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Puerto Rico's Forest Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries



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Rainforest, Dwarf Forest, Dry Forest, Mountains, Mangroves, Islands

Administration of the Wildlife Refuges and Forest Reserves and Camping permits

DRNA or Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales (Dept. of Natural Resources of the Government of Puerto Rico) The 'Negociado del Servicio Forestal' and the 'Division de Reservas Naturales y Refugios de Vida Sylvestre' administers their Foreset Reserves and Wildlife Refuges and issues camping permits. You must get the permits in San Juan. Offices in San Juan are next to Club Nautico marina by the bridges. Tels. 787- 724-3647, 724-3724 FX: 721-5984. or write: P.O. Box 9066600, Pta. de Tierra, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00906-6600 USA. Fee $4.pp per nt. Cabins in Guilarte: $20. For up to 4 pers. You may request an open reservation and travel at your at your leisure, otherwise they want you to stick to a schedule. They also handle permits for trips to Mona Island.

CT or 'Fideicomiso de Conservacion' (Conservation Trust) is a semi-private group with multiple land holdings paid for by government funds (no camping facilities). The main office in Old San Juan is a restored historic building, which you can visit. It contains a small natural history museum, open Tues-Sat. 10-4. Calle Tetuan # 155. They only allow visitors on two of their trust properties. Hacienda Buena Vista (a restored coffee plantation) near Ponce and Cabezas de San Juan (a nature reserve with a lighthouse, mangrove lagoon and beaches) near Fajardo. Both require reservations and fees. Visit, call or write for brochure or reservations: Tel. 722-5882 (on weekends Tel 860-2560 for Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve) P.O.Box 9023554, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902-3554 USA.

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Puerto Rico has15 Forests:
1. Cambalache in Arecibo
2. Boquerón Cabo Rojo & Lajas
3. Aguirre etween Santa Isabel & Salinas
4. Carite between Guayama & Patillas.
5. Ceiba in Ceiba
6. Guajataca between Quebradilla & Isabela
7. Guánica between Yauco, Guayanilla & Guánica
8. Maricao between Maricao & Sabana Grande
9. Piñones in Loíza
10.Río Abajo between Arecibo & Utuado
11.Susúa between Yauco & Sabana Grande
12.Toro Negro between Jayuya, Ciales, Orocovis & Villalba
13.Vega in Vega Alta.
14. Tres Picachos in Jayuya
15. US Federal El Yunque Forest

Camping permit details are on this page. A summary of camping, where to go, is on the Camping Page.

El Yunque Rain forest (Caribbean National Forest) is administered by the US Forest Service. You must get your free camping permit at El Portal (rd #191, north side) before 4 pm. Trails in the forest are well maintained and extensive. The water in the rivers is clean as long as you are within the upper boundaries. There are no poisonous snakes! The endangered Puerto Rican Parrot is so rare, you will not see one. No specified campgrounds, no facilities but you can camp in the forest. Stay away from the roads. Not recommended unless you are a real experienced nature lover. You will hear the coqui’s, tiny tree frogs that serenade the evening hours. The road across the mountain broke in the middle. The South side (also road #191), having no facilities, is still the same rain forest, just quieter with no tour buses and parking lots etc. Photo below taken by Rex Cauldwell. More waterfalls.

US Fish and Wildlife administers several properties around Puerto Rico. Their headquarters is located near Boqueron. No camping facilities.

'United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Caribbean Team! Throughout the Caribbean, primarily in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, we are working with others to conserve, protect and enhance wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of future generations. Identify over 78 threatened and endangered species. Learn about law enforcement issues, migratory birds, the ecosystem team and much more!"

Father Sanchez has the most Wonderful Nature website full of great photos and explanation about the geology, birds, reptiles and much more.


 

 

 

 

Adventure Options:

Scuba Adventure in Isabela: Cavern Diving - incredible scuba experience for certified divers. Explore a submarine cave with inside and outside reefs. Where: Playa Jobos, Isabela, "La Cueva Submarina Dive Shop", Tel 872-1390. Lots of diving from Rincon out to Desecheo Island.

Camuy Caves Tour Information:
The caves are open Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from 8:00 am to 3:45 pm. Entrance fee $10, parking is $2 and the number of visitors is regulated. Ticket window and information at Rio Camuy Cave Park Puerto Rico Land Administration, HCO3-33504, Box 363767, San Juan, PR 00936, tel 787-723-8194 or 787-898-3100. It is recommended to call first.

Activities and Adventure Page for the East End of Puerto Rico.

Sailing and Snorkeling with Elena from Las Croabas near Fajardo.

 
 


Forest Reserves:

Islands/ Cayos/ Keys :

Reserva Natural La Cordillera. DRNA. A string of about 10 sandy islands/keys off the northeast tip of Puerto Rico. Easy to reach by local fishermans sailboat or motorboat. Sandy beaches, snorkeling. Turtle nesting areas.

Reserva Natural Caja de Muertos Island DRNA ( off Ponce) No public tranportation to the island. 8.5 nautical miles out to sea. Mangroves, coral reefs, beaches, cliffs and caves.

Desecheo Island. US Fish and Wildlife. 12 miles out to sea, west of Rincon. You can take a scuba trip here, by boat, from Rincon.

Culebra Island. Flamenco Beach has the nicest campground in all of Puerto Rico on the most beautiful beach! and it is well maintained and supervised. Lots of North Americans come here in the winter and lots of locals in the summer. Summers are overwhelmingly crowded. Culebra has many Wildlife Sanctuaries that are administered by the US Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

'Reserva Natural Bahia Puerto Mosquito, Vieques Island' or, locally called, 'Caño Hondo'. Camping is allowed here.( There is alot of petty theft in this area) This reserve includes the western worlds most brilliant Biobay. It includes three world class beaches and several lagoons and mangrove canals. This is a turtle nesting site for 3 species of turtles, including the endangered Leatherback Turtle. Kayaking is a popular way to see this reserve. The beaches are accesible by jeep.

Gilligans Island is part of the Guanica Dry Forest Reserve. You can get there by private boat from the end of the road to the right just after the entrance to the Copamarina Resort. Great swimming and snorkeling in very clear waters, white sand.

Isla de Mona. DRNA. Island 50 miles offshore between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Mona is surrounded by cliffs and riddled by limestone caves. Photo above of cave drawing. Cliff climbing and rapelling is now prohibited. A small percent of the shoreline is pristine white sand beaches with turquoise water and excellent snorkeling. Camping permitted with permit. Mona has an endemic Iguana (Cyclura stejnegeri). Photo below.

Mona Island Iguana Cyclura stejnegeri photo by Tom Weiwandt

Mona Island Iguana photo Tom Weiwandt

Coastal Forests:

Guanica Dry Forest. DRNA. No camping allowed. Office at end of road # 334 ( not marked) Miles of varied trails but very hot hiking. Not for the casual visitor. Nearly 50 endangered plant species, of which 16 are endemic, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its biological diversity. 100 species of birds (endangered Whippoorwill, PR nightjar and Yellow shouldered blackbird). 1,000 year old lignum vitae tree. Ruins. Easier to see by hiking in from the beach from the end of road # 333. The time to hike in this forest is early morning. Afternoons would be nice too but it closes at 4 PM ( the supervisor does stay late often when hikers have not returned to their cars by closing time). This forest Reserve includes Gilligans Island.

Punta Ballena Reserve. CT. No camping allowed. Contiguous with the Guanica Dry Forest Reserve. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its' coastal ecosystem. Site of Hawks bill turtle nesting, crested toad, Manatees. Mangrove forest. Beach access off end of road # 333.

Bahia de Jobos. DRNA. No camping allowed. Hiking, kayaking, birding.

Aguirre Forest Reserve. DRNA. No camping yet. Boardwalk through mangroves. Kayaking on canal.

Piñones Reserve. DRNA. No camping allowed. Subtropical moist forest. Mangroves. Just East of Isla Verde, San Juan. Very beautiful beaches. (Lots of theft in area). Scenic drive through Piñones, Aviones (surfers) and calm Vacia Telega beaches on rd # 187. Sea Turtle nesting sites.

'Refugio de Vida Silvestre de Boqueron' Boqueron Bird Sanctuary. DRNA. No camping allowed. Subtropical dry forest, estuary and mangroves. 50 bird species, several endangered. Consists of three pieces of land. Includes Faro (lighthouse) Cabo Rojo area. Tel.851-41951 7:30 Am to 4 PM). There have been reported 135 species of endemic and migratory birds. Birds can be hunted during the season. Cabo Rojo Lighthouse area is a part of this reserve. No camping allowed. A spectacular place due to the cliffs below the lighthouse, the white sands beaches and salt flats. Sun sets out to sea, as this is the southwest tip of PR. Several good places to stay nearby. Nearest camping would be in the Susua Forest Reserve.

'Reserva Natural La Parguera' La Parguera Nature Reserve. DRNA. No camping allowed. Mangroves, many mangrove keys, estuaries, coral formations and good water clarity. (giant iguanas on UPR Cay) Exceptional wind surfing area. Bioluminescent bay. Great ride by small boat through mangrove canals, monkeys overhead (introduced). Good snorkeling around small mangrove cays. Town offers zoo-like atmosphere on weekends, many fish restaurants. Tel. 899-3295 (8:30-12 & 1-5 PM) This includes the bioluminescent bays. The biobay here has lost its potency. Due to nutritive content change and nearby pollution this biobay has had a change of inhabitants and the prevalent plankton here is not bioblumenescent. There are enough left, however, to give some effect on a moonless night.

Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve. CT. No camping allowed. Northeast tip of PR. With prior reservation and fee they trolley you through to the lighthouse, rocky beach and mangrove boardwalk, knowledgeable guides. Call ahead for reservations, hard to get. The bioluminescent lagoon can be accessed by boat from Las Croabas dock or rent a kayak.

Punta Guaniquilla Reserve and Bird Sanctuary. CT. No camping allowed. Very diverse. Arid w/palm and mangrove forests. Unusual limestone formations in 2 lagoons, caves, cactus, swamp, varied flora. Dramatic rock formations. Migrating bird haven. West Indian whistling duck, Ruddy duck and Caribbean coot. 30 minute hike from Buye Beach. Not really attended nor open to the public.

Humacao Natural Reserve. DRNA. No camping allowed. Limited facilities, water sports , 30 bird species. Southeast coast of Puerto Rico on the beach.Includes a Pterocarpus Forest, lagoon system. Bird Sanctuary with over 90 species observable. Great kayaking here, you can paddle out to the little island populated by monkeys ( Do not go ashore, the monkeys are not friendly). Especially good birding here. Some of the time there is a boat from Naguabo Playa that makes excursions to monkey island.

Pterocarpus Forest, CT. No access. Largest pterocarpus trees in Puerto Rico. On the East coast near Humacao.

Punta Tuna Lighthouse (U.S. Coast Guard) and DRNA. Limited access allowed. Pretty beach just east of lighthouse, can be rough. Surfers come here.

Ines Maria Mendoza Nature Reserve (Punta Yegua). CT. No access allowed. Peninsula by the sea, South east tip of PR. Drive by on #901, great views. Habitat of the endangered: PR bull finch, Black whiskered vireo & the Grasshopper sparrow. Very rare evergreen trees (Ortegon).

Tortuguero Lagoon Nature Reserve DRNA. No camping allowed. Fishing for chopas in this fresh water lagoon. Kayaking. Introduced, fresh water crocodiles, lots of birds. Unique in that it's fed by fresh water springs and flows into the sea. It is hard to see very much here without a boat. It has a boat ramp.


One of several carniverous plants surrounding Tortuguero Lagoon

'Laguna Tortuguero, in Vega Baja, is the largest natural body of fresh water in Puerto Rico. Its surroundings are characterized by its great scenic beauty and by its ecological importance. The flora of the Natural Reserve has been identified as the fourth of major importance on the island. Around 717 known species exist belonging to 119 families. Of these, 132 species are "juncos," 78 grasses, 38 species are ferns, and 20 species are orchids. There are 144 rare species and/or species in danger of extinction.'

Cambalache Forest Reserve, Arecibo DRNA. Camping allowed in two areas. Rd # 682 km 6.6. Water and showers, 8 trails and nearby beach. Good mountain biking here.

 

This 3 foot long iguana lives in the mangrove forest. In the mangrove canal at night with a flashlight shining on the branches it is surprizing to see so many iguanas on the top branches. Apparently waiting to catch a nice bug! They are completly harmless creatures and one of the only large animals left in Puerto Rico, although not endemic ( they are introduced) they have done well here.
 


Foothills Forests:

Rio Abajo Forest Reserve. (Over 5,000 acres) the limestone caves can be visited as a group by getting permission from the forest supervisor. Good location for visiting the Camuy caves, as well as Lake Dos Bocas. Camping allowed. Karst forest. Has many walking trails and dirt road ideal for viewing the plant species and bird life. There are 15 commercial wood plantations ( teak, mahogany and maga trees). Two natural spring water swimming holes. Surrounding cliffs are very scenic. Amazing giant bamboo stands at the end of the road. Below:

bamboo stands in the Rio Abajo Forest Reserve Puerto Rico karst area

Guajataca Forest Reserve and Lake Guajataca. DRNA. Camping allowed in a very pretty area in the forest reserve, not by the lovely Lake. Del Viento Cave. Largest number of bird species a, quiet, lovely place. Over 40 walking trails, 25 miles of maintained footpaths through the karst region. Good fly fishing in lake for bass. Good kayaking near the river entrance, kayak up the river.

Arecibo Radio Telescope and Observatory. See the giant wire mesh dish that listens to the stars, shown in the movie Contact. Small visitor tour.

Susua Forest Reserve. DRNA. Camping allowed. Not as exciting as some of the reserves but a great location from which to visit the south west. Large camping area. River, recreational area, showers. Good mountain biking here.

Vega Reserve DRNA. Not much to see.

Coamo Hot Springs Local municipality does good maintenance on the public hot springs which are slightly hotter than the private pool on the Parador grounds. Gates close at 6 PM. Advised NOT to go after dark. You can stop by for a quick dip on your way elsewhere or spend the night at the parador. The hotel will let you use their facilities of swimming pool and hot springs pool for a small fee.

Montes Oscuros Scenic easement on grounds of Camp Santiago. CT. No access. You can sort of see the view as you drive by on the highway.

Lago Luchetti is a large resevoir with park around.

 
 


Mountain Forests:

The following chart shows the highest mountain peaks:

1. Cerro Punta ...1,338 meters ......Jayuya (Yeguitas)
2. Monte Jayuya. 1,315 meters... Jayuya (Saliente)
3. Cerro Rosa .....1,267 meters .......Jayuya (Saliente)
4. Cerro Maravilla 1,245 meters ..Ponce (Anón)
5. Tres Picachos ..1,205 meters ...Ciales y Jayuya (Coabey)

6. Monte Guilarte .1,204 meters ..Adjuntas (Guilarte)

Bosque del Pueblo , above Adjuntas (DRNA but joined with local administration) Camping supposedly allowed on weekends. Experiment on local self-sufficiency.

Rio Portuguez Scenic Easement. CT. Can drive through on small road off rd #10 at Alto La Bandera and go west then north and get back to #10 near Adjuntas.

Toro Negro Forest Reserve. DRNA.* Camping allowed. Highest area in Puerto Rico and the nearby Lakes Matrullas and Guineo are the two highest lakes. Kayaking allowed. Nice camping facilities. Very cool nights. (6 endemic bird species) Cordillera Central Fotos.

camping in the Toro Negro Forest in Puerto Rico

Hacienda Buena Vista. CT No camping allowed. Need prior reservation (fee), open weekends only. Restored coffee plantation, corn mill, hydraulically powered. Good example of land, buildings, cultural and technological heritage. 2 hour tour. Limited handicap accessibility.

Maricao Forest Reserve. DRNA. No camping allowed. Functional cabins rented by Fomento Recreativo at $65. Per night, with fireplace. Very cool. 845 species of flora, 278 species of trees. (123 endemic) 26 bird species (11 endemic).

Carite Forest. DRNA two campgrounds. Nearby Lake Carite has developed family style villas and fishing facilities.

Las Casas de la Selva. Privately owned 1,000 acre reserve with saw mill and primitive cabins. Contiguous to Carite Forest. Accommodations and will allow camping. Must call ahead.

Guilarte Forest Reserve. DRNA. No camping allowed but *cabins in a very picturesque setting amongst a small eucalyptus forest. No electricity and bare bones cots barbecue facilities. $20. per nt. ( reservations in advance). Very cool nights. Trails, picnic facilities, 105 species of trees, 26 bird species (10 endemic).

Rainforest and Dwarf forest: The US Forest Service administers the Caribbean National Forest, more commonly called 'El Yunque'. (for more information see the rainforest page) It is the most often visited eco-tourist destination in Puerto Rico. Tour buses and hundreds of cars drive through every day. Their visitor center and display area is called El Portal, fee $3. This is also where you get a camping permit (no fee), or you can get it at the field station a little further up on the left side of rd #191. A visit to the rain forest is a must see for everyone. The excellent path system, views and vegetation are truly beautiful. Drive to the top of the road or just below by the parking area and take a hike. The water is very clean, after a sunburning at the beach jump into one of these clean, cold mountain streams and waterfalls! You can hike up the trail to Mt.Britton, in the dwarf forest. The only food for sale is at the small concessions at the side of the road on the way up. Some lodging on the north side. Three great places to stay in the rainforest on the south side, above Naguabo. (see the lodging page) The road no longer goes across, due to landslides, and will not be fixed.

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EL YUNQUE NATIONAL RAIN FOREST

 

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