About Rio Espiritu Santo Waterfall
The Rio Espiritu Santo Waterfall was an attractive waterfall dropping in the namesake Río Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit River) into a boulder-fringed green pool that is sometimes called Charco Verde.
This waterfall actually sits on the western fringes of El Yunque National Forest along the PR-186 Road, which is far less visited than the main part of the rainforest.
Therefore, it’s not part of the reservation system that affects most of the sights along the PR-191 Road though it also sees quite a bit less maintenance (from what I could tell).
In order to experience this attractive waterfall, I first had to drive towards the road bridge spanning the Río Espiritu Santo, which is the second road bridge (the first being the one spanning Quebrada Sonada).
Once I managed to find parking near the bridge for the Holy Spirit River (see directions below), I then walked towards the far (southern) end of the bridge.
Along the way, I looked downstream towards the Atlantic Ocean over some lower cascades on the river.
However, when I looked upstream from the bridge, I not only spotted an obvious small cascade by the bridge, but I also noticed a taller, thinner waterfall partially visible further upstream against the morning sun.
In order to get a cleaner look at that waterfall, I then had to go on a short but risky boulder scramble starting on the right side of the bridge (looking upstream).
These boulders were both slippery and huge, and in fact, I had to leave my pack behind and crawl while pulling up with my upper body to get onto some of these boulder obstacles that were taller than me.
Only once I scaled the boulder field was I able to get a nice clean look at the Rio Espiritu Santo Waterfall as well as the Charco Verde below.
There seemed to be more wedged boulder obstacles preventing anyone from scrambling all the way to the base of the waterfall, but for most people, I’d imagine swimming at Charco Verde while witnessing the waterfall woudl be enough of a reward.
Even though this was essentially a roadside waterfall, it still took me around 20-30 minutes to carefully do the boulder scrambling without having a bad accident.
That gives you an idea of how risky this experience can be despite the negligible distances.
The Rio Espiritu Santo Waterfall resides within El Yunque National Forest near Rio Grande 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.
I’ll describe the driving directions to access the Rio Espiritu Santo Waterfall from both Fajardo and San Juan.
From Fajardo, I drove onto the PR-3 westbound for over 12 miles to the PR-186 turnoff (it’s the traffic light right before the one leading to the PR-66 toll freeway).
I then drove south on the PR-186 for about 5 miles before eventually reaching the bridge spanning the Rio Espiritu Santo.
Overall, this drive took me a little less than an hour, but most of the time was spent driving very carefully on the PR-186, which deteriorated significantly once it entered El Yunque Forest.
At that point, I had to deal with deep potholes and ruts as I suspected this road hadn’t seen much significant maintenance in years.
The bridge for Rio Espiritu Santo was the next bridge after the one for Quebrada Sonadora.
There’s an open grassy area for parking, but the catch is that there’s a bit of a dip between the PR-186 and that grassy area (so low clearance passenger vehicles might bottom out).
From San Juan, I’d only have to drive the PR-26 east out of the city and towards the toll freeway PR-66.
Once I got to the end of the PR-66, I’d then turn right onto the PR-3 and then shortly thereafter, turn right onto the PR-186 at the next traffic light.
From there, I’d follow the PR-186 to the Rio Espiritu Santo as instructed above.
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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