Vega State Forest – Protecting Natural Resources

Stretching over an area included in the Vega Baja and Vega Alta municipalities of Puerto Rico, the Vega State Forest was created in 1952 with the main objective being to protect the island’s underground fresh water supplies. Its varied terrain is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it an interesting attraction for nature enthusiasts to visit. Covering approximately 1,000 acres northwest of the town of Vega Alta, and accessed by Highway 676, the forest offers picnic facilities and a number of walking trails allowing visitors to explore the area.

With the outer suburbs of San Juan encroaching on undeveloped land, the Vega State Forest serves as a green buffer zone preventing the city from encroaching on essential natural resources. Designated by law as a protected area and cared for by the Service Bureau of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources (DNER), the forest consists primarily of karst terrain characterized by sinkholes, small hills referred to as hummocks, and a network of tunnels and caves formed by water erosion of the limestone rock. The elevation of the forest terrain ranges from five to fifty feet, and it is classified as sub-tropical rainforest.

The flora of Vega State forest includes up to 72 species of trees, some of which are considered to be endangered and protected by law, such as the Cobana Negra (Stahlia monsperma) and Rosewood (Ottoschulzia rhodoxylon). The Rosewood, or Palo de Rosa, is endemic to Puerto Rico and in 1990 authorities counted only nine individual trees remaining on the island. Other indigenous flora found in the park include the official national flower of Puerto Rico, Flor de Maga (Thespesia grandiflora), and the Aceitillo (Zanthoxylum flavum). Introduced species include eucalyptus, West Indies mahogany and Honduran pine.

The Vega State Forest is home to a variety of birds, amphibians (including the prized coqui), reptiles and invertebrates. Thirty-seven species of birds have been recorded, with three of these being endemic to Puerto Rico – the Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (Coccyzus vieilloti); the Puerto Rican Bullfinch (Loxigilla portoricensis); and the Black-whiskered Vireo (Vireo altiloquus).

Puerto Rico is a popular holiday destination with a multitude of attractions to visit. If you are a nature lover visiting this beautiful island, you may want to include the DRNA-managed Vega State Forest to your list of places to explore.