Let us spoil you at the Rainforest Inn

Let us spoil you at the Rainforest Inn

When you stay at the Rainforest Inn you have options. Think of us more like a boutique hotel. Instead of joining the conversation with other guests at the breakfast table you can choose to be served on your private porch or even bring a tray to your partner in bed. Let us help you make your stay as romantic as possible!

Fresh Papaya for breakfast

We are lucky to have a couple of papaya plants that we grew from a Hawaiian papay seed. It is a delicious tasting papaya that has hints of floral and none of the strong smell of ordinary papayas.  

 

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The best way to pick papayas is with a tall ladder. If you use a fruit picker pole  you risk damaging the soft ripe fruit.  

Rainforest Inn was Awarded Small Green Hotel of the Year!

 Just after award ceremony at the Condado Plaza Hotel.

Just after award ceremony at the Condado Plaza Hotel.

We at the Rainforest Inn have been working very hard to be sustainable and to respect the rainforest environment that our inn shares. Tripadvisor has recognised us as a "Platinum" level green bed and breakfast. The Tourism Department of Puerto Rico has certified us as a "Sustainable Tourism Facility". And now the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association honoured us with the small green hotel of the year award.

We are so proud and we will never stop doing everything it takes to be sustainable in the El Yunque rainforest of Puerto Rico.

Revealing the Secrets of the Lost Machete Trail

Six young scientists showed up at our door, sweaty but cheery, after running down 2.5 kilometers from the nearby El Verde Field Station and then up our steep driveway that climbs over 172 meters in just 1.5 kilometers. The group, lead by the Luquillo Forest Dynamics Plot (LFDP) Project Manager Seth Rifkin, came to trek a few miles further into the rainforest to bestow their knowledge upon our private Lost Machete Trail hike. The researchers had been working at El Verde for sometime between a few weeks to a few months, and Rifkin has been there for eight years, so they know more about the trees in El Yunque than the average person knows about the far fewer species found in our North American forests.

Rifkin manages a 16-hectare study plot next to El Verde Field Station, which lies at about 350 meters elevation. The plot spans out over both forest that was never selectively cut as well as forest that had been used for agriculture until the mid-20th century, Rifkin said. The LFDP was established in 1990 to observe how the rainforest recovers from hurricane damage, specifically in the aftermath of hurricane Hugo in 1989. Every five years around 25 researchers, most commonly recent college graduates, live at the field station for anywhere from a few months to a year, working to collect data for the tree census. Their work entails hiking to various quadrants, through mud and streams and over steep hills, and measuring every tree stem at 130 centimeters from the ground that is more that one centimeter in diameter at that point and record the species and physical damage to the crown or trunk.

The data collected at the LFDP contributes to the Smithsonian’s Center for Tropical Forest Science - Forest Global Earth Observatory (CTFS - ForestGEO)—a global network of over 60 forest research plots across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe reserved for the study of tropical and temperate forest function and diversity. CTFS-ForestGEO monitors the growth and survival of approximately 6 million trees and 10,000 species, in plots around the world that are varying sizes but use the same research methodology. The LFDP is affiliated with the University of Puerto Rico and funded by the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research Program. The data collected by the El Verde crew goes into the ForestGEO database and is analyzed for factors that contribute to tree species community dynamics, how anthropogenic climate change is changing those dynamics, and other threats to species diversity.

“As the project was developing, they came to the realization that there was more of an effect of past human land-use patterns on the tree species composition then even the hurricane damage,” Rifkin said. “There is also an additive effect of those two types of disturbance to the tree species composition.”

The ForestGEO timeline is essentially indefinite, Rifkin said, as long as there are still forests to monitor. Luckily there are scientists who remain excited about measuring trees year after year, and were more than happy to explore the forests outside of their study plot.

The El Verde crew eagerly set off on our hike and returned a few hours later having only made it halfway to the natural pool at the summit because they ran out of sunlight. If you have ever hiked (or even stepped outside of your front door) with a biologist, you are privy to the fact that it takes significantly longer to go from point A to point B than it would with someone lacking training in ecology because a biologist will stop and gawk all eye-catching flora and fauna they pass. Given the biodiversity of El Yunque rainforest, our hike must have been a field day for the El Verde crew.

We sat down with Rifkin after the hike and he shared with us the knowledge that he and his colleagues noted about the trail; and it was a lot, because the tree species composition here is pretty similar to what the El Verde crew studies at the LFDP, Rifkin said. We also added some insight of our own and compiled a hike guidebook for our guests; here is a sneak peek...     

Cecropia, known locally as Yagrumo hembra, is a genus consisting of 61 species; most common in El Yunque are Cecropia schreberiana (Pumpwood) and Cecropia peltata (Trumpet Tree or Snakewood). Cecropia are common in El Yunque because they are pioneer trees that establish abundantly after recurrent hurricane damage opens up the forest canopy and provides sun for the light-demanding tree. They are fast-growing, opportunistic trees that are one of the world's 100 most invasive alien species off the island, luckily they are native to Puerto Rico and are part of the rainforests’ strategy for hurricane recovery.  Cecropia are easily distinguished by their large, deeply lobed leaf that looks like a hand and their white underbelly that shows when storm winds blow through the forest. The Taino word yagrumo means "two faced," which refers to the leaf faces’ mismatching colors. The leaves are steeped as tea used to treat kidney ailments and asthma, reduce pain and inflammation and kill bacteria and fungi.

Carrasco (Comocladia glabra) is a poisonous evergreen shrub in the same plant family as poison ivy, thus causing a similar skin reactionand sometimes even more severe. It has a slender, unbranched trunk with large, lance-shaped spreading leaves, clusters of tiny dark red flowers and small reddish-black fruits. Its white sap turns black when exposed to air and is caustic, creating a painfully itchy rash that lasts several hours, sometimes days.

The Tree fern (Cyathea arborea) or Helecho arboreo in Spanish, has thrived since the era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This perennial fern is successful in high-moisture environments and in colonizing landslides. Its crown has 10 or more fronds in the form of a fan, which each live for only 3 months but hold 3-5 billion spores for germination. When the tree fern is young, its fronds are rolled up. As they grow, each frond unrolls until it reaches its horizontal position.

Ficus Citrifolia, the Shortleaf or Strangler fig, is called Jagüey blanco in Spanish. The fig tree is an abundant tropical keystone species because figs are a major component of the diets of more species of animals than any other tropical perennial fruit, and because the hollow, lattice-like trunk provides a home for thousands of invertebrates, rodents, bats, birds and reptiles. Fig fruit turn from yellow to dark red when ripe, and are sweet and safe for human consumption. Fig begin their life as an epiphyte, a strategy which allows them to avoid competition for light by attacking palms and other trees, strangling them as it grows. The tiny epiphyte grows to an impressive height of 15 meters and covers a wide area due to their ability to drop aerial roots from branches and spread horizontally among the strangled parent tree. Ficus citrifolia is under strong selective pressure to flower and continuously produce fruit due to its mutualistic relationship with its specific species of pollinating fig wasp, which lays eggs in the fruit and acts as a pollinator for a specific species of fig. The fruit has a purgative effect on the digestive systems of animals that dine on it so its seeds are spread far and wide through dung.

Manilkara bidentata,  Bulletwood or Ausubo, as it is most commonly called, is a  large evergreen tree that was once one of the most important timber trees of Puerto Rico. In the Spanish colonial days it was cut down on the coast and its strong, highly valued wood was floated over to San Juan, where it was used as ceiling beams in many buildings still standing today in Old San Juan. Oxen also pulled carts laden with Ausubo beams over land to San Juan from El Yunque. Because it is extremely tolerant of shade, Ausubo is common in the lower elevations of El Yunque, where it can live up to 400 years.  The tree is also tapped for its milky latex sap, the source of balata gum, which is sometimes used in products such as golf balls.

Prestoea acuminata var. Montana is the Sierra Palm, or Palma sierra. It is the most common tree in this elevation of El Yunque, succeeding where most trees cannot. Its distinguishing above-ground roots capture enough oxygen so that it can grow well in waterlogged soils. Thus, Sierra palms blanket steep slopes, unstable soils and high elevation streambeds. Very few other species of palm are found in the rainforest. Importantly, its fruit is the beloved Puerto Rican Parrot’s favorite food.

Pterocarpus officinalis is called either Palo de pollo or Sangre de drago. The most distinguishing feature of this impressive tree is its narrow, long buttresses (above-ground roots) that make the tree reminiscent of a palo de pollo—translated as “chicken stick” or “chicken foot.” The Palo de pollo buttresses, up to 4.5 meters tall, absorb oxygen in oxygen-poor soils such as in swamps and along streams. This evergreen tree grows, often twisted and fluted, to about 20-30 meters tall. When the bark is wounded it yields a copious amount of red sap that hardens into crimson “tears.” This is collected as sangre de drago, “dragon’s blood.” The sap is astringent and haemostatichaving the capability to close wounds and stop blood flowand is used in the treatment of diarrhea, mouth sores and thrush. The tree has a large nitrogen-fixing capacity and provides vast shade for other flora such as coffee plants—both reasons that it survived subsistence coffee farmers years ago that cut down neighboring tropical hardwood trees to use as charcoal for the sugar cane refineries.

Swietenia macrophylla is called either Honduran or Big-leaf mahogany (Caoba de Honduras or de Hoja grande). Our mahogany trees were planted over 30 years ago to test a new design for mahogany plantations. Instead of initially clear cutting the forest plot with traditional slash and burn procedures, forestry scientists planted many rows of mahogany and applied defoliant spray during their early growth to discourage competition for sunlight from nearby trees. This species of mahogany is fast growing but not as dense or elegantly figured as the native mahogany, Swietenia mahagoni. Once mature, the seed of mahogany splits and falls to the ground as a  beautiful flower-shaped woody structure.

Syzygium jambos is the Rose Apple. This tree is native to Southeast Asia and moderately invasive in Puerto Rico. The fruit is edible and has a strong floral aroma, earning its name of "rose apple" or  pomarrosa. At the Rainforest Inn, we occasionally serve freshly picked pomarrosas from our trees with our breakfasts. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and can be eaten raw or used in various regional recipes. The wood is dense and is therefore a source of charcoal. Additionally, the tree contains various tannins that may have antimicrobial applications and some parts of the tree are used in regional traditional medicine.

These trees are tagged along the Lost Machete Trail to help our guests better understand and appreciate the rainforest in which they are vacationing. Our new hike guidebook is a part of our ecological signage around the inn that has helped us earn accreditation by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s Sustainable Tourism Facilities Program. We are excited to share the secrets of the Lost Machete Trail...and there are even more to come once the El Verde scientists return for part two of their quest to the beautiful private pool above the 70-foot waterfall at the trail’s end!


 

Bob's East Island Surfing Adventures

 Bob gives directions on land before setting his surfers free in the water

Bob gives directions on land before setting his surfers free in the water

La Pared beach, named for its colorful mosaic pared (wall) along the boardwalk, is a soft-sand inlet that Luquillo boasts as the surf and skate central of East Island Puerto Rico. When standing in front of el Monumento—the monument built in honor of the tiger shark that supposedly protects the beach—you have a flawless view to the east of the sunrise in the morning or the lighthouse and the distant haze of the Fajardo city lights at night. Straight ahead is the open Atlantic Ocean, and to the west lies the deepest point of the Atlantic— the Puerto Rico Trench. Following west along the coast, you pass the fortress-lined shores of San Juan and eventually arrive at Puerto Rico's famous surf destination, Rincon. But as Bob Roberts of Bob’s East Island Surfing Adventures said, Luquillo has everything a local or tourist needs to spend a day—or lifetime—at the beach.

 Bob, Jeremy and Justo help students practice their stance and ready position

Bob, Jeremy and Justo help students practice their stance and ready position

Bob owned and operated a surf shop in Luquillo in the 1980s with his wife Suzy and has stayed at the beach ever since. Within the past ten years he has shifted his business to instructing surfing adventures. His adventure starts out on la orilla (the shore) with 30 minutes of instruction on safety and surfing techniques. His instructors, Justo, Brad and Jeremy, help each student perfect their “ready position” and stance on the board and teach them how to paddle, stand up on the board and even the best way to fall off the board in a "wipe out" and how to escape a riptide. Then it is time to dive into el mar (the ocean) for 90 minutes of riding las ondas (the waves). The comfortably warm Caribbean sea at La Pared is perfect for low-intensity surfing because it only reaches a few feet deep by 100 meters out, so beginner surfers can catch the white waves, which indicate shallow water, or the intermediate-level green waves as the tide rises.

 Justo and Jeremy await a big wave for the first-time surfers to ride

Justo and Jeremy await a big wave for the first-time surfers to ride

Bob reassures his students that although surfing is a difficult sport that takes years to master, the success rate of his beginner-to-intermediate level course is surprisingly high. Virtually all students catch at least a few waves and remain standing all the way to shore, as many of our guests have told us. Since some people need help just getting onto the board, while others are quickly ready to ride more challenging waves, Bob and his crew pride themselves on their personal approach to teaching that caters to all levels of surfers. Bob lectures and demonstrates the techniques excellently, even bilingually when necessary. All the instructors are genuinely encouraging and high-spirited; their love for the sport and Luquillo is apparent in their upbeat but laid-back instruction and bright expressions.

Because friends and family may have a hard time believing that you actually managed to ride a wave, Bob’s crew takes plenty of pictures of every student. They post on Facebook only the photos that make even the short bursts of beginner’s luck look like longer rides that come from years of experience.

With the perfect location and exceptional instruction, Bob’s East Island Surfing Adventures deserves the overwhelming praise it receives online from its customers. To reserve your lesson, call (or better yet, text since his phone is often just at the fringe of cell service) Bob at (787) 435-1760

 Melina Devoney riding her first wave to "La Pared" in Luquillo Beach

Melina Devoney riding her first wave to "La Pared" in Luquillo Beach

Check out our Puerto Rico Travelcast (on iTunes or here) for an interview with Bob that goes deeper into his adventures in Puerto Rico and his surfing lessons.

Sunday evening at Hacienda Muñoz

  Héctor Muñoz

Héctor Muñoz

Héctor Muñoz, the co-founder of Hacienda Muñoz in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, intently watched the timer on a handsome red stainless steel Bendig coffee roaster in Hacienda Muñoz’s Doppio Cafe. Because he roasts the coffee so dark, the beans must be released from the roaster at exactly the right instant or else the whole batch will burn, Muñoz explained. At that pivotal moment, he opened the roaster to release a waft of rich aroma into the roasting hut and a wave of perfectly toasted 100% arabica beans into the cooling mixer. He smiled as he scooped out a handful of beans for onlookers to taste. The bean, still warm, had a satisfying crunch and a toasted bitterness that left us craving an entire cup.

Hacienda Muñoz roasts have the mouthwatering piquant fragrance and sharp flavor that distinguishes traditional Puerto Rican coffee. Muñoz roasts and packs four varieties on property; House, Dark and Premium Dark as well as Traditional Puerto Rican coffee selected from beans grown in Yauco, Puerto Rico.

Coffee production is one of the newest additions to the original catering business that Muñoz and his mother Yiya began in 1999. Their hacienda has since grown to include Yiya’s Restaurant, Amanda’s Wood sports bar, Doppio Cafe, an event venue with a large patio and a guest villa all bordering the plantation. They established the plantation, which now boasts 74,000 coffee trees, in 2005 with the intention of creating jobs and empowering local farmers to help reinvigorate coffee cultivation in the area. Peacocks and chickens roam the property and the open architecture of the patio and buildings allows a 360 degree view of the lush rolling countryside dotted with rows of coffee trees.  

 Event Patio

Event Patio

Hacienda Muñoz is the closest coffee plantation and roasting house to the Rainforest Inn and provides a good reason to go on a picturesque hour-long drive through the El Yunque mountains. We made the trip on a Sunday intending to take their public coffee tour—which we later discovered only runs Wednesday through Saturday 10 am and 2 pm and by appointment only. Upon our arrival, we were graciously greeted by Joseph, the manager who, despite having a lot on his plate that afternoon, gave us a brief tour of the roasting house and restaurant. Since our initial plan was foiled, we could not pass up dinner at Yiya’s. As he did with many of his guests, Joseph checked in on us periodically to make sure everything was to our liking.  

Yiya’s Restaurant provides an extensive and varied menu that features house specialties with a subtle spin on traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. We ordered the Filete de Salmón a la Parilla and the island’s esteemed dish mofongo, which surprised us with its smoked flavor and unique incorporation of ham in the plantain dough. The amiable waitress obliged to Bill’s request for a vegetarian version without blinking an eye and Renée concluded that the fried plantain tostones were the highlight of her meal. One of our interns, Chelsea, experienced her first ever monfongo since arriving in Puerto Rico. She ordered the chicken version and especially enjoyed its smoky ham flavor and the salsa criolla; the mofongo is topped with either this tomato-based sauce or a garlic sauce called salsa al ajillo. Another one of our interns, Mel, ordered the Lover’s Drink; a strawberry, piña colada and mango-layered frapé. Though she was reluctant at first to take a sip and disturb the artful layers, Mel slurped down the frapé in a matter of minutes once she dared a taste.

Chelsea's Mofongo

Lover's Drink

    Our after-dinner coffee was a perfect finale to the outing. Bill ordered a cappuccino which, because of the generous portion of milk in the espresso, made for a satisfying drink closer to the traditional Puerto Rican café con leche. Mel ordered an americano and was pleased that she could recognize the distinct Puerto Rican flavor of the fresh dark roasted coffee beans. After tasting the final product, we cannot wait to get a look behind the scenes of Hacienda Muñoz coffee on their tour, and we will be sure to recommend our guests take the scenic trip and plan to spend an entire day at Hacienda Muñoz.

 Americano

Americano

Cappuccino

With our remarkable biowarfare, Zika is “no problema” at the Rainforest Inn

"Our koi pond attracts dragonflies and houses fish that eat the mosquitoes"

This June, we crossed the fifteenth name off the list of Rainforest Inn reservations. Despite the nearly 100% success of our natural mosquito abatement program, the main culprit behind this unusually large number of cancellations is the fear of Zika and the idea that there must be a lot of mosquitoes at the Rainforest Inn since, after all, it is the El Yunque National Forest jungle. But that same jungle is also home to many small creatures that eat every mosquito they can find.

Travel to Puerto Rico has decreased significantly in the last few months due to the mosquito-borne “Zika virus epidemic.” This trend frustrates us and our peers in Puerto Rico’s tourism sector because it is based on rumors, speculation and hyperbole. We value the health and comfort of our guests, and we are in agreement with the majority of our sector that the Zika virus does not pose a significant threat to travelers.

Travel to Puerto Rico has decreased significantly due to the mosquito-borne “Zika virus epidemic.” This trend is based on rumors, speculation and hyperbole.

It is important to be educated on the virus, to put it in perspective with other well-known mosquito-borne health threats for which travelers are accustomed to taking precautions—such as dengue fever and malaria—and to take comfort in the measures implemented by the tourism sector to combat Zika.  

As for the relative danger of Zika, malaria proves to be a more serious threat to travelers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports upwards of 2,000 cases of malaria every year in the U.S., almost all in recent travelers, and the World Health Organization estimates that malaria caused 214 million clinical episodes and 438,000 deaths worldwide in 2015. The CDC reported 1,075 cases of Zika, including one death and one microcephaly case this year in Puerto Rico, and 1,732 total cases in U.S. states and territories.

 Bats are important predators of mosquitoes in the jungle  Photo courtesy of "The Architecture of Mosquito Control" (http://emhughes.com/arbitrary/mosquitoes/)

Bats are important predators of mosquitoes in the jungle

Photo courtesy of "The Architecture of Mosquito Control" (http://emhughes.com/arbitrary/mosquitoes/)

At first Zika was considered a mild mosquito-borne illness—merely causing a typical headache, fever, rash and red eyes—but has recently caused a scare due to its link to microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome. The CDC projected that more than 20 percent of Puerto Rico's population could be infected with Zika in an outbreak expected to peak this summer, according to the Associated Press (AP) article “Puerto Rico's tourist industry feels economic sting of Zika” in May. The article also states that this alarming prediction has been criticized by some Puerto Rican officials, such as Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary Ana Rius who told the AP that those numbers are exaggerated and improbable. According to the Baltimore Sun article, “Feds are scaring visitors away from Puerto Rico,” Clarisa Jiménez, president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association, said that the CDC is irresponsibly embellishing health information reports, which have developed into fear mongering that has spurred detrimental consequences for the Puerto Rican economy.

The Rainforest Inn was sucked into the downward spiral of the island’s tourism industry—previously one of the few sectors that stayed afloat in the otherwise drowning economy—by the “Zika epidemic.” Tourism once represented about seven percent of Puerto Rico's economy, but its recent decline due to the Zika scare will provide less help in alleviating Puerto Rico’s ten-year recession and growing public debt.

In an attempt to decrease the fear-mongered Zika scare created by desperate news media, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company has launched PuertoRicoNow.SeePuertoRico.com to provide potential travelers with current information about the virus on the island, such as the article “Perception vs. Reality: Setting the Record Straight on Zika In Puerto Rico.” Additionally, hotels and tourist destinations have been providing welcome packets with bug repellent and safety information as well as training staff on mosquito abatement.

While many hotels rely on chemical pesticides, the Rainforest Inn stands apart with our use of safe and sustainable biowarfare to fend off mosquitoes.

While many hotels rely on chemical pesticides, the Rainforest Inn stands apart with our use of safe and sustainable biowarfare to fend off mosquitoes. Our program integrates a variety of natural predators of mosquitoes: our koi pond attracts dragonflies and houses fish that eat the mosquitoes that make it through the dragonfly barrier and attempt to lay eggs on the water. With the abundant spider population and the bat homes we constructed in the forest, in combination with cane toads, anoles, a variety of lizards, seven species of coquís and one native iguana on the property, the Rainforest Inn is a death trap for any mosquito that ventures near. Bats, amphibians and reptiles are abundant throughout El Yunque and provide their ecosystem services around many other tourist destinations in the jungle.

The Rainforest Inn is home to seven species of coquí, which help control the mosquito population

Our biowarfare program also coincides with our mission of environmental responsibility because avoiding the use of pesticides allows the natural rainforest wildlife to thrive and continue to protect us and our visitors.

Disproving the common misconception that a bed and breakfast enveloped in the jungle is a mosquito hotspot, our guests are regularly surprised by the almost non-existent mosquito population around the Rainforest Inn.

So, despite the escalating Zika scare, the Rainforest Inn is still the same safe paradise it has always been.

Saludos,

Bill & Renée

Rainforest Inn Breakfast Music

Many of our guests have commented on the music we play during breakfast. It is a special list of songs that René has put together over the years in iTunes. The following link will download a PDF list of those songs.  Music is a very particular thing, everyone has different tastes and different favorites. This list is from many cultures and has some eclectic choices.

Download Breakfast Music Playlist

I hope that listening to some of these choices will remind you of your stay at the rainforest inn.