Top Ten National Forests in the United States

Caribbean National Forest, Puerto Rico
By Rene Vasicek

As the only tropical rain forest in the national forest system, the Caribbean National Forest (locals call it El Yunque) is a botanical oasis that simply has no peer. It would be silly for us to even try and compare it to any of Florida's three national forests (the Apalachicola, Ocala, and Osceola National Forests) because they have more in common with the forests of the Deep South than they do with the Caribbean.

The Caribbean National Forest is a primeval forest of heavy rainfall and abundant waterfalls, where ancient trees predate Columbus by some 500 years. The lush Tabunoco rain-forest type predominates, covering half of the forest and nourishing a diversity of flora that includes over 175 diverse species of trees. In the peaks and ridges above 2,500 feet, a dwarf forest of twisted and stunted trees persists despite extreme exposure. Also referred to as "elfin woodland," this unique mountain rain forest features many endemic species of flora and wildlife, including the Elfin Woods warbler. The forest is a hiker's paradise, offering unforgettable sights and sounds found nowhere else in our national forest system.

Just the Facts

Size: 28,000 acres

Year of preservation: 1876, set aside by the Spanish Crown

Highest point in the forest: 3,533 feet atop El Toro Peak

Average precipitation: 120 inches of rainfall annually

Peak precipitation: Higher elevations receive up to 250 inches per year

Total number of tree species: Over 240

Number of tree species endemic to the forest: 23

Height of La Coca Falls: 86 feet

Features: The El Toro/Tradewinds National Recreation Trail traverses the El Cacique Wilderness Area, passing through tabonuco, palo colorado, palm, and dwarf forests. Snorkeling and dive sites off Humacao, Fajardo, Vieques Island, and Culebra Island offer underwater caves, shallow reefs, and coral canyons teeming with stingrays, green morays, nurse sharks, and dolphins.


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