El Portal Visitors Center in El Yunque National Forest
Inaugurated in 1996, the El Portal Visit Center provides the perfect introduction to the wonders of a tropical rain forest as El Yunque visitors center. It was designed by the Sierra Cardona Ferrer architectural firm and situated in amidst the El Yunque National Forest and can be reached by the PR 191. Its unusual use of architecture is meant to mirror certain elements of the forest and the whole structure was designed to blend in with the surrounding forest.
As you make your way to the center, you will find that the main features of the center are two walkways situated at different elevations. The first takes visitors up into the tree canopies and introduces visitors to the abundant birds as well as gives them the opportunity to spot animal life down below. The walkway has an elevation of sixty feet above the ground which may scare someone who is fearful of heights. On the ground, there is another walkway which takes you to the base of several trees and informs you as to what goes on under the canopy.
El Yunque visitors center
At the center, the first thing you will notice is the information desk where knowledgeable U.S Forest Service staff will be able to help you plan your day. Once you have decided which parts of the forest to see and activities to enjoy, you can tour the main floor of the Center. Here you will find plenty of interesting information regarding the forest’s history and topography as well as its animal and plant life. This is also the part of the center where the public restrooms and telephones are located.
On your way up to the second floor, you will find a theatre where a film about the development and preservation of the El Yunque National Forest is shown every half-hour. The film is showed in both English and Spanish and the languages are alternated with each showing.
The second floor, which is also reachable via a wheel-chair ramp, features three pavilions – each of which has a different theme. You might want to start with ‘Understanding the Forest’, which will give you greater insight into the many aspects of the forest through a series of hands-on-displays. Then on to the ‘Connections’ pavilion, which shows how the many rain forests in the world affect our everyday life.
The final ‘Managing for the Future’ pavilion shows what danger the many rain forests in the world are in and also describes modern methods of conservation. On your way out again, you will find the El Portal’s Gift Shop where you can purchase educational books and pamphlets about the rainforest as well as local arts and crafts, videos and other educational souvenirs.
The El Portal Visit Center is a must-see Puerto Rican attraction for both children and adults. If you prefer something a bit more lively, you might consider taking a guided forest trail with Forest Adventure Tours before traveling back to your accommodation.