After Living in Puerto Rico for 3 months, we finally went to El Yunque rain forest on the Northeast corner of the island. The lush tropical rainforest is consistently one of the top recommended destinations in Puerto Rico, for good reasons. The unique landscape and sweeping views will take your breath away!
Fees and Reservations
As of July 2020, there is now a $2 per vehicle entrance fee. Reservations and payment are required for entry, there is no same day or cash entry options. You can reserve up to 2 vehicles on a reservation, and the person named on the ticket must be in one of the vehicles. Tickets are available up to 30 days in advance.
To make your reservation create an account (or login to your existing account) on Recreation.gov and select reservations for El Yunque Rainforest trails.
What to Wear
Shoes: Wear study hiking/trail shoes for any of the moderate, difficult, or very difficult hikes. Water shoes and sport sandals with tread are fine for the easy trails. La Coco falls is on the side of the road and Yocahu Tower is next to the parking lot, no need to even get out of the car to see either!
We planned to hike Big Tree Trail to La Mina falls for the hiking and waterfall combo, so I wore my hiking trail shoes and packed my water shoes. Plus, flip flops for the beach stop after our hike. In reality, I only needed my trail shoes for everything.
Quick dry clothes: It is a rain forest, even if it is not raining at the moment, it is humid and moist. We had light rain in the afternoon as we were leaving the park.
Swim suit: There are a few bathrooms to change, but most locals wear swimsuits with a lightweight (quick dry) cover up. La Mina falls is a popular area to swim and cool off in the water.
Towel: Bring a towel to dry off after your swim, afternoon showers, or a particularly sweaty hike. It is a must have item for sitting around the rocks near La Mina falls.
Pro Tip: Bring waterproof bags (Ziplock bags work great) for car remote, phones, camera, and any electronics that are not waterproof.
There are a few, small parking lots, and parallel parking along the side of the road. If you have a specific hike or area that you want to explore, arrive early to avoid the crowds and to secure a good parking spot. We changed our hiking plans based on where we find a parking spot. At noon on a Sunday, we had very few parking options anywhere near the trail heads.
The best trail maps were at the visitor center in the form of a giant mural. Each trail head is marked with another high quality large trail map with prominent “You are Here” arrow. This was perfect for us, since we could not park near our intended trail.
We started with a short loop hike at Bano de Oro Trail to a short section of El Yunque Trail back down to Bano Grande (Bath House, not a toilet), then from Palo Colorado down La Mina Trail to La Mina Falls and finally back to Palo Colorado parking area.
There are picnic areas and grill stations (if you arrive very early). There are also a few food stands and a restaurant located in El Yunque. We packed protein bars and found a quiet covered shelter to sit and eat near La Mina River.
Remember to bring plenty of water!
I “only” brought 1 liter of water per adult for our planned short hike and swimming afternoon activities. Since we changed our plans based on the parking situation, I would have added a longer hike if we had more water with us. Our next visit I plan to bring at least 2 liters of water (per adult), and keep another couple liters of water in the car for post hike hydration.
El Yunque rain forest is beautiful and serene, when you can avoid the crowds. There were not too many hikers out on a Sunday afternoon, but by 2 pm La Mina waterfall was packed with people with more on the way down the trail. I am excited for our next visit, when we plan to tackle El Yunque Peak and Los Picahos, or Mt Britton. We learned from our first visit to arrive earlier and be ready to change plans based on parking availability.
If you avoid the crowded areas you just might see one of the rare Puerto Rican Parrots.
Update July 2020: Several trails are still closed from Hurricane Maria damage in 2017, including La Mina Falls & Big Tree Trail. Here is an updated list of what is open, what is closed, and full details on hiking Juan Diego Creek.
42 thoughts on “First Visit to El Yunque Rainforest | Hiking La Mina Falls | Travel Puerto Rico”
I so wanted to visit here when I visited Puerto Rico but for some reason we couldn’t. I can’t even remember why now. It looks gorgeous and now I have a great excuse to return.
This looks SO beautiful! I’m a huge hiking fanatic, so definitely adding this one to the list.
We love hiking so this sounds right up our street! $4 dollars too – great value for money, those waterfalls look incredible too!! Thanks for the recommendations!
Oh I cannot wait to get to Puerto Rico at some stage. These are great tips. I would think that 1 litre of water would be enough, but I will remember your recommendation of 2L. I would totally bring a swimsuit to swim and great tip on the ziploc bags 🙂
Really useful information in here! I definitely second the ziplock bags – I always use them to protect my electronics when I’m going somewhere wet.
Expectations aren’t always reality hey? Sometimes it’s always the camera angle that deceives us! I’m pretty bad at spotting wildlife but I’d love to try my luck at spotting one of the parrots!
Great post, Jennifer! I remember going to El Yunque when I was 19 with my family. Like you said, having enough water is crucial! We didn’t, so we had to do a shorter hike instead and changed our plans. Still, it was the first rainforest I had ever visited, so it holds a special place in my heart. 🙂
Looks very inviting. I loved the part where you compared expectation vs reality. Quite fun. Enjoyed reading your story.
Wow, it looks so beautiful. But I guess expectations don’t always live up to reality when the place becomes crowded with people. Hiking in the rainforest is one of the things on the top of my bucket list.
Thanks a lot for your detailed post! I will remember to bring cash when I visit there! $4 seems like a good deal to explore such a beautiful nature place like this!
Waterfall hikes are my favourite thing in the world and this one looks amazing! Thanks for all the helpful information – like how much water you actually need and when the tourists start showing up:)
What a great hike! We love to hike with the kids. Great time outdoors having conversations while you hike and enjoy the great outdoors!! A rainforest hike sounds unique!!
Thank for the detailed info about the hike to the waterfall!
I love this post! So detailed and exactly what I need when i decide to go hiking here (hopefully in the near future)! This is a great guide and gave me all the info I could possibly hope for when looking to visit this amazing rainforest!
I loved El Yunque when I was in Puerto Rico. La Mina was quite crowded indeed but I got a good picture there. It made a nice day trip combined with Luquillo Beach!
Quick and easy guide for anyone wanting to do this trail or any hiking trail for that matter. It’s so important to bring the right stuff and not overpack or underpack.
I love how detailed this post is. It contains everything that you would need to know to go on this hike. I would love to visit PR and check out this waterfall.
El Yunque is a beautiful place and have noted it down in my personal excel sheet as the must visit places in Puerto Rico. Your post is practical and gives the downright information of all what the reader expects. Kudos, great going!
Great, insightful post! I have always wanted to travel here and I am especially glad you included what to wear because tbh I would have no clue 😛 The waterfalls are especially phenomenal!
Haha the expectation vs reality thing, was like a before and after picture at the beauty salons, really expressing the change. Very useful guide. The place remind me of some places in Switzerland, Ticino and the Rhein waterfalls. Good job! 🙂
Great detailed information! Love this place. So green, wet and beautiful. I especially love your pics – they make me want to go there just now 🙂
I’ve always wanted to hike in a rainforest, but haven’t done that so far. El Yunque looks absolutely beautiful, I loved your picture. When it comes to water, I usually go for better safe than sorry, so my default would be 2 liters per person. But judging by what you said, I think a full day of hiking and swimming might have required even more.
We loved hiking in El Yunque national forest, the trails are beautiful and looks so pretty especially when we are hiking right next to the water streams. Your tips are right on, LOL at expectation and reality, it doesn’t help that it gets way too crowded either.
xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com
Great as an adventure! Unforgettable i suppose and what’s quite an advantage it’s quite inexpensive actually. Beautiful.. just beautiful.
Thanks for nice tips!
Good to know that it’s cash only! I always hate assuming that card will be taken and having to go find an ATM. The rainforest looks beautiful despite all the people. I sometimes hate how the hidden gems are saturated with tourists but at the same time, am happy that so many people have the chance to experience this amazing place.
Thanks so much for the information! We will have to add to our list of places to go! I am also going to share with my friend that lives there as well. Did you see any families with children there?
This was a really useful mini guide, thanks for sharing! Great tips.
LOL at the expectation vs reality – I feel like that’s so many waterfalls in the world, unfortunately! It looks stunning. Thanks for the helpful info 🙂 Can’t wait to go someday.
Great details and information about the hike! I really should get some better hiking clothes and shoes! I love the expectations vs reality photo, how true is that? It’s hard to get great photos sometimes because there’s so many people at these spots!
Haha…. OMG you are awesome! I mean the exception vs. Reality picture is just so true! How often did it happen to us that we saw a stunning picture – we traveled all the way there – just to realise that it actually looks quite different?
I had the same experience with the Pink Lake in Western Australia. As the name says I expected it to be a girly pink – it was but only when I filtered the shit out of it!
Great idea to provide a picture like this! Love the idea!
I love the expectation and reality photo! I totally agree that in many locations when it is super popular, they tend to be ‘damaged’ by the influx of tourist.
Hiking here for $4 seems like a fantastic deal. I hope you enjoyed it. Without the trail marks, I think I would not want to do the hike, I just cannot seem to read a compass correctly
I have to say that I love your picture of the expectation/reality shot of the waterfall. Many of the ones we visit over here in Asia in dry season are not even that good. I think the description of the park would lead me to want to visit if I get to Puerto Rico. We have kind of been saving the caribbean for the time when we dont think that we can do the world anymore and need to stay closer to home. You must enjoy living there.
We love it here! The waterfalls are in a rain forest, so they are flowing and get plenty of water all year. Even if you cannot make it out to the Caribbean, travel in your own back yard is a great way to explore for a low cost.
Hahaha so good to see that expectation and reality are the same!!! No disappointments here. Do the falls have enough water all year round? I know some places during summer dry up so you have to time your trips with these types of things. Great tips too, my boyfriend went on a bit of a hike in New Zealand by himself and didn’t take enough water with him – the weather was hotter than he expected and he was wearing new shoes that he hadn’t worn in yet. He’d benefit from reading your tips! 🙂
That waterfall looks so beautiful! I love your expectation/reality photo – I feel that happens a lot in many popular tourist spots. My friend just went to Puerto Rice last week and I wish I had had this article to share with her!
You hit a sensitive cord! I have a thing for hikes and back in Israel last month, I did so many hikes. This is something I really enjoy, and I’ve been loving every kind! That is such a beautiful area that is Puerto Rico! It seems like a real amazing place to enjoy the hikes! x
The hiking in Puerto Rico is fantastic! There are hiking trails along cliffs overlooking the beaches throughout the island. Most of the hiking trails are secluded and peaceful.
Really beautiful place so green and clean. The wonders that nature give us. BTW the falls look awesome in the photos.
I hope you enjoyed the beautiful views I can see from the pictures despite having many people around the waterfalls.
Have a nice day.
My Wife and I went there a few weeks ago. That is such a beautiful area and pretty affordable. We actually talked about relocating there. Great article!