Hiking the El Yunque Rainforest of Puerto Rico | Part 1
The clouds began moving in as we peered over the drop-off to the jungle floor. Acknowledging the cool mist moisturizing our skin as we took in the view a little while longer, all 5 of us began the traverse back to steadier ground. The last thing you would want is to get disoriented in these parts as a slip up here would easily result in a 200 foot plummet to the bottom of the jungle floor…never to be seen again.
The El Yunque rainforest was phenomenal. Between listening to the natural music of the jungle singing and examining all of the beautiful flowers, I just couldn’t imagine a better place to be. It was very obvious that the others agreed wholeheartedly as well as I drove our rental car through the windy roads.
As we had originally passed through the towering bamboo trees, La Coca Falls presented itself at our first stop. I had never seen such a dormant piece of natural art. The entire waterfall had a very slight angle that allowed the water to kind of trickle down the face of it. Sort of like an in-house water fall…well 1,000 times larger of course!
After jumping off the side of the bridge to get a few more “cleaner” pictures (not to be littered with tourist), all of us jumped back into the car to continue exploring this amazing rainforest. I must tell you, simply driving around with the windows down and the music off created a mystical environment in this almost prehistoric land.
Even the weather up here had a totally different feel compared to the rest of the island. Where we had previously been sweating and were quite anxious to jump into the waters of Flamenco Beach, now we were feeling rather refreshed and ready for an excursion. Thus began our hike down to La Mina Falls.
Parking the car in front of the colosal fern trees, we grabbed our packs and began down the surprisingly maintained Big Tree Trail. I’ve always been amazed at the amount of wildlife that is always around you in the jungle. It’s one of those wonderful things in life that you know is there, but never actually see it.
I had the same thoughts back when I was in Costa Rica with my friends, hiking through the Jungles of Manuel Antonio. In every corner…every crevice there seems to be some living creature waiting to jump out at you!
And there was no exception to that rule here either! It may not be as shocking as a monkey jumping down at you, but needless to say there is always something moving in the jungle…
As we made our way down the trail and to La Mina Falls, the sounds of the rainforest just seemed to get richer and richer from the variety of wildlife moving around. My camera constantly on snapshot mode, I just couldn’t seem to catch any of the variety of birds flying around so I had to settle for the exotic plants and occasional lizard. Even the giant snails began to come out of the woodwork for photo ops! The only other place I had hiked that rivaled the tropical trails here in Puerto Rico were the trails in the Hawaiian islands.
As the day grew old, I actually got lucky enough to capture one small bird that was about half the size of your average fist. He was an adorable little fella too, sitting on the same limb for what must have been a solid 30 seconds in order for me to take his photo. Noticing that the group had moved on ahead, I began making my way back to where everyone was but of course taking some shots along the way…
After hiking for around 30 minutes or so, we arrived at the base of La Mina Falls. The water, initially shocking as we jumped in, quickly had a soothing effect as it cooled off our overexerted bodies.
The energy the water gave out was stunning! Edging to get closer, I swam up to the base of the falls and found some footholds to begin climbing up. A short and slippery 5-10 feet up was a little ledge in just the perfect spot for you to sit cross-legged. Carefully taking my seat, the water felt great as it massaged both my neck and back.
I can’t even tell you how long I spent up there meditating with not a worry in the world. Ten…maybe even 15 minutes went by before I crawled back down the face of the waterfall to meet back up with my friends.
Before it got too late, we all had decided to start making our way back to the car and on up to the peak of El Yunque. I must say, the hike down to La Mina Falls was spectacular but nothing like the second half of our trip. El Yunque brings the term “you’ve got your head in the clouds” to a whole new meaning!
Have you hiked a rainforest in the Caribbean?
Read Part II of the El Yunque National Forest here.