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The El Yunque Rainforest has long been a prized jewel of the island. Its name means “The Anvil” because of its flat peak. King Alfonso XII of Spain proclaimed the area to be a protected reserve in 1876. In 1903, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declared it the Luquillo Forest Reserve. In 1971, a previously undiscovered bird species, the Elfin Woods Warbler, was discovered in the forest’s highest elevations.

El Yunque is a hiker’s paradise with some 38 kilometers of recreational trails. Trails vary in length, elevation and difficulty. Some popular hikes include La Coca Trail and Juan Diego Trail, which lead to natural pools. La Mina Trail leads hikers to La Mina Falls, a waterfall that’s open for swimming. The Mt. Britton Trail leads to stunning views from the top of Mt. Britton, 941 meters up, and its observation tower. An easier-to-access observation tower is the Yokahú Tower, which has an attached parking lot. The 480-meter-high tower affords visitors impressive 360-degree island views.

In addition to hiking, there’s much to do in the rainforest. Pick up a guidebook and study native plant species. Keep your eyes open for a variety of birds, including woodpeckers, green mangos and the famed Puerto Rican parrot. If you’re looking for some more fast-paced thrills, strap on a harness to go flying through the lush canopy at the Rainforest Zipline Park. Or, enjoy rainforest views while riding horseback alongside the Mameyes River on the Carabalí Rainforest Park tour.

The rainforest is about an hour’s drive from San Juan, and a number of local companies offer guided tours of the area.

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