Explore the Surroundings from San Juan Marriott

El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was always on my list so you can imagine my excitement when I booked my trip and how much that excitement grew when I started to look at the San Juan Marriott website. The pool, the beach, the food, the room, and the view are more than enough reasons to stay on the property and bask in the beauty of Condado area. Sometimes I wish I had it in me to just relax and enjoy all the amenities at the hotel, never leaving the grounds except to return to the airport, but that’s not the type of traveler I am. Besides, there is too much out there to explore and venturing out into it is what my bucket list is all about. Life is worth living, right? I chose three activities that are all doable from the Marriott and made the most of every second in Puerto Rico. Your favorite maybe not be what you’d expect. Rather than trying to cram them all into one post, I’ll share them one by one, leading up to my favorite.

On my first adventure from San Juan Marriott, I headed into the United States’ only tropical rainforest, El Yunque. Covering 28,000 acres, El Yunque Rainforest has more than 200 inches of rain every year and some of the island’s most rare species and wildlife.

At the entrance to El Yunque, we stopped at El Portal Rainforest Center where we explored interactive exhibits and watched a 15-minute video about the history and ecology of El Yunque. Normally, I find this sort of thing boring and I’d suggest skipping it, but this time the video provided insight into the life of the park; a life that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise including the destruction caused by hurricanes. Seeing the before and after gave me an even greater appreciation for the forces of nature.

Our guide made us a creative hat from one of the massive leaves near the center. His free-spirited, child-friendly nature was a welcomed addition to the experience.

El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico

From the center, it was a short drive to La Coca Falls. With views of bamboo thickets and gigantic trees, it was like watching a movie from the van window. It was well-worth getting out at La Coca Falls to appreciate the immense rock face and its subtle cascading falls. It’s a popular stopping spot so arriving early was a good call on the part of our driver.

El Yunque Rainforest

Next up was the Yokahu Observation Tower, a round, stone lookout at 1,575 feet above sea level. The observation tower looks historic from the outside but is a new addition to the park. The walk to the top is easy with a spiral staircase and windows leading to a windswept observation deck. 69 feet up, we were rewarded by commanding views of El Yunque peak and a broad expanse of the island’s northern coastline.

El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque Rainforest

The highlight of the tour was a 30-minute hike along the La Mina River where the photo opportunities were abundant. I wasn’t sure what to expect for the trail so I prepared by wearing runners, dry-fit clothes, and my bathing suit underneath. Even though it’s a 30 minute hike in and out, the runners weren’t a necessity. The entire path is wide and paved with a few staircases and the occasional slippery rock. It was doable in flip-flops or water shoes, although maybe not for children. I was over-prepared but it was a good problem to have.

El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque Rainforest

Arriving at the falls, I was greeted by rushing water cascading over a cliff down to a pool below. After hiking the trails and the tower on the hot, sunny day, I quickly stripped down to my bathing suit and made my way under the falls. Again, arriving early was the ideal situation because we were the first group there. I was able to play under the water and get a few photos before a large group of people arrived. The falls are strong and I wouldn’t suggest going directly under them unless you’re prepared to get hit hard with the water. It’s definitely possible; I just used caution and moved slowly, making sure I had footing the entire time.

El Yunque Rainforest

It wasn’t until we were about 10 minutes away from the van that it started to rain. It was heavy and fast but I was already wet from the swim and I liked the cool water on my face. I put on my rain jacket, put my camera gear inside for protection and looked skyward.  The sound of the rain hitting the trees was better than meditation. I zoned out for the rest of the walk and enjoyed my surroundings. I was at peace in the forest, engulfed by towering life all around me.

I felt refreshed when we were to the van. There are events in our life that take years away and there are events in our life that give years back. Being encircled by natural beauty and wonder at El Yunque Rainforest easily gave me an extra year of life. It’s moments like this that are truly bucketlist worthy.

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56 thoughts on “Explore the Surroundings from San Juan Marriott

  1. My wife and I will be making a stop in San Juan in a couple of weeks. We’ll be stopping in port as part of an Eastern Caribbean cruise. I’m just wondering: Did you explore the Old City? If so, any suggestions for places to eat/see/hang out?

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    • I thought about the Dominican when I was there too. They are so close to each other that it’s no surprise that they are similar. When were you in DR? It’s so beautiful there, right? I look forward to going back to both.

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  2. It is amazing how we can see God in the world that He has created…if we would just stop and know that He is there !!

    Psalm 46:10… Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!

    Blessings in Christ, bruce

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  3. Have never been to Puerto Rico. Married a man whose family long ago immigrated from there and had two very beautiful daughters. Between my heritage and his we created some beautiful babies..heheh..anyway. I wish we had been able to go see this beautiful country.

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  4. Nice hat, Lesley. I loved the view from the observation tower. That would truly be an amazing sight to see! This place looks gorgeous! I could see how it and a walk in the rain can give a person back some life. Truly amazing! Can’t wait to read your other posts about San Juan!

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  5. Pingback: 2014 Bucket List | Bucket List Publications

  6. Pingback: 2014 Bucket List Update | Bucket List Publications

  7. “There are events in our life that take years away and there are events in our life that give years back.” So true and so profound. I need to incorporate that in my thought process. 🙂

    On our May trip to PR, one of the biggest disappointments was finding out that they had had torrential rains that had washed out an access road in El Yunque and a rainforest tours were cancelled the entire time we were there. Next time!

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    • Oh and I meant to say that we stayed at El San Juan resort in Carolina, so we passed Condado on the way to Fajardo and Old San Juan, so I recognize the area. I am looking forward to re-reading your take on OSJ as well. Our third adventure was a catamaran snorkeling trip, which, while fun, was hardly adventurous. 😉

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