Did you know that there is a rainforest in the U.S.A.? The only national U.S. rainforest is located on the eastern side of Puerto Rico. Called El Yunque, this massive and lush space is a natural playground for kids who love to be active.
Hiking there is a little different than in other exotic rainforests. In fact, it could be the perfect introduction to families seeking adventure in such environments, as there are few poisonous plants and no large animals to worry about. Instead, guests are rewarded with warm, humid temperatures, pretty vegetation and some seriously dramatic waterfalls.
There’s only one entrance to the park via road. You pay the normal fee to enter a U.S. national park. Feel free to drive a rental car through the gates or hook up with a local touring group that offers guided excursions. This can be an in-depth way to appreciate the local flora and fauna as you hike through the forest.
Hit the trails!
You can venture to the peak of El Yunque, but if pressed for time there are a few trails that only take a couple of hours to conquer. One of the best leads to La Mina waterfall. Either grab the kids’ hands and bring them to the base of the gushing, cold pool of water, or let little strong swimmers take a quick dip if they can stand the temperature.
A lively visitor’s center
Head for the visitor’s center, which is anything but ordinary – on many days, local vendors are not only selling souvenirs, but also making them onsite. Have the kids learn a little bit about leather carving, pottery making and more. The trinkets are wallet-friendly and the memories of making your own keepsake are priceless.
Don’t forget the food
Some families have retained their rights to property within the confines of El Yunque. They have set up small cafes and snack shops along the main road to entice visitors with local treats and hot meals. Be on the lookout for signs that say ‘pinchos’, or small appetizers and snacks to munch on.
Nearby, you can reach Fajardo for some great eats too. The El Bohio Seafood Restaurant for instance is ideal for the adventurous, as it’s a little off the grid but offers delicious local dishes. For something a little more formal, the El Conquistador Resort up the road has countless dining options, from their upscale seafood affair at the Stingray Café to their Asian hibachi grill at Blossoms. There are also plenty of beachside bars and grills with the best of both worlds—cocktails and kids menus!