There is so much to see in Puerto Rico! There are so many places to visit, that I have to continue writing about it. In my previous post “My Beautiful Puerto Rico: Mountains and Forests Part 1” (see post https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/04/27/my-beautiful-puerto-rico-mountains-and-forests-part-1) , I wrote about some of the most prominent mountainous areas, and also about the top five forests in the Island (best known and most visited): El Yunque, Carite, Toro Negro, Guilarte, and the Dry Forest (Bosque Seco) of Guánica.
As I was doing research, I found out there are 20 designated forest areas in Puerto Rico. There are also 35 areas designated as natural reserves. I’m picking a few more of those to write about, because I want people to know more about these beautiful places. The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico is responsible of protecting all these areas for enjoyment of all residents and visitors.
There are three main forests in the Metropolitan area of San Juan, Guaynabo, and Carolina. They have been designated as forests in an effort to protect zones already populated by vegetation and trees near urban regions. As urban population keeps growing, these forests areas become more important and necessary, in order to maintain a balance in the ecosystem, and allow residents and visitors to enjoy the benefits they provide, for example, filtering air and water:
First one is the San Patricio State Forest, located still in San Juan, near Guaynabo. It has an area of only 53 acres, and is located near the San Patricio Plaza Shopping Center. The area used to be a housing development for the US Navy in the 1960s-70s. Then the buildings were demolished and it was abandoned. There are still roads, sidewalks and concrete remnants, that are used as trails. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/El-Bosque-de-San-Patricio.pdf
The second one is the Urban Forest of the New Millennium in Rio Piedras neighborhood, in San Juan. It has an area of 388 acres. In 1998, groups from the community, including environmental and academic, requested the area to be protected by the government. It’s located adjacent to the San Juan Botanical Garden, also known as the Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico, which was established as an educational center for scientific research, and a living laboratory for the study of tropical plants. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bosque-Estatal-del-Nuevo-Milenio.pdf
The third one is known as Piñones State Forest, near Carolina. It is actually located in Loíza, but it’s very near to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, and the beach with the same name. It has an area of 1515 acres. It consists mostly of mangroves and wetlands. According to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, it’s part of the largest continuous natural system of mangroves in the Island. There are also beaches, bays, reefs, seagrass beds, salt flats, islets, sand dunes, and one of the luminescent lagoons in the Island. It has a boardwalk for visitors to walk around and enjoy the views. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/historico/biblioteca/publicaciones/hojas-de-nuestro-ambiente/32-Pinones.pdf
Traveling to the northwest area, there is the Guajataca State Forest. It’s located in between the towns of Quebradillas, San Sebastián, and Isabela. It extends for around 2,300 acres, and besides trails, there are caves in the area open to public to explore. One of them is “La Cueva del Viento”. If you enjoy exploring caves, please remember to be prepared with flashlights and safety equipment, remember the floor is slippery in some areas and, my personal advice (although I’ve never been to a cave) don’t go by yourself. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/El-Bosque-Estatal-de-Guajataca.pdf
Lake Guajataca is located close to the forest area. It’s one of the biggest resources for water consumption in this region. It’s a favorite for kajaking. In the aftermath of Hurricane María, it caused big floods and extensive damage to the nearby area. About 70,000 residents had to be evacuated, and repairs to the dam structure are still ongoing.
Near this region is also the Guajataca Tunnel. This is a structure that was part of the old railroad system in Puerto Rico, and it was constructed around 1904. It was used mainly for transportation of sugarcane. It was last used around the late 1950s. In the year 2000, it was declared historical monument by the Government of Puerto Rico. It’s open to the public, and it leads to the beautiful Guajataca Beach.
In the northwestern area, there are many other designated forests: Vega in Vega Alta and Vega Baja, Cambalache in Arecibo and Barceloneta, and Rio Abajo in Arecibo and Utuado.
Moving to the southwest, another forest area is the Maricao State Forest. It’s located in the towns of San Germán, Sabana Grande and Maricao. It covers about 10,800 acres. The Rio Grande de Añasco has its source in the forest. According to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, this forest is source to 14 rivers, and there are over 400 species of trees. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/El-Bosque-Estatal-de-Maricao.pdf
In the southwestern area, we find a few more designated forests: Cerrillos in Ponce; and Susúa in Sabana Grande and Yauco.
The Boquerón Forest, similar to the Piñones Forest, is near the beach with the same name. It consists mainly of mangroves and wetlands. It’s located in Cabo Rojo, Lajas and Mayagüez. It covers about 4,630 acres. There’s an area designated as the Boquerón Bird Refuge, administered by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico. According to the Department, over sixty different species of local and rare bird species have been spotted around. Also many species of turtles have been spotted in the beach area. For more information (in Spanish) see http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/El-Bosque-Estatal-de-Boquer%C3%B3n.pdf
As you can appreciate, there are many, many beautiful forests all around the Island. I haven’t visited some of them. I’m glad these areas are protected and are being maintained for public to enjoy and for future preservation. We, as human beings, should be in contact with nature. A walk near trees or water helps improve our mental and physical health, helping us relax, reduce stress, and lower our blood pressure. I invite you to take time to relax and get away from the daily routine, or from stressful situations, by visiting a forest. And if you do visit Puerto Rico, please remember to look up these beautiful locations in my beautiful Island! Time for my walk and my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en español https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/06/09/mi-hermoso-puerto-rico:-montanas-y-bosques-parte-2