El Yunque Tropical Rain Forest in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rain forest in the US Park system.
But did you know that Puerto Rico has twenty-one State Forests? Toro Negro State Forest is the second-largest forest in Puerto Rico.
One of my fondest memories is when we went to summer camps in Orocovis. We walked to Toro Negro State Forest and got in a river-fed swimming pool.
In this article, I will cover everything that you need to know about the Toro Negro State Forest:
Bosque Estatal Toro Negro is a natural reserve that expands over 8200 cuerdas (7,996 acres) through five towns in the southern central part of Puerto Rico: Orocovis, Jayuya, Ciales, Juna Diaz, and Ponce.
The Toro Negro State Forest is home to the highest mountain in Puerto Rico, Cerro Punta (4389 feet above sea level).
Nine rivers, Rio Indalecia, Rio Guayo, Rio Inabón, Rio Blanco, Rio Anón, Rio Prieto, Rio Saliente, Rio Toro Negro, and Rio Matrullas, flow through the state forest, creating a vast ecosystem with plants and animals indigenous to the zone.
There are four forests in the Toro Negro State Forest: a wet subtropical forest Bosque Tabonuco (comprising about 31 percent of the forest), and Montana Abajo with its Microphilis Buchevania, Mountain Range Palm and Dwarf forests (the other 69 percent of the forest).
Toro Negro has camping facilities, hiking trails, waterfalls, charcos (natural pools), and one of the most beautiful views on the Island.
Below is a video of Toro Negro State Forest:
For more information about exploring Toro Negro, visit our article 20 Best Hiking Spots In Puerto Rico.
Although Toro Negro State Forest Comprises five towns in the south-central part of the Island, the main entrance is the Dona Juana Recreational Area in Orocovis.
You can drive to the Dona Juana Recreational Area and park there. You will see Dona Juana’s Waterfall a few miles before the forest entrance.
There are two routes to access the Toro Negro State Forest:
On the Northern Route, you take highway 22 toll road west to Manati and head south on road 149. They call this route The Panoramic Route because of its views. But you should be aware that the streets are narrow and have a lot of twists and turns.
People who get car sick can consider the longer Highway 52 toll road route.
This southern route will take you to Juana Diaz, where you will take the exit to route 149 and “climb” to the Dona Juana Recreational Area.
Below is a Google Map that shows the location of Toro Negro State Forest:
Read up on Dona Juana waterfall in our guide to the 15 Best Waterfalls In Puerto Rico.
Toro Negro State Forest is famous for its natural diversity. Scientists have identified 160 species of trees divided into 53 families.
Ferns and orchids are abundant at Toro Negro, with 40 Puerto Rican species.
30 Species of birds live in Toro Negro, six of them are endemic, and two are at risk of extinction, protected by local and federal law.
Recent studies have found eight species of bats living in Toro Negro. There are even Puerto Rican scorpions, Tityus obtusus, in the forest.
But you don’t have to worry; they are tiny and no danger to humans.
The rivers and the two “embalses” reservoirs have different fish species and crustaceans.
The highest human-made structure in Puerto Rico is the famous observational tower “La Torre” in Toro Negro.
Another thing that made Toro Negro famous was a river-fed, human-made pool.
When I was a kid, we used to go to summer camps in Orocovis, and we walked to Toro Negro’s pool.
They diverted river water into a cement pool.
That water was freezing.
Unfortunately, it has been closed for years.
Toro Negro is also famous for its hiking trails, many rivers, and “charcos” natural pools where you can swim, such as Charco de los Suspiros (sigh’s pool) and Charco la Confesora (confer pool).
Disclaimer: Be aware of the weather conditions when visiting Puerto Rico rivers or waterfalls. Rain can cause flash floods that can be dangerous or even fatal.
Here are 8 activities you can enjoy at Toro Negro State Forest:
Toro Negro has almost 7 miles of hiking trails with various difficulty levels.
You will find that some “trails” require you to walk along the road to another trail or to return to the parking area.
Here’s a video of tourists taking the El Bolo Trail:
Puerto Ricans call Charco a natural pool fed by a waterfall (swimming hole). You will find a couple of charcos in Toro Negro.
Charco de Los Suspiros is on the “Piscina Trail” and is easy to access.
La Confesora is on another trail. Getting there from the Dona Juan Recreational Area takes about half an hour.
Wear shoes with a grip; the trail can be muddy and slippery.
Check out Charco de Los Suspiros in the following video:
The most famous waterfall at Toro Negro State Forest is Las Delicias Waterfall in Ciales; you have to drive there and then walk a little, but believe me, it’s worth it.
You will also see small waterfalls along the hiking trails.
If you like bird watching, Toro Negro is for you. More than 30 species of birds, six endemics, call Toro Negro home.
Be on the lookout for the mountain range falcon accipiter striatus and the forest guaraguao buteo platypterus.
There is an impressive amount of flowers in Toro Negro; orchids are abundant in the forest.
A forty-minute hike on Bolo Trail will take you to the observation tower.
Once you get there, you will see that Toro Negro Tower resembles Yokahu Tower at El Yunque.
That is because Toro Negro and El Yunque were Administered by the US Department of Agriculture.
Still, in 1961, Toro Negro was transferred to the Puerto Rican Government.
From the tower, you will get a 360 degrees panoramic view of the center of the Island.
You will also see The Atlantic Ocean on the north and the Caribbean Sea on the south.
The video below shows the observation tower:
There are camping grounds in Toro Negro, and a few gazebos, and restrooms comprise the camping area.
You need a permit to camp at Toro Negro.
The fresh air you breathe at Toro Negro, the sound of the running water, and the birds singing will engulf you in a relaxing experience.
You will leave the forest with your batteries recharged.
For nature lovers, Toro Negro is worth visiting. The flora, fauna, scenery, waterfalls, ponds, and the view from the tower will create memories you will treasure for years to come.
If you go east on Highway 22, it will take you an hour and a half to get to Toro Negro. However, if you go south on highway 52, it will take you about an hour and 50 minutes.
Toro Negro State Forest is a natural paradise.
Incredible scenery and a wide variety of animals, plants, rivers, and waterfalls await you in this natural reserve.
Nature lovers who want to experience a protected area near the ocean can check the Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve in Cabo Rojo article.
Writer at PuertoRico.com. I was born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I’m passionate about Puerto Rican history and culture. I live on the west coast of Puerto Rico, and host an Airbnb for tourists. I also coordinate tours and concierge services for tourists. I authored “Eat Like A Local, Puerto Rico”, and have contributed to blogs and magazines with articles about discovering and enjoying what Puerto Rico has to offer.