Hiking In Puerto Rico

Hiking In Puerto Rico

Known for its vibrant culture, colorful scenery, and tropical weather, Puerto Rico is a must-go destination for any outdoor enthusiast. 

But Puerto Rico is so much more than lush rainforests. You may be surprised to know that it also has ethereally misty mountaintops, mysterious caverns, and tranquil, secluded beaches.

Below, we’ve selected seven of the most stunning hikes in Puerto Rico and notable trails that really show off the island’s natural beauty.

El Yunque National Forest

Believed by native Taínos to be the throne of the god Yúcahu, the El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.

The national forest is easy to get to from Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan and boasts tropical weather all year round, as well as stunning waterfalls and flora and fauna in every hue. 

The two most popular trails are the Mount Britton Tower Trail, which traverses the appropriately named cloud forest to panoramic views from the tower, and the El Yunque Trail that takes you to a cool, misty, magical mountaintop at over 1,000 meters elevation.

However, one of the most notable and thrilling trails is the El Toro Trail.

El Toro Trail: Following Hurricane Maria, only a handful of trails are open in El Yunque Forest, with El Toro being one of them. This trail takes you to the highest point of the rainforest.

This trail is muddy, unkempt in parts, and requires climbing over rocks and trees. However, it is mostly a fairly smooth trail with a steep descent as you reach El Toro Peak.

The forest landscape transforms from Tabonuco trees to sierra palms to stunted trees near the peak. 

Make sure you wear long pants and sleeves that are breathable in heat and humidity, as well as shoes with good traction, and remember to have plenty of food, water, and sunscreen on hand. 

Since El Toro is more remote than the more popular El Yunque trails, it’s important to stay on the trail and not wander off. 

Guánica State Forest

Located in Puerto Rico’s southwest coast, Guánica State Forest is one of the most extensive tropical dry forests in the world and has earned a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Designation.

You’ll spot many exotic birds along its 12 trails such as the Meseta Trail that boasts ocean views, and the more challenging trail to Fuerte Caprón. This 5-kilometer hike takes you to a stone fort overlooking the Bay of Guánica.

Two of the most challenging trails however are the Ballena and Lluberas Trails. 

While the ascent and descent are fairly easy, the heat is the biggest challenge. They require you to cross a subtropical dry forest with a desert-like climate and the length of the hike will see you through the hottest parts of the day. 

The Ballena Trail reaches Ballena beach at the bottom of the Bosque Seco de Guánica and you can even keep hiking along the beach to the mangrove area at the end. However, you will eventually need to return up the mountain. 

The Lluberas Trail meanwhile is the longest in the Dry Forest at a nearly 10 miles round trip and has numerous side trails.

Some of these trails reach the beach at the bottom of the mountain, and the Cueva trail reaches several limestone caves. 

To visit the reserve, visit the ranger station found at the top of the mountain, where you can check-in and receive a map. The ranger will happily recommend trails depending on how long you want to spend hiking.

Make sure to bring plenty of food and water, wear breathable clothes that will also protect you from the sun and sturdy shoes, and also remember insect repellent.

We recommend visiting the forest in the winter months, as the heat rises substantially in the summer and can be dangerous. 

Tres Picachos

Colloquially translated into ‘Three Peaks,’ Tres Picachos is located in Puerto Rico’s mountainous central region. This isn’t the most popular trail, but perfect for those who like a challenge.

Maneuver technical trails and even rope assists you as you ascend to one of the highest peaks on the island. At over 1,200 meters elevation, you won’t be disappointed by the panoramic views!

Cueva Ventana

Cueva Ventana

For a picturesque hike, head to Arecibo in the island’s northern region and hike to Cueva Ventana (Window Cave).

There are tours available, and guides will provide you with the flashlight needed to explore the ancient limestone caves. At the end of the hike, you will be treated to stunning views of the lush, verdant valley below. 

Guajataca Forest

Although it’s one of the smaller forests on the island, the 960-hectare Guajataca Forest has plenty of trails through the lush rainforest in the northwest region.

One of the most popular trails will take you to Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave), a limestone cave with jagged stalactites and stalagmites. A strong flashlight will illuminate the plants and animals living in this beautiful, mysterious cave.

Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and Salt Flats

This fantastic beachside hike in the western region allows you to learn about the history of salt mining in Puerto Rico and also provides flat hiking and biking trails, surrounded by an array of flora and fauna such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and several bird and fish species.

Take the trail to Los Morillos Lighthouse for fantastic ocean views.

Cayo de Tierra

Want a more rugged hike? Then this one-of-a-kind adventure in Vieques is for you! Vieques is an island 11-kilometers off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico.

Follow the thin, sandy isthmus to secluded Cay de Tierra for views of a serene, crystal clear lagoon. There you can see tropical fish, and go snorkeling and bird-watching.

How to get to Puerto Rico

You can fly into the San Juan Luis Muñoz International Airport (SJU) from anywhere in the world. Ground transportation such as buses, taxis, and car rentals are available at the airport.

You can also travel around the island via the Tren Urbano (electric train), water ferry, and publicos (privately owned shuttles), as well as take flights to the outer islands.

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