About La Cabra Waterfall and Charco Azul
Charco Azul and the La Cabra Waterfall were a pair of hidden gems deep within the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve.
Following on from the La Niebla Waterfall experience, this extension of the hike was where we really got to experience a side of Puerto Rico that most tourists don’t ever get to do.
La Cabra (Goat) Waterfall would typically have a wide drop under more normal flow conditions as it spilled into a large green pool flanked on two sides by vertical cliffs.
Atop one of the cliffs was a lookout or mirador that gazed towards the canyon’s vertical walls from a distance though this waterfall was unseen from there (only heard).
The cliffs also featured a tinge of red, which suggested that they contained oxidized iron, and they added a bit of a colorful contrast to the everpresent greenery within the lush canyon.
The Charco Azul within Cañon de San Cristóbal pertains to a deep blue pool nestled within the narrowest and deepest part of the canyon.
There’s a waterfall dropping right into the head of this narrow chute and plunge pool, which we were able to view from a few precipitous spots.
My guide Ricardo told me that locals would often do cliff jumps from launching points adjacent to the falls, which could be done from varying heights.
He also guided me to a “cave” where we could peer out of its opening right across the waterfall (probably dropping some 15-20m or so) into the namesake blue pool down below.
Although it was possible to continue further downstream from this point (which involves swimming), this was our turnaround spot.
Overall, the entire three-mile jungle hike to this point and back (which encompassed a side excursion to La Niebla Waterfall) took us a little over 3 hours away from the car.
Trail Description – The Jungle Trek To Charco Azul
Just to give you an idea of what it was like to do the longer hike within Cañon de San Cristóbal to Charco Azul, I’ll do a trail description of the experience here.
Picking up from leaving La Niebla Waterfall (read about what it took to get to that waterfall here), we then went on a bit of a bouldering and jungle hike downstream in and along the Río Usabón.
We pretty much had to keep our balance as we negotiated slippery boulders and route-found our way towards La Cabra Waterfall, which was the next landmark about a quarter-mile downstram of the La Niebla Waterfall spur.
From atop La Cabra Waterfall, we then carefully scrambled our way to the left side of the waterfall, where we could get glimpses of parts of the falls, but we never really could get a clean look at it without swimming or without a drone.
We then continued jungle hiking downstream from La Cabra Falls for the next 0.3-mile or so, which pretty much was mostly above the river but still humid throughout.
Eventually, we’d reach part where the canyon narrowed so much that we were surrounded by large boulders that have fallen and even formed an “arch” that we had to duck under.
On the other side of the arch, we then had to cross a thigh-deep part of the river before finally looking down at the impressive Charco Azul and its waterfall.
After getting our fill of the views of the falls from the top, Ricardo then showed me to a “cave”.
But in order to get in there, we had to leave our packs behind because getting in there involved squeezing through a tight opening where I had to descend blindly in the darkness without knowing where the footholds were.
This secluded spot was perhaps the highlight of our Charco Azul experience without actually cliff diving and swimming in the blue pool itself, and it was a suitable turnaround point of our out-and-back trek.
Although the return hike was pretty straightforward (probably made easier because I did follow a guide who knew what he was doing), we did have to struggle through a steep climb back up to the top of the canyon.
Once that was done, we were back in the taxi, where Ricardo then took me back to my accommodation in Barranquitas to end the excursion.
Charco Azul and La Cabra Waterfall reside within La Reserva Natural Cañon de San Cristóbal (San Cristobal Canyon Natural Protected Area) in the municipalities of Barranquitas and Aibonito, Puerto Rico. It is administered by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try to visit their website.
Since this excursion was combined with the La Niebla Waterfall experience, the driving directions are the same.
Therefore, I’ll punt you to that write-up if you care to know the directions.
That said, I’ve hired a guide so he took care of most of the logistics, and all I really had to do was to meet him at the agreed upon time and place.
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