Make a Visit to the Guanica Biosphere Reserve and State Forest
Located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, within the municipality of Guanica, the Guanica Biosphere Reserve and State Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) is considered to be the best example of subtropical dry forest in the Caribbean. This picturesque and ecologically significant area has been a forest reserve since 1919, with the United Nations declaring it a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1981.
This is the driest area of Puerto Rico, due to a phenomenon referred to as a “rain shadow”, where the La Cordillera Central Mountains block rain-producing weather systems, resulting in desert-like conditions. The reserve covers an area of more than 9,000 acres with rolling hills, open plains and incorporating the beautiful Guanica Bay and coastline. The unusual weather conditions experienced in the Guanica Biosphere Reserve have created a variety of habitats that are home to approximately fifty percent of the island’s bird species, with 9 of the Puerto Rico’s 16 endemic bird species being found here, including the Puerto Rican woodpecker, the Puerto Rican lizard cuckoo and the Puerto Rican emerald hummingbird, as well as the critically endangered Puerto Rican nightjar. This is truly a bird-watcher’s paradise.
The vegetation in the reserve is divided into three distinctly different groups, being the upland deciduous forest, the semi-evergreen forest and scrub forest. There are more than 700 plant species to be found in the Guanica Biosphere Reserve and State Forest, 48 of which are considered to be endangered, with 16 being endemic to the region. The reserve is home to numerous reptiles and amphibians, including the indigenous coquí – several species of tiny frogs endemic to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Named for the sound they make, the common coquí is widely accepted as the unofficial symbol of Puerto Rico.
There are a number of ways that visitors can explore the Guanica Biosphere Reserve and State Forest. There are twelve trails, presenting different levels of difficulty that hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy. Some of the highlights along the 58 kilometers of trails include the historic Spanish-built Fort Caprón, which allows visitors an incredible view of the bay, as well as leading to impressive natural wonders such as ancient trees, one of which is believed to be 400-years old. Those who are less energetic can enjoy the exquisite scenery from the comfort of their car as they travel along the narrow road on the outskirts of the reserve. The unique beauty of the Guanica Biosphere Reserve and State Forest is certainly well worth a visit.