El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest on U.S. soil.
This is a story about spring break. Now before you get too excited, I should say that although this trip did involve four girlfriends and a great deal of fun on the beaches of Puerto Rico, this was more of a grown-up trip, and the “wildness” I’m referring to is actually a biodiversity hotspot in a jungle. (You’ll have to check out a different kind of blog for other wild stories from those crazy college kids!)
The most fascinating part of this trip happened to be a visit to El Yunque National Forest. This is the only tropical rainforest managed by the US Forest Service, and the diversity of plant and animal life is incredible. On a short hike to a beautiful waterfall, my girlfriends and I saw lizards, snails, bright green birds called the “San Pedrito,” or little Saint Peter, and many other animals in addition to some of the most incredible plants on what is technically US soil. Moss grew on top of vines which grew on top of orchids which grew on the branches and buttress roots of trees. The squawk of the Puerto Rican parrot and the coquis (a kind of native tree frog) could be heard ringing out through the hills of the towering forest. Scientists regularly use this site for tropical forest research and evidence of their experiments can be seen from some of the hiking trails. With such a high concentration of biodiversity, it is no wonder why.
So for a different kind of Caribbean vacation, consider taking a trek through this hidden gem sometime. A dip in the ocean feels a lot better when you have been enjoying the “wild” side of Puerto Rico all morning anyway. Check out this website for more information: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/caribbean/