Puerto Rico's El Yunque rainforest

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 16-22, 1996
Adventure-of-a-lifetime trips
Rapid transit on the Kern River
Trekking in India
Dinosaur National Monument
Puerto Rico's El Yunque rainforest
Red Rock west--of Vegas, that is

Puerto Rico's El Yunque rainforest
Question: I am planning a trip with my wife to Puerto Rico in early August. I would like to combine scuba diving with the El Yunque rainforest, while still catching old San Juan. What is the best way to do all three within six nights?

Peter Lorusso
Washington, D.C.
[email protected]

El Yunque's famed rainforest lies a mere 22 miles from the San Juan airport
Adventure Adviser: Lucky for you, Peter, El Yunque is perfectly situated between the capital city and some of the island's best dive spots, so it's really no big deal to divide your time between the three. From the airport, I'd recommend making a beeline 22 miles east to El Yunque. Save bustling San Juan for the end of the trip--if you want to overnight there at all.

The primary recreation area in the 28,000-acre Caribbean National Forest, El Yunque is home to 60-some-odd species of birds, 80 types of orchids, and about 150 varieties of ferns--not to mention several short hiking trails, including the Big Tree Trail to La Mina Falls and the El Yunque Trail to 3,496-foot El Yunque Peak. If you're feeling ambitious, try the eight-hour slog through tabonuco forests to the summit of 3,524-foot El Toro, the forest's highest peak. Camp in any of the designated areas, but remember to pick up a free backcountry permit at the Sierra Palm visitor center before you head out. For Caribbean National Forest information, call 809-887-2875.

Once you've had your fill of this damp and muggy--albeit beautiful--rainforest, head down the slopes of El Yunque to the town of Fajardo, where you'll find stellar diving in and among the slew of tiny islets just off the coast. Head down to the huge Puerto del Rey Marina and sign on with Sea Ventures for a two-tank dive ($65-$80; 809-863-3483) to sites like North Palominos, with its gigantic brain corals, and the wall at Palominitos, home to fan corals and the occasional dolphin.

Base yourself at the Ceiba Country Inn Bed and Breakfast in the El Yunque foothills, where a double room will set you back a reasonable $60 per night (809-885-0471). From there, either head back to San Juan or forego the city madness for a couple of nights in the island's laid-back southwest corner, with its deserted beaches and dry, coastal mangrove forests. Stay at Copamarina Beach Resort, a 70-room hotel with a watersports center on tranquil Cana Gorda Beach, near the town of Guanica. Expect to shell out about $135 per night for a double room and an additional $25 per hour for rental sailboats. Call 809-821-0505 for more details.

For other options, check out our story on Puerto Rico in the Winter 1995-1996 Outside Travel Guide.

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