About Juan Diego Falls
Juan Diego Falls (or Cataratas Juan Diego) is another waterfall situated in the main part of the El Yunque Rainforest so it’s subject to the same access restrictions as La Coca Falls nearby.
Believe it or not, El Yunque is part of the US National Forest Service system since Puerto Rico is a US Territory even though it still feels like another country.
Anyways, Juan Diego Falls is on the Juan Diego Creek (Quebrada Juan Diego), whose well-signed trail to access it is merely a short walk from the PR-191 bridges spanning the creek.
With the popular La Mina Falls being closed during our April 2022 visit to El Yunque due to the fallout from the Hurricane Maria damage in late 2017, this limited our options in terms of visiting waterfalls in the main part of El Yunque.
So we ultimately ended up spending more time exploring Juan Diego Falls instead, and this enabled us to notice that Juan Diego Falls actually consisted of two waterfalls.
However, accessing the somewhat hidden upper tier of Juan Diego Falls required crossing the creek and then scrambling up a steep and very muddy (i.e. slippery) wall to get past the lower waterfall.
During my visit, this muddy ascent had a rope to help with pulling myself up (as well as the dicey descent back down), but I’m not sure if that rope will always be there in a condition where it can be reliably used.
Beyond the dicey and muddy rope-assisted section, the “path” remained very muddy and slippery as it descended back down to the creek where you pretty much boulder your way up to the secluded base of Juan Diego Falls’ taller, upper drop.
Apparently I learned after the fact that it was possible to access the upper waterfall via an “easier” path on the right side of the lower waterfall (though it wasn’t obvious to me where though maybe I didn’t look hard enough at the time).
Other people who have done this hike might have also used that same path to access even more cascades further upstream though I can’t say anything more about that since I didn’t do that.
Nevertheless, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of people who stop for this waterfall only stop at the lower drop of Juan Diego Falls, where some have braved a cold shower there.
However, I was the only one during our hour-long visit that made it to the upper waterfall (probably due to the dicey scramble involved).
Nevertheless, as far as how I’ve rated this waterfall in both scenery and difficulty, it reflects the entire experience of visiting both of its sections.
Had we only visited the lower waterfall, then I would probably have given the scenery more of a 1.5 and difficulty closer to a 1 as it’s very straightforward to access.
Speaking of access, there were a handful of pullout spaces around the Quebrada Juan Diego around and pair of bridges on Juan Diego Creek as well as some spillover spaces further set back from the bridges in either direction.
Juan Diego Falls resides within El Yunque National Forest near Luquillo in the Rio Grande Municipality, Puerto Rico. It is administered by the US Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.
Like with La Coca Falls, accessing Juan Diego Falls involves securing reservations and then driving into the main part of El Yunque Rainforest.
The main road that you have to take to access the main part of El Yunque Rainforest is the PR-191, which leaves the busy PR-3 road between Rio Grande and Luquillo (roughly 4 miles east of where the toll freeway PR-66 merges with PR-3).
Note that even though this is at a traffic light, it’s actually a very easy-to-miss turn so if you do happen to miss it, then turn right at the next traffic light and take the Calle Principal back towards the stop sign intersection with the PR-191.
From there, follow the PR-191 for about 5 miles where the main car park for the falls is past the bridge fronting La Coca Falls on the left.
Note that during our April 2022 visit, there was a secondary car park for La Coca Falls before (i.e. north of) the bridge fronting the falls, but it was being used as a checking station to verify if you have reservations to enter the park.
In order to secure reservations, about a month prior to our visit, we went to recreation.gov, searched for “El Yunque”, and clicked on “El Yunque Reservations”, then “Timed Reservation Ticket”.
From there, we picked a date and followed the process to pay $2 to buy and print out our reservation.
Now, most of the bookings are allocated for advanced bookings like this, but they do have a handful of last-minute 24-hour reservations though this can be quite competitive and a stressful experience.
Overall, Rio Grande is about 15km (typically under 30 minutes drive depending on traffic) west of Luquillo, about 24km (typically over 30 minutes drive) west of Fajardo, and about 39km (over 30 minutes drive depending on traffic while also using the toll PR-66) east of San Juan.
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