El Yunque, part of the Caribbean National Forest, is the smallest forest on the U.S. territory and the only tropical forest in the country's Forest Service system. It is a cool, mountainous rain forest located in Puerto Rico. Established as a protected area by the Spanish Crown in the 19th century, this virgin forest preserves much the same look as it did when Christopher Columbus visited the island over 500 years ago. Some of the older trees are over a thousand years old. El Yunque is home to unique and spectacular biosphere of incredible diversity. The rain forest hosts about 240 different plant and animal species, including the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and the tiny coquis (indigenous little tree frogs that seem to be abundant and melodious) among the 26 species that can be found nowhere else in the world. Its undoubted advantage is that there are no poisonous snakes. El Yunque is also the rainiest of all U.S. forests. Over 100 gallons of water fall annually - on 28,000 acres of land (so, be prepared that you will really get wet). You can almost constantly hear a thunder up in the mountains. The rainfall streams down the mountain through rocky rivers creating many cascades of waterfalls. The higher elevations that tower to over 3,200 feet are free from nasty insects abundant in the steamy lower reaches of the forest and offer a cool hike in the clouds. Water in the park is clean enough even to drink let alone delightful to swim in. El Yunque rain forest is a little more than an hour from San Juan airport. The best route from San Juan seems to be along the coast road through Loiza. It is the same length as Route 3, an alternative highway; however, it has less heavy traffic and, with its gorgeous views, offers infinity of possibilities for a photographer. In the park, an extensive network of hiking trails is maintained, which makes hiking easy. The North side of the rain forest, with picnic facilities, paved trails, bus parking and lookout towers, is often crowded. The South side, where actual rainforest lodging is located, is much quieter, although hiking trails are numerous there, too. A variety of accommodations is available around the park area and provides great opportunities to relax in tropical wonder as long as time and money permit. Some of them are located in the rain forest proper, others in the foothills, but all of them have a spectacular view of the forest or the sea. Staying in small lodges or bed & breakfast inns surrounding the forest makes you feel refreshed and caters for your closer understanding of the rainforest. Camping is allowed, too; however, there are no special facilities or a designated camping area. To put it short, El Yunque is an excellent and unique rainforest experience. You can travel there at almost any time of the year and can easily reach it from San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital city, which is a hub of American Airlines and some other North American carriers. No special inoculations and no great distance to travel make visiting a real rainforest accessible to most Americans.