For someone like me who now spends most of the year in dry Southern California, El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico was a welcome and refreshing change. At 29,000 acres, El Yunque is one of the smallest forests in the US National Forest System and the only tropical rainforest. Despite its size, the NFS rates this forest as one of the highest in terms of biodiversity. It is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, with some endemic ones in the mix. For example, it has some 150 species of fern and 88 rare or endemic tree species within its 140 tree species. Twenty-three tree species are found in El Yunque only (NFS, n.d.).
Research on adventure tourism and resilience brought me back to Puerto Rico and to El Yunque. I’ve long known of this forest, but never had the opportunity to hike in it or even visit it, though I’ve been to Puerto Rico several times. El Yunque is a pivotal element in the adventure recreation experience for locals and tourists alike and will be a good research site.
There are several trails in El Yunque, but some of them are still closed because of damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. I hiked Mt. Britton Trail to the tower and climbed the tower. I also climbed the 98 steps to get to the top of Yokahu Tower.
It was very nice to drive through the forest and be surrounded by lush, green life. The forest is vibrant and teeming with life. Along the Mt. Britton trail to the tower, the sound of the coqui (tree frog) and running water were harmonious and a pleasant accompaniment for the short hike. There are 16 native species of coqui; 13 of these are in El Yunque; 11 are endemic to Puerto Rico (NFS, n.d.).