Discovering Our Tropical Treasures

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By Lina Younes

Recently, I went to Puerto Rico to visit my elderly parents who were celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. While I was there for a short period of time, I wanted to help them with errands and issues that had to be resolved. Since I didn’t plan my visit to Puerto Rico as “a vacation,” I spent most of my time running errands in the San Juan metropolitan area. When I found a four hour time slot with nothing pressing to do, I decided I was going to take my parents on “an adventure.” Why not connect with nature and visit a tropical wonder away from the maddening crowd? So, we drove to El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. It was less than an hour away from my parents’ home.

Our first stop was at the El Portal Rain Forest Center where we saw an informational video on this natural wonder.  Even I learned interesting facts about El Yunque. Did you know that this tropical rainforest encompasses six watersheds that supply water to about the one fifth of the population on the main island? While this tropical rainforest is one of the smallest by national forest standards, it is extremely rich in biodiversity boasting 750 different tree species, more than 1000 different plant species, 11 different reptiles, 79 different birds, including the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, and 12 different types of coquí frogs

After touring the visitors’ center, we drove all the way to the top stopping to take plenty of pictures along the way. There is no doubt that a trip to the rainforest awakens all your senses. The cacophony of sounds coming from the coquí frogs, birds and insects, the fresh aroma of the tropical flora, and the embracing warm mist all work in unison to create a memorable experience. In fact, my parents are still raving about our trip to El Yunque.

It’s incredible that we often have local hidden treasures in our own backyard that we take for granted. Have you explored any local natural treasures lately? I know that another visit to El Yunque is on my to-do-list for my next Puerto Rico visit. This time I’ll dedicate the right amount of time to venture through the hiking trails. In the meantime, I would like to share some of the pictures I took of this natural wonder.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.