Puerto Rico - El Yunque National Forest + Luquillo Beach

El Yunque National Forest , located about 40 minutes from San Juan, is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. It is comprised of 28,000 acres, has a year-round tropical climate and immense biodiversity. The rugged Luquillo Mountains that rise to 3,533 ft. above sea level comprise most of the forest land. Their steep slopes can sometimes receive rainfall of over 200 inches per year. The forest experienced a great deal of damage from the hurricane, but is beginning to return to it's previous glory. When we went only certain areas were open - you can learn more about hiking in the park and get up to date information about which areas of the park are available to visitors here.

We stopped at the Yokahu Observation Tower first. It was a quick climb to the top and the view was amazing - beautiful panoramic views of the coast and rain forest.

Ava has this camera. She really enjoyed getting to take her own photos and it was so cool to look back and see the trip through her perspective. 

Next we stopped at Bano Grande a cool man made pool filled with the waters from an upper branch of La Mina RiverThis 18 feet deep pool is formed by a stone and masonry dam over which water cascades and is surrounded by a cobblestone path and arching stone and masonry bridge, 

Our last stop was the Juan Diego Trail a short trail that leads to a waterfall and natural pool. Due to limited capacity, the maximum time allowed for parking in this area is 30 minutes. 

After leaving El Yunque we were all hungry so we stopped at Degree 18 Juice Bar located in the town of Palmer, just outside the park. This place was amazing and I am still dreaming about the delicious acai bowl I had! All of their ingredients are fresh and local, some even grown on the property and most are also organic. The outside patio was beautiful and we all enjoyed getting to visit with the owners friendly dog and cat. Jon and I both got acai bowls, the girls split a smoothie and we all split empanadas which were also delicious. After our meal we felt nourished, energized and ready to go to the beach.

Luquillo Beach is a crescent shaped beach with bright blue water, a wide sand area, lots of mature palm trees for shade and the rain forest as a backdrop - it is beautiful. This beach is also designated a Blue Flag beach which is an internationally recognized program awarded to beaches and marinas that meet high standards of safety, services, environmental management and water quality. The water was calm, since there is a reef  that breaks the waves making it a great beach for the girls and children in general.

The beach is gated and they charge $4 for parking. The walk from the parking lot to the beach, is a bit far but not too bad. They have facilities which include free outside showers for rinsing off  plus for a fee of $1.00 per adult (50¢ per child) for the whole day you can have a access to bathrooms, showers and changing rooms 

* Check out the Goggle Map of our itinerary for the day here *

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