What to do in El Yunque Rainforest with Toddlers

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Puerto Rico | 0 comments

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El Yunque rainforest is located on the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. It is the only rainforest located within the US National Forest System which makes it a must visit destination. The rainforest covers about 29,000 acres which makes it one of the smallest National Forests but it is very biologically diverse. 

The rainforest is located about 45 minutes outside of the city of San Juan. The entrance to the rainforest is located in the town of Rio Grande and can easily be accessed by car. There are tours you can also book if you are not renting a car while visiting the island. 

We rented a car while visiting Puerto Rico and I think it is the best way to see the rainforest. Having a car gives you more flexibility which is important when traveling with toddlers. We enjoyed being able to take our time at each stopping point along our drive through the rainforest.  

Things to Know Before you go:

When visiting the rainforest, it is always important to check the weather forcast before going. Since it is a tropical rainforest, you should expect rain or changing conditions. I would recommend bringing a change of clothes in case of rain or if you decide to go swimming near the waterfalls. I also recommend good hiking shoes or hiking sandals if you plan on doing any hikes. The paths and rocks can get slippery when wet which happens quite often. 

Another thing to know before going is that it is free to visit. The forest is open everyday from 7:30am til 5:00pm. El Portal Visitor Center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm and does have an entrance fee of $8.00 per person (children under 15 are free to enter the visitors center). We chose to skip the visitor center as we went early in the morning and our young kids probably would not have enjoyed it. 

Another important thing to know is that parking is very limited throughout the rainforest. There was construction work going on when we visited which also contributed to the lack of parking. There are signs throughout the rainforest warning of this but just be prepared to encounter minimal parking at the popular stops. This is also why we chose to go early in the day.

There is no reservation system in place anymore which can be seen as good or bad. The good thing is that you don’t have to arrive at a specific time anymore but the bad is that the park can fill up quickly. They only let a certain amount of people into the rainforest at a time and if it is full, you could end up waiting in a line to get into the park. They will only let more people enter when people start to leave. This is yet another reason to arrive as early as possible and go during the week when it is less crowded.  

 

Best Things to do with Toddlers:

1. La Coca Falls

La Coca Falls is located right inside the entrance to El Yunque and it the perfect place to stop right when you enter or leave the rainforest. We chose to stop and see this waterfall on our way out because the parking lot was full when we drove by when entering the forest. 

This waterfall is located right on the road so it is a very short walk from the parking lot across the street. This is a perfect waterfall to see with toddlers as there is very minimal walking involved and you can see the waterfall right away. Both my kids love waterfalls so this was a big hit. There is also a beautiful view across the street of the stream where the waterfall goes into. 

 

2. Yakahu Tower

This tower is the next major thing that you see when driving through the rainforest. There is a small parking lot in front of the tower which makes this stop a little easier to experience. It can still get crowded later in the day but there were plenty of spaces when we showed up in the morning.

The tower offers beautiful views of the rainforest and the climb is not long for toddlers. I did end of carrying my 18 month old up in a carrier but our 3 year old had no problem climbing the stairs. She thought she was climbing up Rapunzel’s tower so she had lots of fun with it. 

At the top of the tower, you can see panoramic views of the rainforest which is very beautiful. There is also a raised platform to stand on and get some great pictures of the rainforest as well.

Our kids really loved climbing this tower and especially all the little windows that they could peer out on the way up and down. I would highly recommend this tower when visiting with toddlers. If you have younger toddlers, a carrier is the easiest way to bring them up. 

 

3. Bano Grande

Bano Grande is located near the end of the road through the rainforest. It is a man made pool that was once used for swimming. Swimming is no longer permitted but is it still a beautiful site to visit. 

There is a small parking lot across the street from the steps that lead up to this pool. The walk up is very short so this makes it a perfect stop with toddlers. Once you get to the pool, there is a cobblestone path with some bridges that surround the pool. The walk around is very easy and pretty with several places to stop and look at the water and vegetation. 

This is a great last stop before you head back down the road through the rainforest. If you have older kids, there are several longer hikes that are a little further up the road. As always, be sure to check the weather conditions before visiting as some of these hikes are steep and can get slick when it rains.  

4. Juan Diego Falls

The only other hike in El Yunque that would be good with toddlers would be the hike to the first waterfall of Juan Diego Falls. The walk is short and not too dificult for young kids. We did not get to do this particular hike because there was no parking close enough to the trail. The roads in the rainforest are very narrow and we did not want to be walking a long distance with our toddlers on this road.

Hopefully we will be able to do this hike on our next visit to Puerto Rico!

 

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in the El Yunque Rainforest. Our kids really enjoyed all the waterfalls and all the vegetation inside the forest. It was a unquie experience for all of us and I would highly recommend visiting when in Puerto Rico. 

The location is not too far away from the main city of San Juan and can be a great day trip from the city. We stayed very close to the rainforest so it was an easy half day trip for us. 

If you are in Puerto Rico with toddlers, be sure not to miss this incredible rainforest. It is a great experience for kids and adults to enjoy.