About Charco Prieto Waterfall (Posa Negra or Posa Prieta)
The Charco Prieto Waterfall (also called Posa Prieta as well as Posa Negra) piqued my interest largely due to its size as well as its close proximity to the city of San Juan in the north of Puerto Rico.
Technically, the 60m (nearly 200ft) falls resides in the San Juan suburb and mountain-backed municipality of Bayamon (or Bayamón).
Due to its location, it seemed to have blown up in popularity in recent years by both locals as well as tourists, and as you can see from the photo above, its notoriety was well-deserved.
Speaking of tourists, I tend to think of San Juan as the center of tourism activity in Puerto Rico, and we even based ourselves here at the start of our Spring Break Trip in mid-April 2022 to get oriented.
As a result, it made sense for me to book a guided tour access the Charco Prieto Waterfall while also avoiding San Juan’s traffic, and this became even more apparent upon doing the hike, which I’ll describe below.
Logistics Of The Charco Prieto Guided Experience
First and foremost, I went with a tour run by Jerry’s Adventures since they’ve been known to be one of the original companies doing guided trips to the Charco Prieto Waterfall.
Jerry, the tour founder, is a Bayamón resident who ran these tours himself before enlisting help from younger guides such as Jesús, who guided my particular hike.
Jesús picked me up in a van from my accommodation in San Juan before the scheduled 9am start along with 9 other tour participants or familia (family), and he brought us into the hills of Bayamón.
Along the way, Jesús taught us a bit of Puerto Rican history and Taino culture through some interactive and “competitive” trivia during the 45-minute plus drive.
He took us up to a mirador (lookout) with a panoramic view towards San Juan and the Atlantic as well as the remnants of a third fort (the other 2 being in Old San Juan at El Murro and Castillo de San Cristóbal).
From there, he took us down to the Charco Prieto Trailhead at around 10:15am, where we then spent the next 2-3 hours doing the hike and enjoying the waterfall itself.
Upon returning to the tour van, we were then supposed to have a lunch at a local Bayamón restaurant though it was closed during our tour due to Semana Santa (Easter Week).
Had we done the lunch, then we’d be dropped off back at our accommodations closer to the 5pm return time.
However, with the holiday, we could have returned as early as maybe 1:30pm if not for some pretty severe holiday traffic in San Juan so our return happened closer to 3pm.
Trail Description – The Charco Prieto Hike
The hike began from a pretty busy trailhead (evidenced by a lot of locals and intrepid tourists parking by the stream at the bottom of a steep hill).
Just to the east of the bridge, we then followed a fairly well-worn path into the jungle crossing the stream and then continuing to follow a path that pretty much stayed close to the stream.
Throughout this entry hike, we took our time as Jesús discussed some of the flora in the area, including a poisonous leaf with neurotoxic spikes as well as the pretty ubiquitous banana plants.
He also pointed out some fern that shrivels to the touch, which is something that appeared in the movie Avatar.
Speaking of Avatar, in addition to a lot of the natural landscapes that was reflected in the movie, we learned that the plight of the Na’vi pretty much mirrored that of the Taino plight against the Spanish (with different outcomes, of course).
He even managed to capture one of the ubiquitous geckos where we got to examine closely its ability to blend in with its surroundings (I also suspected that they might be one of the reasons why we weren’t swarmed with mosquitos).
At around a quarter-mile from the trailhead, we stood in front of an intermediate waterfall where our guide ground up three different hued rocks so we could put “Taino war paint” on ourselves.
From there, the path became increasingly more rocky (i.e. slippery) as we pretty much skirted by and crossed the stream several times.
Eventually after about 3/4-mile from the trailhead, the trail pretty much clung to slippery rock ledges as it skirted by a murky plunge pool while providing our first glimpses of the impressive Charco Prieto Waterfall.
The waterfall actually consisted of a lower cascade spilling into a murky pool backed by a much larger upper waterfall.
By the way, the adjective prieto is slang for “dark”, which refers to murkiness of the natural pool or charco fronting the lower drop of the waterfall (a consequence of the surrounding soil eroding into the water).
In order to access the base of the main waterfall, we had to scale the lower waterfall while clinging to a slippery, rocky ledge, which was very tricky.
Even though there was some rope nearby for a little more support and balance, I definitely appreciated Jesús advising us where to properly place our feet at each step to get through this section (especially since I carried a pack with some electronics).
Once we were at the base of the main falls at around 11:15am, we had about a half-hour to enjoy the falls.
Even though the main waterfall had a somewhat light (but still satisfactory) flow, I actually appreciated the fact that if it had more water, then the hike and scramble would be even more difficult.
Anyways, some people opted to wade in the clearer plunge pool before the waterfall while others did a slippery scramble right up to the falls itself for a bit of a cold shower.
During our time at the falls, we experienced a pair of mild tropical squalls (making me glad I had brought my rain poncho to protect my gear).
We headed back knowing that it would only get worse as the afternoon thunderstorms continued to organize and conspire to make the already slippery surfaces even more so with the rain.
Eventually, we’d go back the way we came and return to the parked van at around 12:40pm, or roughly 2.5 hours after arriving here.
Charco Prieto resides in the municipality of Bayamón though most people would stay in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I couldn’t tell if access to this waterfall involved going through private property, but it didn’t seem to be protected by a reserve nor any official authority. It felt like this trail was public as it was neither gated nor did someone collect a fee during our visit.
Since I booked a tour for the Charco Prieto Waterfall, I can’t give directions the way I normally would since I didn’t do the driving and experienced the conditions myself.
However, I did log the breadcrumbs on my GPS app, I can suggest perhaps the most straightforward route based on our trip history.
So to that end, I can say that we would take the PR-22 from San Juan and exit onto the PR-5.
Then, we’d drive on the PR-5 before connecting with the PR-167, and we’d follow the PR-167 to the PR-812.
By this time, we’d be well into the hills of Bayamón, and we’d have to deal with winding, narrow roads.
The PR-812 would eventually connect with the PR-879 before turning left onto the lane leading to the Charco Prieto Trailhead, which sat towards the bottom of a steep hill about 1/4-mile after leaving the PR-879.
This drive took us roughly 45 minutes without traffic, but just to give you an idea of how bad traffic had gotten for us, it took us about 2 hours to return to San Juan!
Overall, San Juan was about 59km (typically an hour drive) west of Fajardo, about 117km (around 1.5 hours drive) northeast of Ponce, about 132km (around 2 hours drive) east of Aguadilla, and 191km (about 2.5 hours drive) northeast of Mayaguez.
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