We rented a car and made the easy, 45-minute drive to the mountains. The roads and signs to the park are all clearly marked, and since we'd researched the trail options online, we skipped the line at the Welcome Center, and headed straight in. Our first stop was a roadside stand, just inside the park, that sold ice cold coconuts for $3 each. You chose your fruit, and they hacked a hole in the top with a machete.
These green coconuts actually contain sweet water, instead of milk. It took each of us a few sips, but then the taste grew on us.
Ample rainfall (over 200 inches a year in some areas) creates a jungle-like setting of lush foliage, crags, waterfalls and rivers. Pictures can't begin to capture the scale and size of the plants, or the peaceful feeling the park gives. Bamboo over a foot in diameter, 20-foot palm fronds, and tree roots larger than humans were everywhere...it's a bit like Alice in Wonderland.
The park is part of the United States Forest System, and is very well-maintained, with trails and paths that were easy to navigate.
We hiked the Big Tree Trail to La Mina Falls.
I've watched my fair share of the Bachelor...and there always seems to be some romantic waterfall frolicking. Let me tell you, this water was ice cold, and the falls were so powerful they pulled you back and under. Not to mention the rushing water was so loud you couldn't hear anything else...so I'm not really sure how people have romantic times in one of these?! I'm pretty sure Mr. SP wasn't having romantic thoughts watching me scream and sputter.
After hiking back, we stopped at the Yokahu Tower for these pretty views of the mountains, and the ocean beyond. There are many more trails and overlooks to explore, each with different skill-levels, but we were on a time schedule since our flight to the island was later in the day.
There are several options for getting to El Yunque...tour bus, private taxi, and car rental.
Round-trip car rentals from San Juan are easy and plentiful, but we needed a one-way rental since we weren't returning to San Juan.
Enterprise/Condado location was the only option I found.
They picked us up at our hotel in San Juan, we had the car for the day, then returned it to El Conquistador Resort near Fajardo.
From there, they drove us to the Ceiba airport for our flight to the island of Vieques.
But not before we enjoyed lunch and swimming at the gorgeous resort!
It was the perfect day of adventure and relaxing. El Yunque is an easy day-trip from San Juan, so I'd definitely build it into your itinerary. Check out the first leg of our trip here, and stay tuned for our favorite stop!