Before hiking with our children in the El Yunque Rainforest during our trip to Puerto Rico (did you see the photos?), some good friends of ours gave us a few tips that helped us be better prepared for our adventure. We thought that we’d share those, as well as our own from our experience.
Tips for Hiking the El Yunque Rainforest with Kids:
1. Wear good grippy shoes: As the name indicates, the rain forest can be rainy, which also means that it can be wet and slippery. Especially on some of the paths. While many of the paths have a narrow pavement on them, the path or the mud around it can be a little tricky if really wet. Some of the paths end at waterfalls, like the La Mina trail which many people come for. The area can get a bit more slick around the waterfall. The neat thing is that you can actually brave the rocks and hop in for a swim (it’s brisk!) but that’s a tougher activity for smaller kids since the rocks can be sharp and unstable. If you want to give it a try, see if you can do the walk in secure shoes that you can also swim in to protect your feet coming in and out of the water.
2. Good bug repellant is key: We didn’t find huge insects or anything like that in Puerto Rico, but mosquitos, especially small ones that are hard to see, can be a little annoying, especially in some of the wetter foliage areas. Puerto Rico has been a Zika area this past year, so take that into consideration as necessary, but we covered up in both layers and repellant and didn’t have any issues.
3. Aim for an early start: Yes, it’s harder to roll out of bed earlier and get on the road, but in this case, we found an early start was worth it. The park actually opens at 7:30 am, while we weren’t first in, we were pretty early. The earlier hour helps to beat the heat, but also the crowds, since people tend to congregate on some of the most popular trails and parking at the trails can run short.
4. You’ll need a car: When we arrived in Puerto Rico, we didn’t plan on renting a car since we weren’t there for that long and were mostly hotel based. We thought we could just order a taxi for El Yunque as it didn’t look far on the map, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Taxis can only drop you off at the gates and there is a fair amount of road uphill to get around, and it’s not too conducive to pedestrians. Our hotel was able to rent us a car for the day, which ran us about $100. Expensive, but it gave us a lot of flexibility throughout that day to explore different parts of the park and then we took advantage of exploring more around the island. Also, we looked into day trips which were another option, organized through providers but they were running nearly that cost per person so the car was the most cost-effective route for all four of us. The car was a classic Jeep (which they outfitted with car seats) so it just added to the fun adventure feel.
5. Bring cash: By the time we wrapped up our hike, the park had opened up one of their approved lemonade stands. After our couple of hours, it was a good time for a refreshment and a snack. While we packed a few or our own treats, the fresh lemonade was the best. It was a cash-only operation, so bring a bit to have on hand. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on these lemonades.
6. Pack an ergo for toddlers: The walks aren’t long at all but they will feel long to the littlest of feet. While many parts are narrowly paved, it’s not quite terrain for a stroller, as there are parts with stairs, no pavement or broken pavement. We saw quite a few families with strollers, which they then had to carry by hand with the child in it in the trickier parts. Again, most paths are really mild hikes, but even a mild hike can feel impossible with thirty pounds of toddler plus thirty pounds of stroller.
7. Get excited: While this isn’t a jungle safari, there is still lots to observe with smaller wildlife and foliage and birds. We knew the chances of seeing a hummingbird were high, so we allowed our daughter to watch the hummingbird episode of the Wild Kratts on airplane ride over on her iPad. It just helps build a bit of anticipation for the children and they love teaching you something back.
8. Take your time: One of the things I was most impressed with was the signage around the trails so that you could learn about the animals and the park and the rain forest. Our daughter really enjoyed hearing about all the information so that added considerable time to our hike. Similarly, the visitor center is well done and can teach a lot as well. Leave the center for the end if you want to take advantage of the cooler hours and smaller crowds to get the walks done first. It’s a good place to take refuge once its gets hot during the middle of the day. All in all, we had other activities planned that day as well and it all worked out, but don’t rush through this beautiful park. You made it all the way out there, now enjoy the day!
PS – did you catch the full post on the El Yunque Rainforest Hike?