About Salto Santa Clara
Salto Santa Clara was perhaps one of the more remote yet most scenic of the waterfalls that we’ve visited in Puerto Rico.
It was situated towards the southwestern mountains of the island closest to the town of Yauco, which I’d imagine is an area that doesn’t really see that many visitors.
Nevertheless, the waterfall featured a tall pitchfork (or tuning fork) shape that I’m guessing dropped at least over 40m or so, and this doesn’t include its upper cascades that can’t be seen from its base.
For such a remote and off-the-beaten-path waterfall, you’d think that accessing it would also be an adventurous (i.e. challenging) scramble.
However, the landowners nearest to the trailhead did a remarkable job providing signage to keep us on track all the way from the mountain roads leading to the trailhead to the actual waterfall itself.
Heck, they not only set up signs at all the strategic junctions or possible confusion spots, but they also provided rock cairns at one key stream crossing as well as steel cables to aid in the steepest sections of the trail.
That said, for such welcoming infrastructure, the GPS routing on both the iPhone as well as on our Garmin conspired to lead us astray.
So we definitely had to pay particular attention to where we were going as we followed our breadcrumbs on Gaia GPS (see directions below).
Hiking To Salto Santa Clara
From the Salto Santa Clara Trailhead, which was at the end of a rural road where there were a couple of residences (one of which had a curious, territorial dog), I followed a sign that directed me to walk down a 4wd road.
This road descended for about 0.2-mile before crossing a stream at the bottom, then climbing briefly 0.1-mile to a road switchback.
At this switchback, a sign directed me to leave the 4wd road and go onto a legitimate hiking trail where it descended over a run of about 500ft before crossing the Río Prieto (there was a rock cairn here).
On the other side of the river, the trail then skirted its northern banks for about 0.2-mile as both snakes and geckos seemed to scurry this way and that (as evidenced by the rustling of foliage whenever I would pass by).
Eventually, the scenery would open up again as I approached a series of intermediate cascades seemingly about to spill over a significant drop further downstream.
It was here that I realized that I was at the top of Salto Santa Clara, and I also noticed there was a steel cable that seemed to beckon me to descend directly down this waterfall!
Fortunately, I spotted another trail that veered further inland, and it took a longer more gradual approach with a different steel-cable-aided descent before eventually leading down to the banks of the Prieto River nearby the base of Salto Santa Clara.
Ultimately, I’d reach the base of the Salto Santa Clara Waterfall as well as the bottom of the steel cable for the dicey direct descent, and it took me about 45 minutes to get down here.
I noticed that there were more rocks and the sound of cascading water further downstream from the main waterfall, but I was content to just bask in the three-sided alcove enclosing this pitchfork-shaped waterfall.
Speaking of the three-sided alcove, this kind of reminded me of another waterfall that was surrounded on three sides by vertical walls, which was the Tiefen Waterfall in Taiwan.
With the presence of some boulders at the base of the falls, I’m sure the vertical walls meant there would always be the potential for rockfalls and landslides.
That’s something to consider should you choose to linger here and go for a wade or a swim.
Anyways, after having my fill of this spot, I returned the way I came, which took me another 45 minutes to return, especially since the hike was pretty much all uphill on the way back.
Now it’s worth noting that although I appreciated the work that went into making this trail as friendly and inviting as it was, I’d imagine that eventually there might come a day where the owners might ask for payment for their trouble.
I didn’t have to do it on my visit in April 2022, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time as this place might gain more notoriety with time.
Salto Santa Clara resides in the municipality of Yauco, which is near Ponce, Puerto Rico. Parking and access to this waterfall is on private property. From what I could tell, there is no official website nor Instagram page so you may not be able to know the current conditions without actually going there yourself.
We managed to reach the Salto Santa Clara from Maricao to the west even though it was probably more straightforward to access it from Yauco from the south.
Had we driven up from Yauco, all we’d have to do is to leave the PR-2 onto the PR-128 exit, and then take the PR-372 all the way to the access road and trailhead for Salto Santa Clara.
This drive would take about 19km after leaving the PR-2, and it would take over 30 minutes due to the twisting and winding nature of the PR-372 road.
As for the Maricao approach, we basically followed the PR-105 Road (part of the Ruta Panoramica) for about 10km or so before going south briefly on the PR-128 and then on the PR-374.
The PR-374 Road eventually joined up with the PR-372 Road in just under 6 miles (and we had to ignore the GPS that kept insisting that we go north on the PR-128), where we finally started to notice Salto Santa Clara road signs.
We then took the PR-372 north for about 1/4-mile before following the sign pointing to our left, which then took us on a narrow access road that we followed for the remaining 0.4-mile to its end at the Salto Santa Clara Trailhead.
Although GoogleMaps suggested that this drive would only take an hour, it actually took us more like 90 minutes given the twistiness of the Ruta Panoramica.
Overall, Yauco was about 35km (about 30 minutes drive) west of Ponce, about 40km (about an hour drive) southeast of Maricao, about 45km (over 30 minutes drive) southeast of Mayaguez, about 73km (roughly an hour drive) southeast of Aguadilla, and about 150km (about 2.5 hours drive) southwest of San Juan.
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