The only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Park Service is found within small El Yunque National Forest. Well-maintained trails make the park easy to explore, and the rewards are many: splashing waterfalls and lush forests filled with ferns and tropical flowers. Keep an eye out for endemic species like the rare and endangered Puerto Rican amazon (a type of parrot) and the island's beloved coquí frogs, which sing their distinctive song every evening at sundown.
We lucked out: A friend of a friend had told us about the fall. This treasure is so hidden that locals, even the Yunque workers, had never heard of it. We spent our last hour there searching for it. With twenty minutes until the park closed, we found a tiny trail. We climbed it until we came across a waterfall and ran into a pool colder than any water I'd ever felt. It was completely out of sight. And it was our own private waterfall—as exhilarating as white-river rafting, more romantic than a candlelight dinner on a rooftop overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
We kept climbing and found several other falls of various sizes, all with pools and all equally private. Next time I'm in the Yunque, I will spend all day here.
The Yunque has other natural wonders, including a dwarf forest, breathtaking views, and other waterfalls. The Coca fall is my favorite place to sit with a plate of ribs brought with me from Guavate (mentioned in my "Whole Pig" highlight). Likewise, I love sitting under the powerful rush of the Mina.
To find it: Drive up Road 191. A little past the Coca, there will be a tiny trail you should climb to the falls.