La Niebla Waterfall (La Niebla del Usabon)

La Reserva Natural Canon de San Cristobal, Barranquitas / Aibonito, Puerto Rico

About La Niebla Waterfall (La Niebla del Usabon)


Hiking Distance: about 1.5 miles round trip (slippery jungle hike)
Suggested Time: allow about 45-75 minutes

Date first visited: 2022-04-20
Date last visited: 2022-04-20

Waterfall Latitude: 18.15985
Waterfall Longitude: -66.30272

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

La Niebla Waterfall (or La Niebla del Usabón or Salto La Vaca) is perhaps the most known of the waterfalls within the Cañon de San Cristóbal, which is the deepest canyon in Puerto Rico (and quite possibly the deepest throughout the Antilles Islands).

Its notoriety is due to the claim that it’s possibly the tallest waterfall in Puerto Rico though height figures have ranged from 240ft to 300ft (or about 70m to 90m).

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_037_04202022 - La Niebla Waterfall in low flow
La Niebla Waterfall in low flow

In my experience, height figures tend to be exaggerated in order to bring attention to a particular attraction, and so I had to see this place for myself.

Anyways, the canyon is carved by the Río Usabón, which is the river that defines the boundary between municipalities of Barranquitas and Aibonito.

According to Google Maps, there’s a bit of confusion about the place names of the river as it seemed to indicate that the main river is the Aibonito River and the tributary river dropping as La Niebla Waterfall is the Barranquitas River.

Regardless of which map is accurate or not, I found that it’s possible to visit this waterfall on your own without a guide, which some locals do, especially on the weekends.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_011_04202022 - Surveying the steep canyon walls of Cañon de San Cristóbal, which was carved out by the Río Usabón
Surveying the steep canyon walls of Cañon de San Cristóbal, which was carved out by the Río Usabón

However, I went ahead and hired a guide named Ricardo from Barranquitas Taxis (who was actually a referral from Montaña Explora since they no longer did guided adventures in Cañon de San Cristóbal).

Even though my immediate goal was to visit La Niebla del Usabón Waterfall, I knew that having a guide would at least open up the possibility of extending the excursion to other hidden gems within the canyon.

I have a separate write-up for that extended excursion since it’s a bit more involved than this out-and-back hike.

The Hike To La Niebla Waterfall

After pre-arranging for the tour through Ricardo, I was picked up at around 7:45am from our accommodation in Barranquitas in his taxi.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_178_04202022 - Checking out the cultivation fields where products are grown and sold to fund the upkeep of the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve
Checking out the cultivation fields where products are grown and sold to fund the upkeep of the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve

Then, he drove me towards the south entrance of La Reserva Natural Cañon de San Cristóbal, which is also known as the “Aibonito side” (there’s also a northern entrance on the “Barranquitas side”).

Ricardo chose to do the Aibonito side because it’s a shorter hike with greater rewards than the northern side.

That said, I’d imagine that if you’re abseiling, then scaling cliffs over La Niebla Waterfall from the north and then continuing down the canyon before returning to the north side would make more sense.

Anyways, once we got to the south entrance gate, we then embarked on our hike, which passed through some plantation where locals are raising money and reforesting through the products grown here to fund and maintain the reserve.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_014_04202022 - Ricardo guiding me deeper into the thick jungle as we descended into the Cañon de San Cristóbal
Ricardo guiding me deeper into the thick jungle as we descended into the Cañon de San Cristóbal

Once we got past the fence-lined fields, we then started a steep descent into the canyon, where at about 0.2-mile from the start, we reached an overlook (mirador) of the vertical walls of Cañon de San Cristóbal.

From this vantage point, I could see that the canyon itself was thick with vegetation, and this was precisely why I thought it was wise to have a guide since he came armed with a machete as well as familiarity with the route.

I could also hear an unseen waterfall down below the mirador, which in hindsight turned out to be La Cabra Waterfall (or “Goat Falls”, which I describe in the other write-up).

Anyways, the steep trail continued its descent over a combination of rocks and mud, and we really had to watch our step.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_028_04202022 - Making it into the floor of the Cañon de San Cristóbal, where we then headed to La Niebla Waterfall
Making it into the floor of the Cañon de San Cristóbal, where we then headed to La Niebla Waterfall

Eventually after about 0.4-mile from the lookout or 0.6-mile from the gate, we reached the bottom of the canyon, where we then had to do boulder scrambling to reach the base of La Niebla Waterfall.

This slippery scramble went on for another 500ft or so, and then we were face-to-face with the impressively tall waterfall.

During the scramble, we noticed heavy machinery relics as well as tires that came from a time when people used the canyon as a dumping ground.

These days, a lot of the stuff tossed into the canyon seemed to be growing into the rocks (or vice versa) as the jungle reclaims them.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_032_04202022 - Close-up look at some machinery that was tossed into Cañon de San Cristóbal, when this place was being used as a dumping ground
Close-up look at some machinery that was tossed into Cañon de San Cristóbal, when this place was being used as a dumping ground

Anyways, as you can see from the photos on this page, La Niebla Waterfall has seen better flow at wetter times of the year (my visit happened in April 2022, which was towards the tail end of the “dry” season).

I’d imagine that the waterfall would be much thicker and more impressive during the hurricane season (though Ricardo said May has traditionally been a very wet month), but that would make the canyon hiking that much more difficult.

Overall, had we returned to the trailhead from this waterfall, the entire hike would be around an hour round-trip covering a distance of around 1.2 miles in total.

Ricardo told me that most visitors who come without a guide only do this waterfall before returning.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_043_04202022 - La Niebla Waterfall seen in low flow from across its large plunge pool
La Niebla Waterfall seen in low flow from across its large plunge pool

However, we opted to continue the hike, and we’ll pick up that description in the next write-up.

Authorities

La Niebla Waterfall resides 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.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_001_04202022 - Starting on the hike into the Cañon de San Cristóbal in pursuit of La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_002_04202022 - Looking towards the cultivation fields for both reforestation and fundraising for the reserve
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_004_04202022 - Ricardo leading me past the cultivation fields near the start of the hike down to La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_006_04202022 - Closeup look at an interesting-looking snail. Notice the thorns on the tree it was on
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_007_04202022 - Ricardo descending the steep path into the Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_008_04202022 - The vegetation was getting thicker the further down into Cañon de San Cristóbal we went. So I can appreciate why Ricard brought a machete
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_019_04202022 - Ricardo carefully descending on the steep path into Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_021_04202022 - Continuing deeper into the thick jungle within Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_023_04202022 - Looking back up at the steep and muddy terrain that we had to negotiate on our way into Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_026_04202022 - A not-so-obvious overgrown path that Ricardo had to squeeze through to continue on our hike to La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_029_04202022 - Ricardo continuing to lead me closer to La Niebla Waterfall, which I can start to see up ahead
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_030_04202022 - Ricardo going over some boulders on the side path leading to the base of La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_033_04202022 - Closer look at a discarded machine where it seemed to be blending into the surrounding rocks
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_035_04202022 - Making the final approach to the La Niebla Waterfall within Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_038_04202022 - Our first clean look at the La Niebla Waterfall from the fringes of its plunge pool
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_041_04202022 - Context of Ricardo chilling out on the 'island' closer to the base of La Niebla Waterfall. Notice there's a tire in the plunge pool, which is further evidence of how this canyon used to be a dumping ground
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_042_04202022 - Context of Ricardo checking out La Niebla Waterfall just as the sun was starting to break through the overcast skies
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_046_04202022 - Another clean look at La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_051_04202022 - Closer look at La Niebla Waterfall from the 'island' that Ricardo was chilling out at
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_053_04202022 - After having our fill of La Niebla Waterfall, it was time to wade back to the trail
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_060_04202022 - Ricardo leaving the side trail that went to La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_061_04202022 - Another engine that had been discarded into the Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_167_04202022 - Looking back into Cañon de San Cristóbal on the way back to the entrance gate
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_176_04202022 - Some attractive flowers in bloom during our hike to La Niebla Waterfall
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_179_04202022 - Returning to the residence and facility for the south entrance of Cañon de San Cristóbal
Canon_de_San_Cristobal_180_04202022 - Returning to the entrance gate and taxi to be shuttled back to our accommodation in Barranquitas


Since I hired a guide, I can’t give specific directions on how to get to the start of the hike for La Niebla Waterfall.

However, I have saved breadcrumbs of our driving route, and from that information, I can say that from Barranquitas, we took the PR-719 to the PR-162 before cutting to the east on PR-725.

Canon_de_San_Cristobal_004_iPhone_04202022 - The south entrance (Aibonito side) of the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve
The south entrance (Aibonito side) of the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve

After driving about a mile on the PR-725 we then turned left onto an access road where we went another 1/4-mile to the south entrance gate for the Cañon de San Cristóbal Reserve.

Overall, this drive from our accommodation in Barranquitas to the south entrance gate took around 15-20 minutes.

For geographical context, Barranquitas was 13km (about 20 minutes drive) northwest of Aibonito, 15km (about 30 minutes drive) southeast of Orocovis, 43km (over an hour drive) southeast of Ciales, about 31km (about an hour drive) northwest of Cayey, about 49km (around 90 minutes drive) east of Jayuya, about 65km (over an hour drive) northeast of Ponce, and about 55km (over an hour drive) southwest of San Juan.

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Downstream to upstream sweep leading up to the La Niebla Waterfall as seen from the banks of the plunge pool


Another up and down sweep of the falls, but this time it was from within the plunge pool itself

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Tagged with: canon de san cristobal, rio usabon, cordillera central, 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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