward the parking lot.
The Discovery Trail is a concrete path that winds a short distance under the raised walkway and back to the parking lot. It is wheelchair-friendly, and provide a little bit of immersion in the forest. Just be mindful of the slight downhill slope (and of course, the uphill on the other side!). It is not too long, but it is very nice!
To get to the Science & Conservation Trail, start on the Discovery Trail, and after you cross under the raised walkway, you’ll see a gravel walking trail that goes off to the right. This gravel path is the Science & Conservation Trail – it is a loop through the forest that leads right back to the starting point. It is in the lower forest area, so you will see some different vegetation than you will see on trails farther up the mountain. It takes about 15 minutes to walk this trail. Note that this gravel trail is not wheelchair-friendly.
On the trails you will be able to see many native trees, different birds and lizards, some bananas, heliconias, and gingers. Along the way you will find bi-lingual information placards about the flora & fauna of the trail, and the rain forest in general. It has some pretty views and scenery. I enjoyed this nice starter trail. I also think this would be a great place to bird watch, with lots of trees and open spaces.
The entrance fee for El Portal de El Yunque $8/adult. Kids under 15 are free. They collect the entrance fee upon entry to the parking lot. Your National Park Service passes are valid here.
There is no cost to get into El Yunque National Forest (for hiking, etc), though certain recreational areas do require a reservation. El Portal de El Yunque is located outside of the area you where you would need a reservation, so they can help you plan your day in the forest – reservation or not.
El Portal de El Yunque is open 9am to 5pm, 7 days/week. Closed Christmas Day.
For more information, including driving directions, please refer to our Getting Started in El Yunque National Forest article.
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PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it!