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El Yunque, Puerto Rico Rainforest

Posted in Puerto Rico,Travel by Elliott Back on March 5th, 2011.

In Spanish, “el yunque” means “the anvil,” named for the powerful lightening that sweeps the rainforest during storms. El Yunque gets up to 200 inches of rain annually, making mudslides and flash floods a potential hazard.

El Yunque National Rainforest is the only rainforest in the US Forest Service system. Located around part of the Luquillo Mountains range in Puerto Rico, it occupies only a small 28,000 acre part of the island. Some of the main features of the rainforest are Sierra Palms and parasitic plants known as epiphytes. here are 240 native tree species–23 of them found only in El Yunque–50 native orchids and 150 types of ferns.

There are no poisonous snakes, but watch out for stinging nettles plants.

La Coca Falls

Right by the roadside, this 85 foot falls provides an opportunity for lazy tourists to snap photos. The more energetic can climb the rocks to get right up to the fall’s face.

The Trails

If you enjoy hiking, you have a large number of options:

Trail Name Length Time (One Way) Difficulty Min / Max Elevation
El Yunque 2.4 miles 2 hours Challenging 2,067 to 3,445 feet
Caimitillo .2 miles 20 minutes Moderate 2,067 to 2,427 feet
Baño de Oro .3 miles 20 minutes Moderate 2,132 to 2,362 feet
Enlace / Spur Mt. Britton .3 miles 10 minutes Easy 2,788 to 2,952 feet
Los Picachos .2 miles 8 minutes Easy 2,952 to 3,051 feet
Roca El Yunque .1 miles 7 minutes Easy 3,379 to 3,412 feet
Mt. Britton .8 miles 40 minutes Challenging 2,493 to 3,087 feet


Old San Juan in Puerto Rico

Posted in Puerto Rico,Travel by Elliott Back on March 20th, 2011.

The main historical attractions in Old San Juan are its two famous forts, but the colonial historic section of San Juan has its own charms. Many restaurants, shops, museums, historic sites, can be found in viejo San Juan. If you have a day to spare, pack some sunscreen and do it exploring the old city. Maybe 4 km2 in total area, you can easily walk through the entire neighborhood in an afternoon.

The first thing you will notice is the houses, painted in colourful yet harmonic hues, bright, pastel all kinds of schemes, and laced with white trim. These fascades are the price of old San Juan and you can buy replicas in many of the tourist gift shops.

Old San Juan is full of blue cobblestone, one-way streets. These unique tiles were made from slag from Spain’s iron foundries, used as ballast in the boats, and then subsequently bricked into the streets themselves.

One thing interesting you will see is a lot of cats wandering the streets, sleeping in the sun, or stalking birds on the lawns of El Morro. Why are there so many wandering cats in old San Juan? I don’t know!

The streets in old San Juan have great names: calle luna (moon street), cil sol (sun street), cil las monjas (nuns’ street), cil morovis (morovan street). As you wander around you can take pictures with the ceramic street plaques that sit six or seven feet above the street on every corner.

As you leave old San Juan, you’ll pass by again plaza colon (Christopher Columbus) which features a spectacular statue of the navigator and explorer, and engraved metal frescoes of his ships.

More Puerto Rico

Check out these other posts in the Puerto Rico travelblog series:

Bio Bay Kayaking in Puerto Rico

Posted in Puerto Rico,Travel by Elliott Back on March 6th, 2011.

A popular tourist attraction in Puerto Rico are the biobays, salt-water lagoons containing bioluminescent dinoflagellates (Pyrodinium bahamense) in high concentrations of approximately one million organisms per liter of seawater. When objects disturb and agitate the organisms, they release a burst of light. Kayak paddles, hands in the water, the bodies of swimmers all glow like thousands of grains of sandy white light are flowing along them.


There are three biobays in Puerto Rico, Mosquito Bay by the Isla de Vieques, Laguna Grande in Fajardo, and La Parguera in order of brightness. The Guinness Book of World Records of 2008 lists the Vieques biobay as the “Brightest Bio Bay in the World.” Unfortunately, La Parguera biobay is now the most polluted, and many expect the organisms there to die off entirely.


The dinos in the bio bays are fragile organisms. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources has issued directives that swimming is no longer permitted in the bio bays to preserve the native organisms. Motorboats are also not allowed. As pollution, development, the destruction of the mangrove trees, and other human activity encroach on the bio bays, the pyrodinium bahamense die off.

pyrodinium bahamense

Biobay tips

  • Go on a day with as little moonlight as possible. The organisms sink the bottom of the bay/lagoon when there is light, so your experience will be less luminescent. That said, even on a full moon night, you will have a great time.
  • Wear natural bug repellent (not DEET/DDT) as you will be outside and there are some mosquitoes.
  • Be prepared to get wet, wear a swimsuit under your clothes and when you get there, leave your clothes and a tower behind to change into after.
  • Don’t bring a camera, unless it’s a serious DSLR for low-light shooting. It’s too dark to capture normal photos, and unless your camera has a rig for water, it is quite likely to get very wet.

More Puerto Rico

Check out these other posts in the Puerto Rico travelblog series:

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