We woke up in the morning a little worn out from our trip to Old San Juan the day before. After a lazy and low-key breakfast, we piled into our beat-up rental car and set off for El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s tropical rain forest.
We had two shorter hikes planned for the day. The first was 1.4 miles round trip to the ~60 foot La Mina Falls.
Both hikes took us through the rainforest. In some ways, the rainforest was exactly what I expected. It was green…I mean really green. Every square inch of space was covered with a plant of some kind, and most plants had plants growing on top of them. It was also pretty dark in the forest. Clouds were constantly blocking the sun, and the canopy prevented much of the forest floor from receiving light.
In other ways, the rainforest was different than I expected. The iconic rainforest animals were no-shows. I guess I thought I would be dodging poison dart frogs as iguanas tried to crawl up my leg. In the end, the most exciting animals I saw were a hummingbird and a lizard with a sweet blue eye!
The hike to the waterfall followed a river, and gave us a good sense of the rainforest.
After 0.7 miles, we arrived at the waterfall. It was quite crowded, but Jessica was excited to arrive:
Jessica dipped her toes in the water while Jamie and I elected to try to swim under the falls. IMPORTANT NOTE: Those shampoo ads where bathers wash under the gentle flow of a tropic waterfall are not accurate. The water from the fall pounded against our heads and shoulders. Swimming in the pool was fun, but no one spent more than a moment under the actual falling water.
After the waterfall, we cruised back up the hill to our car and drove to the start of our next hike: 1.6 miles to Mr. Britton Tower. This hike was significantly steeper than the waterfall hike and was much less crowded. Less hikers made the hike more pleasant and allowed us to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest.
After 0.8 miles and 600+ feet of elevation gain, we reached Mt. Britton Tower. The tower is a tall stone structure built at the end of a mountain ridge. Climbing the stairs inside took us to an observation post where we could see for miles to the Puerto Rican coast.
If you visit Puerto Rico and fancy hiking, I would definitely recommend a trip to El Yunque. In addition to the two hikes we did, others recommend the longer hike to the summit of El Yunque. You can check it out on the trail map.