Tour El Yunque with Para La Naturaleza
Living very nearby El Yunque National Forest, we have visited the forest probably a hundred times over the years. With its lush greenery, fun hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and interesting wildlife, we find it is a must-do destination for nature lovers.
While exploring this ecological wonder independently can be rewarding, there are distinct advantages to going on a guided tour, where they point out the hidden world of the forest, and give you with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this natural treasure. Para la Naturaleza offers a few different tours of El Yunque. We recently went on their “Mt. Britton – From Ridge to Reef” tour and really enjoyed it. We think that you will enjoy it, too!
Para la Naturaleza offers tours in El Yunque rain forest, located in Rio Grande (about 45 minutes to an hour east of the San Juan area). Para la Natureleza is a local organization whose goal is to help conserve significant parts of Puerto Rico, and educate people about the importance of conservation of Puerto Rico’s natural areas — with El Yunque being one of our top wonders!
The Para la Naturaleza tours start inside El Yunque National Forest at the Palo Colorado Visitor Center, which is up high on Road 191 in the La Mina Recreation Area. It is around KM 11.7 on Road 191, where you will meet your guide.
This tour is a 4-hour trip into many aspects of EL Yunque. One aspect is the nature that surrounds you. As we were walking, our guide Jose (and his helper Maria) possess a keen eye for spotting elusive plants and creatures, and can point out their characteristics and habitats and behaviors. It was pretty cool, we looked around and just saw leaves, but they were able to find all sorts of life! Some of these things are tiny! Jose possess a wealth of knowledge about the flora, fauna, and ecological processes at play.
His expertise allows him to find and identify plant and animal species, explain their unique characteristics, and share fascinating insights about their interactions within the rain forest ecosystem. We saw many species of birds, insects, trees, orchids, and coquis too! With a guide by your side, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate web of life that sustains El Yunque.
Another aspect is the history, cultural significance, and folklore related to El Yunque. Our guide shared stories about the indigenous Taíno people’s use of, and relation shop with, the forest. Then thee are stories about the Spanish and the American se (and abuses) of the forest. Over the years, there have been both natural and man-made disasters that have had an impact on the forest. And also current El Yunque and local folklore and customs and phrases and their origins and how they relate to nature.
One of the stops on our tour is at the man-made, natural pool area called Baño Grande (and we spoke about Bano Oro), where we discussed the history of these old “swimming pools”, and their current roles in the forest. The old photos of these recreation pools really brought the area to life back. These natural pools are fed by the river, and our guide explained how the rain forest rivers are connected to the ocean. He pointed out the shrimp that live upstream in the rivers, and explained that their eggs hatch into larvae, which are then swept down the river to estuaries and the sea, where they mature in the salt water. Once they reach a certain age, they travel upriver to get back to these freshwater pools to live out their lives. How cool is that?! There really is a connection between the forest and the ocean, and it all has to be protected.
We walked up into the forest, taking various trails to get to our goal – Mt. Britton Tower. On those trails, we passed through 3 types of forests, each with its different flora and fauna. I was really impressed with our guide Jose. He spent almost the entire 4 hours telling us information about El Yunque, showing us its critters, and answering any questions our group had. We all got pretty good at picking out birds or coquis just by their calls.
All along the way, you cannot help but to be impressed by the beauty of the forest, the sounds, and life all around you. Along the trails, there are views to the peaks and to the ocean. These views are especially beautiful at the top of Mt. Britton Tower. From that vantage point, you can admire the undulating emerald canopy of El Yunque rain forest, the glistening waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and the picturesque Puerto Rican landscape stretching out into the horizon. It is so worth the effort!
While exploring El Yunque National Forst independently can be a fun adventure in itself, utilizing the services of a guide elevates the experience to new heights. You leave this tour better educated about the importance of the El Yunque, that it is not just a pretty, fun day spent in nature. But the importance of keeping it safe as an ecosystem full of life.
After the tour is over, you can continue to explore and enjoy the rest of El Yunque on your own. The guide will suggest trails or rivers for you to visit.
Whether you’re an avid nature enthusiast or a curious traveler, these interpretive tours offer a deeper understanding of the delicate balance that exists within this vibrant ecosystems of El Yunque. This Mt Britton – Ridge to Reef is considered to be a “moderate effort” tour — it is not easy nor for everyone. You will be walking up to Mt Britton Tower and back. It is about a 3½ to 4 mile trip along rocky, uneven, and sometimes slippery trails. Much of it is up-hill. If this seems too much for you, they offer a shorter/easier 90-minute tour- “Exploring the Services that El Yunque Offers You” and a great nighttime tour of El Yuqnue
The “Ridge to Reef” tour is offered on Saturdays starting at 8:30am in Spanish, and Sundays starting at 8:30am in English. The duration of the tour is 4 hours.
Wear closed-toe shoes, hiking shoes or sneakers are best. Bring hat, sunscreen, drinking water, and a snack. Minimum age for kids is 10 years old.
Duration of the tour is scheduled for 4 hours, but could be a little longer.
Restrooms are available at the visitor center (meeting point). There are no restrooms once the tour starts.
Maximum group size for tour is about 10 people. For larger groups, call and see if they can accommodate you.
You can call 787-722-5882 for more information.
You can visit the Para la Naturaleza website for more information or to make a reservation. Though reservations are required, if you call they might be able to fit you into a tour that day.
Your reservation for this tour will allow you into the National Forest. You do not need to buy a pass on the forest reservation system.
Meeting point is Palo Colorado Visitor Center high up on Road 191 in El Yunque National Forest.
You need to provide your own transportation to Palo Colorado Visitor Center. Taxis/Uber cannot get to the visitor center (and you would be unable to get a pick-up after the tour.
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!