Charco Prieto Waterfall (Posa Negra or Posa Prieta)

Barrio Nuevo / San Juan, Bayamon, Puerto Rico

About Charco Prieto Waterfall (Posa Negra or Posa Prieta)


Hiking Distance: about 2 miles round trip; tricky scramble at end
Suggested Time: allow at least 2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2022-04-16
Date last visited: 2022-04-16

Waterfall Latitude: 18.28379
Waterfall Longitude: -66.18429

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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).

Charco_Prieto_110_04162022 - The Charco Prieto Waterfall (also known as Posa Prieta or Posa Negra)
The Charco Prieto Waterfall (also known as Posa Prieta or Posa Negra)

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.

Charco_Prieto_009_04162022 - Looking out towards San Juan from a mirador in the hills of Bayamón
Looking out towards San Juan from a mirador in the hills of Bayamón

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).

Charco_Prieto_179_04162022 - Arriving at the Charco Prieto Trailhead, which was actually quite busy when we did this hike on the day before Easter Sunday
Arriving at the Charco Prieto Trailhead, which was actually quite busy when we did this hike on the day before Easter Sunday

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

Charco_Prieto_028_04162022 - Jesús pointing out a plant with spiky leaves that can give you a neurotoxic sting if it punctures you
Jesús pointing out a plant with spiky leaves that can give you a neurotoxic sting if it punctures you

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.

Charco_Prieto_036_04162022 - The tour group following a fairly well-defined use-trail leading to the Charco Prieto Waterfall
The tour group following a fairly well-defined use-trail leading to the Charco Prieto Waterfall

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.

Charco_Prieto_069_04162022 - One of the intermediate waterfalls that we had to climb past to continue towards Charco Prieto
One of the intermediate waterfalls that we had to climb past to continue towards Charco Prieto

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.

Charco_Prieto_102_04162022 - Context of the tricky scramble around the Charco Prieto (the dark pool below) and up the lower cascade before reaching the main waterfall
Context of the tricky scramble around the Charco Prieto (the dark pool below) and up the lower cascade before reaching the main waterfall

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.

Charco_Prieto_145_04162022 - The main upper drop of the Charco Prieto Waterfall (or Posa Prieta or Posa Negra)
The main upper drop of the Charco Prieto Waterfall (or Posa Prieta or Posa Negra)

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.

Authorities

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.

Charco_Prieto_005_04162022 - Jesús explaining some things about San Juan while at this mirador in Bayamón
Charco_Prieto_006_04162022 - Zoomed in on the peninsula containing Viejo San Juan as seen from the mirador that we stopped at in the hills of Bayamón
Charco_Prieto_011_04162022 - This was the remnants of the third fort (the only one outside of Viejo San Juan) that once served as an early-warning lookout
Charco_Prieto_015_04162022 - Looking up at the narrow lane leading towards the Charco Prieto Trailhead
Charco_Prieto_016_04162022 - The tour group preparing to do the hike to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_018_04162022 - Close-up look at one of the ubiquitous banana plants seen on the way to the Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_029_04162022 - Jesús showing us a gecko, which I suspect was one of the key reasons why we weren't really eaten up by mosquitos during this excursion
Charco_Prieto_031_04162022 - The tour group starting at the Charco Prieto Trailhead
Charco_Prieto_034_04162022 - The group following a pretty well-defined trail leading to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_037_04162022 - The group traversing the first stream crossing on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_039_04162022 - The group continuing along the jungle trail leading to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_041_04162022 - The group continuing to go through the lush jungle scenery on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_042_04162022 - The group negotiating some of the muddy and slippery terrain on the Charco Prieto Trail
Charco_Prieto_043_04162022 - When the sun came out, the Charco Prieto hike became a lot hotter and muggier
Charco_Prieto_044_04162022 - The group continuing to skirt alongside the stream with its intermediate cascades and minor pools
Charco_Prieto_046_04162022 - The group being careful with this particularly rocky and slippery traverse on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_048_04162022 - The group still staying on the trail skirting alongside the stream leading to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_054_04162022 - The group about to pause for Jesús grounding up some Taino war paint that we got to apply on ourselves
Charco_Prieto_059_04162022 - Closer look at three different hues that we used from the naturally-occurring rocks along the stream responsible for Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_062_04162022 - Jesús leading us past this pool and intermediate waterfall to continue towards Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_067_04162022 - The group approaching the next notable intermediate waterfall on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_073_04162022 - Some parts of the Charco Prieto hike involved traversing fallen tree obstacles in addition to creek crossings and slippery boulder scrambles
Charco_Prieto_075_04162022 - Jesús traversing through more lush jungle scenery on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_081_04162022 - The Charco Prieto hike becoming more challenging as we had to climb and cross more rocky terrain by cascades
Charco_Prieto_089_04162022 - Jesús aiding us as we were negotiating more slippery bouldering obstacles on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_094_04162022 - Yet more stream crossings on the way to Charco Prieto
Charco_Prieto_098_04162022 - The group now pretty much traversing slippery rocky terrain as the canyon narrowed in the closer we got to the Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_100_04162022 - Our first glimpse at the Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_107_04162022 - Closer look at the group negotiating the trickiest of obstacles as we tried to access the base of the main Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_108_04162022 - Full context of the upper waterfall and lower waterfall with the group dealing with the trickiest part of the scramble by the lower Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_110_04162022 - Finally making it to the base of the Upper Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_113_04162022 - One person cooling off in the wading pool at the base of the Charco Prieto Waterfall
Charco_Prieto_123_04162022 - Some people opted to scramble to the cold shower at the base of the main Charco Prieto Waterfall while others opted to cool off in the wading pool
Charco_Prieto_124_04162022 - Another look at the full height of the upper Charco Prieto Waterfall with some people at its base for a sense of scale
Charco_Prieto_137_04162022 - Angled look up at Charco Prieto Waterfall while we sought shelter beneath a fallen boulder when a brief squall blew by
Charco_Prieto_140_04162022 - Last look at the Charco Prieto Waterfall from its base before we started to head back down
Charco_Prieto_150_04162022 - As tricky as it was going up alongside the lower cascade, I found it even trickier to go back down
Charco_Prieto_151_04162022 - Tour participant Chris (sp?) helping out a fellow participant Sarah in a particularly dicey part of the scramble
Charco_Prieto_156_04162022 - Last look back across Charco Prieto before doing the return hike in earnest
Charco_Prieto_159_04162022 - Context of the return hike as we were somewhat familiar with the trail at this point
Charco_Prieto_162_04162022 - Except for one part where the group that was way ahead took a harder way while Jesús caught up to them guiding the stragglers on an easier path
Charco_Prieto_166_04162022 - Negotiating more slippery stream crossings on the way back to the Charco Prieto Trailhead
Charco_Prieto_167_04162022 - It's so lush yet humid in the jungle that I noticed some fallen trees had fungus growing out of them
Charco_Prieto_169_04162022 - Closer look at the reddish wood of mahogany seen along the Charco Prieto Trail
Charco_Prieto_170_04162022 - Closeup of a hydrophobic leaf that really looked like it would be a very useful resource for primitive shelter building
Charco_Prieto_173_04162022 - The group finally making it back to the Charco Prieto Trailhead
Charco_Prieto_175_04162022 - When we returned to the Charco Prieto Trailhead, the parking situation seemed to have become even more busier despite threatening afternoon thundershowers
Charco_Prieto_016_iPhone_04162022 - Intense traffic on the way to San Juan, which really doubled (maybe tripled) the drive time compared to this morning


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.

Charco_Prieto_015_iPhone_04162022 - Looking back at the parking situation for Charco Prieto at the base of the hill as seen from the trailhead
Looking back at the parking situation for Charco Prieto at the base of the hill as seen from the trailhead

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.

Charco_Prieto_017_iPhone_04162022 - Traffic in San Juan can get really intense, especially during Semana Santa (Easter Week)
Traffic in San Juan can get really intense, especially during Semana Santa (Easter Week)

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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Downstream to upstream sweep starting with people doing dicey rock scramble by the lower cascade before ending at the main drop


Sweep starting with a wading pool before panning up the main drop of Charco Prieto and some people climbing towards the shower


Downstream to upstream sweep of the dark murky pool fronting a cascade before the foot of the main Charco Prieto


Second intermediate waterfall on the way up to Charco Prieto


Intermediate cascade on the way to the Charco Prieto

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Tagged with: posa negra, posa prieta, bayamon, san juan waterfalls, northern puerto rico, puerto rico



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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