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In the northeastern corner of Puerto Rico lies one of the richest rain forests on earth. El Yunque National Forest, formerly called the Caribbean National Forest, is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. It's an important ecosystem on the island, and a favorite destination of native Puerto Ricans and tourists alike. Occupying just over 28,000 acres, it's impossible to see the entire thing in one day, or even in one week. Some areas are so dense as to make any sort of hiking nearly impossible. Still, there are many areas that are more open and conducive to hiking or walking. And there's a lot to see. Waterfalls, all kinds of plants and flowers, and too many birds and other forms of wildlife to count. If you really want to get a good look at some of the animals that live in the forest bring a pair of waterproof binoculars. They need to be waterproof because the air is so humid, it would damage regular binoculars. El Yunque is one of the oldest nature reserves in the western hemisphere. The land was protected by Spain's King Alfonso XII in 1876, and then established as Luquillo Forest Reserve in 1903. It became a National Forest in 1906, and was renamed Caribbean National Forest in 1935. It remained as such until 2007, when the name was changed to El Yunque to portray more accurately the culture and history of Puerto Rico and its people. A true rainforest, El Yunque receives about 240 inches of rain each year. That's roughly 100 billion gallons throughout the forest. Another good reason to make sure you bring waterproof binoculars or cameras! You may also want to use a binocular neck strap to keep your hands free while you hike. Because it's a Federally managed forest, there is no lodging within its confines. There are several hotels near El Yunque. It's easy to find a place to stay that's convenient to the forest, which you'll appreciate after a day of hiking. There are lots of other activities to take part in, too. You can participate in guided tours, snorkeling, and moonlight boat cruises. In Fajardo, a small city not far from El Yunque, you can also kayak through a bioluminescent bay. The light is created by microscopic plankton that illuminate when touched. It's truly a sight to behold. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, so no passport is necessary to travel there. If you're traveling from anywhere other than the U.S., it's a good idea to check on this before you plan your travel so you're prepared. While you're visiting, be sure to sample some of Puerto Rico's native cuisine. The island is known for everything from the staple chicken and rice, to delicious fresh seafood. The island also offers several kinds of exotic tropical fruit not found in many other parts of the world. El Yunque makes it possible for may people to see a real rain forest without having to travel too long of a distance. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed.
RE: El Yunque Tour
Do you know any reliable tour companies that can take my husband and I to El Yunque. We are staying in Ocean Beach and hadn't planned to rent a car unless we absolutely had to.