In a word, phenomenal! El Yunque is Spanish for “the anvil,” meaning the anvil-shaped second highest mountain in the Luquillo range, which claims El Toro (“the bull”) as the one that soars 3,494 feet (1,065 meters). El Yunque is the only TROPICAL rainforest in the US or commonwealths, and is formerly known as Luquillo National Forest or Caribbean National Forest, and has a number of trails of jungle-like territory’s flora and fauna in the approximate 28,000 acres. There are many subtropical rainforests in the US, primarily Alaska to northern California. (Muir Woods near San Francisco, as example.)
Hotels typically charge a $15 booking fee for organized tours, but Puerto Rico Tourism Company (787/722-1709) across from cruise ship Pier 1 and La Casita in Old San Juan will book tours with no commission. Keep in mind that if the hotel books a tour for four, you’ve spent $60 for someone to make a phone call. The $15 “deposit” of the $70 per person is not refundable, as it’s the hotel’s fee. If you're part of a group, you may want to consider a car rental. ($70 times four equals $280.) That way, you can spend as much time as you like, and take in other sites not visited on organized tours, and anything is better than the filthy food kiosks that have no recycle bins or trash cans. It's sad to leave a pristine rainforest only to see locals and visitors throw trash onto the ground. Tour companies typically have vans that hold eight to ten visitors, but guides do not accompany visitors along the trails. The “tours” are basically an expensive transportation service. The full-day tour includes a self-guided trail that can be difficult and is not advised for those with disabilities or children, but I took the half-day La Mina Falls rainforest tour, meant for the elderly or families with children. This partially paved trail leads visitors to falls cascading over huge boulders to form a pool beneath a footbridge. For younger people, the falls and natural pool seem to be the main attraction but I enjoyed tillandsia (air plants), ferns and bromeliads that attach to tree limbs.
Coqui (pronounced “co-key”) is the genre of small frogs that make cricket-like noises, for which the 15 species of coqui derived the name. Because el Yunque is close to San Juan, many visitors walk along the narrow paths. With so many visitors, coqui and birds can be heard only away from the trails. Surprisingly, too many people were yacking on cell phones telling friends how beautiful they found the rainforest. Uh, loud talking detracts from the natural beauty.
A bit of caution. Avoid like the plague any aspect of Yokahú Tours. Yokahú is not a tour company and subcontracts to possible unlicensed and uninsured individuals for the rainforest portion. This is why the “guide” does not collect the cost of combined tours—he’s only a driver who drops you off at a trail in the rainforest for your self-guided tour, and then takes you to Yokahú Kayak Bio Bay excursion. Read the negative reviews of Yokahú. One person was taken through a mangrove swamp at night, hit her head because there was no light for group members (only for the lead kayak/guide’s safety). This caused a concussion. The Fiberglas seat her husband occupied broke, causing him to fall and injure himself. Yokahú representatives falsely claimed safety, when this permanently disabled person booked through Puerto Rico Tourism Company. If you want to append a kayak excursion of Bio Bay, there are many reputable companies that are safe.
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