Our second day in Puerto Rico started off just the same as any other in the lives of fitpros….with a run! I love that I have running to help me see new places. Running and walking make the experience with a new town so much more intimate. You can smell the beach, feel the breeze on your face and take in your surroundings better. We did a four mile run along the coast and into Old Town. I was really pleased with the walk/runability of San Juan. And there were plenty of other adventurers out with us despite the weather being similar to Texas and Oklahoma currently…humid and warm!
Erin and I decided that one of our main objectives to make our trip feel the most worthwhile would be to see the rainforest. We were staying in San Juan, on the Northeast coast of the island of Puerto Rico and the Yunque National Forest was about a 40 minute drive a little farther east and a little more inland but completely worth it.
I could tell when we were getting close as the land started to rise up a little bit around us and turned into a more lush and green landscape. Puerto Rico definitely has that tropical beach feel throughout the island but it was turning into simply tropical. We paid $4 each to get into the Rain Forest Center but there was only a small trail, some maps to pick up and the museum. If you’re just interested in the main rainforest sightseeing, you can skip the visitors center and save your money. (Although I like to think it goes to a good cause 🙂 )
The Park is set up so that you can drive all the way to the top, choosing to stop at whatever sights and tangent hikes you wanted to along the way. We were all in for this excursion so tried to stop at all of them! I’ll take you through one by one.
La Coca Falls
Our first stop was La Coca Falls, a crystal clear waterfall coming down the base of the “mountain”. We stopped and took some pictures and then wandered over to ask the guide where La Coca Trail started. He tipped us off in broken but clear English to some of the better sights, and encouraged us to skip La Coca Trail. So we did, and everything else he suggested.
We hopped back in the rental and drove to the next sight, Yokahu Tower. Europe taught me to love climbing to the tops of towers for better views of the city and I knew we were in for a great view at the top of this one. We climbed just over 100 stairs to reach the top and be greeted with an incredible view of the top of the forest as well as the coastline.
La Mina Falls
Our next stop was the one I was looking forward to the most. The guide at La Coca Falls told us to take the Palo Colorado trail down to La Mina Falls. He then challenged that if we were brave girls we would get in and go swimming in the falls. I’m not sure where I had seen that there would be swimming available but I was ready with my suit on under my outfit.
We hiked down for about 30 minutes commenting on the dense forest around us, wondering what makes a jungle different from a rainforest (jungles less dense and usually close to a water source) and groaning about the inclined hike that would follow the swim. We walked next to the water that would eventually fall over into the pool and it was crystal clear and cool.
Once we reached the falls I stuck to my brave girl challenge and slid in carefully. The water was clear enough to see the uneven surface at the bottom but I couldn’t tell how deep it was so I was cautious. I’m a big cold water wuss so it was a big accomplishment for me and I’m so glad I can say I swam in the rainforest!
Mt. Britton Tower
After the falls we had only one stop left. There’s a different hike, upwards of two hours one way, to get to El Yunque Peak and we briefly entertained the idea of conquering it the following day (quit the entertaining after the hike to Mt. Britton). So we settled instead for a 30-45 minute hike up to the tower. It was steeper than the hike coming back up from the Falls but we were of course jazzed at the thought of a challenging hike. Again, worth it.
On our way down we ran into a girl whose family is from the area and asked her where we should grab some food unique to the area. She told us about a town just a little more east called Luqillo and that we could lay on the beach too. There was a strip of 50+ little storefronts in this town and we found number 31 at her suggestion. Erin and I split a seafood paella and mofongo (some sort of local plantain dish). I didn’t really care for either BUT feel more cultured for trying. Then we found paradise on a small beach.
We only left because a rainstorm moved in on us. An appropriate ending to our rainforest adventure 🙂