The official entrance to El Yunque  is El Portal Tropical Forest Center (Carr. 191, km 4, 787/888-1880, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., $3 adults, $1.50 children 4–12, free children under 4), a striking piece of architecture designed by the local firm Sierra Cardona Ferrer. Built in 1996, the bright white building is a modern interpretation of the traditional pavilion-style structure seen throughout the island. An elevated walkway leads visitors to its open-air interior filled with interactive educational displays. There are also an excellent gift shop heavy on educational materials, bathroom facilities, and a small screening room that continuously shows a film about the forest alternately in English and Spanish. This is also the place to obtain camping permits and arrange guided tours.
Travel farther south into the forest and you enter El Yunque Recreation Area, which encompasses El Yunque peak and the surrounding area, and which contains the forest’s major tourist sights. The first stop you encounter is La Coca Falls (Carr. 191, km 8.1), the most accessible and photographed waterfall in the forest. It has an 85-foot drop and a constant flow of rushing water. There’s plenty of parking space and a small snack bar nearby because this is also the trailhead for La Coca Trail.
The next stop on the route is Yokahu Tower (Carr. 191, km 8.8), a 69-foot-high observation tower built in 1963 from where you have terrific views of the forest and the Atlantic Ocean. Farther south is Sierra Palm Recreation Area (Carr. 191, km 11.3), offering more food concessions, restrooms, and a picnic area. Across the street is the Caimitillo Trailhead. The last stop is Palo Colorado Visitors Center (Carr. 191, km 11.8), an information center with still another snack bar and picnic area.
Across the street is a short hike to Baño Grande, a picturesque stone pool built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Slightly south of Palo Colorado is another pool, Baño de Oro, also built by the CCC. Although visitors are no longer allowed to swim in the pools, they’re lovely spots that provide great photo opportunities. Palo Colorado is also the site of the La Mina and Baño de Oro Trailheads .
Just before your reach the end of Carretera 191, the road intersects at kilometer 12.6 with a small loop road called Carretera 9938. This road takes you to the trailhead for Mount Britton Trail , which leads to Mount Britton Tower, built by the CCC. If visibility is good, you can see the south coast from here. From Mount Britton Trail, you can pick up the Mount Britton Spur Trail to the observation deck on the peak of El Yunque and Los Picachos Tower, another CCC tower.
Despite what many visitors might think, there is more to the El Yunque Caribbean National Forest  than El Yunque Recreation Center. In fact, the forest stretches way beyond Río Grande  into the municipalities of Ceiba, Canóvanos, Fajardo , Naguabo , Luquillo , and Las Piedras. Many locals actually prefer the southern and western sides of the forest because they’re less likely to attract busloads of tourists and they feature plenty of waterfalls and natural pools for swimming. To explore the western side, take Carretera 186 south from Carretera 3.
To explore the southern side from Naguabo, proceed west on Carretera 31, and go north on Carretera 191.