Few places in the world offer more beautiful sites than El Yunque rainforest in the Luquillo mountains. Legend has it that the good spirit, Yuquiyu, reigned from this mountaintop, protecting Puerto Rico and its people.
El Yunque is a subtropical rainforest located on the eastern end of the island of Puerto Rico, where the trade winds meet the island. The rainforest itself occupies a very small part of Puerto Rico and covers a single, crescent-shaped band on the windward side of the El Yunque mountains, however it is the island’s largest nature reserve.
The forest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. Over 200 inches of rain per year in some places creates lush foliage, waterfalls and rivers. Covering approximately 29,000 acres it is one of the smallest in size but one of the most biologically diverse of the U.S. national forests.
It is however a very gentle forest with no poisinous snakes or mosquitoes. Its healthy wildlife diversity includes mongooses, non-venonous snakes, the endangered Puerto Rican parrot and the tiny coquis frog.
There are also 240 native species of trees living in the forest, including the yagrumo, a pioneer species (one of the first trees to restore the forest canopy after a hurricane or landslide). Locals say it is going to rain when the white/silver underside of its leaves are showing.
Some of the trees in the rainforest have adapted to the unique soil, topography and humid climates by growing ‘buttress roots’. This type of root grows at the base of a tree trunk to form a support for the tree.
At the very peak of the mountain the heightened wind and rain create a ‘dwarf forest’, in which very few species are able to adapt. This beautiful part of the rainforest is often clouded in fog.