We only have a few days left in Puerto Rico as we’re finally starting a new chapter of our life – we are moving to Montenegro! We have successfully sold our S/V Empress and after all the hard work of cleaning her and making her look like brand new, we just wanted to take a breather and enjoy this beautiful country. Good thing there’s a tropical rainforest which is only a one hour drive from San Juan, the El Yunque National Park. This is where the true beauty of Puerto Rico is for us; lush-green tropical rainforest, cool air, natural streams and a view across to the ocean in the distance.
We are really lucky monkeys because Casa Flamboyant Puerto Rico hosted us here for 2 nights and it was beyond amazing. Perched on the mountainside next to the Rio Sabana, this luxury-boutique bed and breakfast hotel offers a kind of rest, relaxation and revitalisation that most travellers don’t realise even they need until they find it. It’s found in the subtle personal touches and small moments that make up the greater experience. I challenge anyone to stand on the terrace with their morning tea or coffee, breathing in the fresh air and watching the clouds roll across the forested hillsides and not feel their shoulders drop in relaxation and the accumulated tension melt away. More about this beautiful place below!
Here’s our Travel Guide for El Yunque National Park and our serene stay at Casa Flamboyant.
ABOUT THE EL YUNQUE NATIONAL PARK
El Yunque National Park is a lush rainforest located in the Northeastern part of Puerto Rico. This is the only tropical rainforest in any US territory and it’s the biggest one in the Caribbean. It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria (a category 4 storm) in September 2017 but it has been recovering and thriving since then. A few of the trails are still closed but this doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of a visit. In truth, if it is your first visit to El Yunque then you won’t notice anything happened at all!
This is the best vacation we have had in Puerto Rico. The beauty of the rainforest is bewitching and each trail leads you to another magical spectacle like waterfalls, flora & fauna, rivers, as well as a lighthouse which makes it very well worth the hike. I am not usually a fan of hiking but the environment we were surrounded by meant there was always something to see and I barely even noticed the effort of the hiking itself!
It covers a total of 28,000 acres and is divided into 2 parts: The North and the South (where we stayed close to Naguabo). This rainforest is home to thousands of native plants including 150 fern species, 240 tree species (88 of these are endemic or rare and 23 are exclusively found in this forest). Small animal species can also be found along the trail, but there are no poisonous snakes or spiders in this rainforest, so you can relax while you explore!
How to get there/Coordinates:
This park is only a 70-minute drive from San Juan International Airport in Puerto Rico and the only way you can go to the area is by car. Depending on where you want to go, you can use Google Maps to find various landmarks in the National Park Area:
- El Portal Visitor Center, PR 191, Rio Grande, PR 00745
- El Portal Visitor Center- N18° 20′ 21.3″ W065° 45′ 36.5″
- Headquarters – N18° 20′ 17.4″ W065° 45′ 40.7″
- Palo Colorado Interpretive Site – N18° 18′ 04.7″ W065° 47′ 04.9″
The best option to get there:
For us, the best option is to just book a room at the beautiful Casa Flamboyant Puerto Rico. It is nestled in the hills right next to the El Yunque National Park entrance and in fact, they have direct access and hiking path to the Cubuy Waterfalls and Rio Sabana (river). Google Maps works perfectly and all you have to do is type in “Casa Flamboyant Puerto Rico” and you’re good to go.
There are parking lots at La Coca Falls and Yokahu Tower but it can get full pretty fast especially on the weekends. In other areas, you will need to park on the side of the road.
The National Park is open from 7:30 am to 6:00 P.M. but the Yokahu Tower closes at 4:30 P.M.
There is none. YAY!
Best time to visit:
Every day is a good day to visit but if you prefer some peace and quiet, then the weekdays are the best! April to June is a great time to visit Puerto Rico in general, because it’s before the rainy season, but after the peak winter season.
A pair of hiking shoes, hiking clothes, raincoat, hat, and sunblock are essential.
Camping is allowed in certain areas but a Permit Form is required to be submitted 10 days before your intended camping date to firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com for authorization. Note that this permit is for free.
List of open attractions:
Due to constant rehabilitation and conservation around the area, this list changes every now and then. Click this link to get the latest information.
OUR SERENE STAY AT CASA FLAMBOYANT
As I mentioned earlier, Casa Flamboyant in Puerto Rico hosted us for 2 nights and they even gave us their biggest room, the Rainbow Room, where we had our own balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea and Vieques Island. Nestled within the El Yunque National Park, this small boutique hotel has been a retreat for famed artists for more than three decades. Here are the things we loved about this property:
- A most serene stay – Gone are the days when we loved partying and all we want now is peace, quiet and relaxation. We are so happy that we found it at this beautiful bed and breakfast. Being surrounded by thousands of trees, the beauty of nature, the rustling of the wind and the humming of the birds, you’ll feel nothing less than serenity. Even the sound of the frogs will lull you to sleep at night!
- The big, delicious breakfast – To start our day, we had breakfast on the balcony consisting of a fruit platter, turkey & cheese lightly fried bread, topped with a poached quail’s egg and served with fried yuca! Not only that, all of the fruits are sourced from their own garden or from their neighbours. Even the quail’s eggs come from a neighbour! Fresh-made juices are also made from the same local fruits. On our second day, we had poached scrambled eggs with a goat cheese sauce and Spanish chorizo sausage. Of course, the eggs, the goat cheese and even the chorizo were from the local area!
- 3 Luxury guest suites – With fewer guests to share Casa Flamboyant with, you can enjoy all the space and tranquillity and always find some quiet space to yourself if you want it. By the way, this is an adult-only hotel, so you’ll have an excuse to leave the kids at home too!
- They have a direct route to Cubuy Waterfalls and Rio Sabana – From the hotel, you could hike straight to this beautiful river and waterfalls. You all know hiking isn’t my thing but I’m happy I was able to make it! There’s even a short hike down to a swimming hole in the river right from the pool and terrace.
- The stunning infinity pool – Projecting from the hillside and fed by the local spring water, the stunning infinity pool is seriously revitalising and has the best panoramic view of any pool we’ve seen anywhere!
- The seaside is only a 25-minute drive – The seafront promenade is only a short drive down the mountain and where you’ll find most of the local action; bars, music, street side grilled chicken and of course people! You’ll find Puerto Ricans incredibly friendly and happy to chat, so don’t feel shy about starting a conversation. We had some chicken barbecue and Piña Coladas while we sat around with several local guys who were doing the same.
Overall, we highly suggest that you stay in Casa Flamboyant if you’re planning to go to El Yunque National Park. Even if you don’t This rainforest is such an incredible natural environment there’s just so much to do and see that going on a day trip isn’t enough! Happy trip, everyone!
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