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Two gorgeous tropical waterfalls in Puerto Rico (with HD video)
Chorro Doña Juana, Puerto Rico
Two road trips, two waterfalls
As I mentioned in a previous Hub, my wife and I love to travel outside the tourist areas of Puerto Rico to see the sights that few visitors know about. In our experience, most people associate the island of Puerto Rico with beaches, sun, and sand. And while it's true that Puerto Rico has some of the most stunning beaches in the world, there is so much more to offer. The center of the Island is covered with rugged mountains and lush tropical rain forest. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city you can stumble across some of the most exhilarating views in the world, and the price of admission is free.
Pollos Neco - a "lechonera"
The view off the deck
Chorro Doña Juana
Of the two waterfalls we visited this weekend, Doña Juana is the easiest to find. It is a bit of a drive, however, so be prepared to make it a whole day's outing.
To get to Doña Juana, you will leave San Juan on PR-22, the major highway, going Oeste (West). There are tolls along the way, so if you are renting a car, be sure to have them activate your toll-booth sticker or the rental place will pass along the (very steep) fines to you. You follow PR-22 until you get to the exit to PR-149. Take the exit to PR-149 Sur (South). From there, just follow PR-149 up through the mountain town of Ciales, where you can stop to stretch your legs and visit the beautiful central plaza. Then leaving Ciales, you will go up the winding road till you get to Pollos Neco, which is a lovely spot to stop and grab a bite to eat. They serve wonderful Puerto Rican food at very reasonable prices.
After lunch, simply follow PR-149 all the way to Doña Juana. You will pass soaring mountain vistas as well as tight, dense jungle where it seems like the forest is going to swallow the road. Don't worry, it keeps going. When you come around the curve and see the waterfall, it will take your breath away! There is a spot there to pull over and park.
One nice thing about Chorro Doña Juana is that it is well known to the locals, and they are happy (and often a bit flattered) to see visitors there. Even though the waterfall is by the side of the road, they are usually very careful to cross that bridge slowly, mindful that visitors may be crossing it on foot.
If you plan to swim in the pool, do bear in mind that the water is frigidly cold. My (admittedly nonofficial) thermometer pegged it at 49 degrees, which is colder than you might think. Also, the rocks around it can be a very slippery. So bring your towel, a change of warm clothes, and swimming shoes.
Here is the video we shot:
Chorro Doña Juana (HD)
You park here
Barrio la Planta, Arecibo
The second waterfall we visited is in Barrio la Planta, Arecibo. This municipality is to the far north of Puerto Rico, and getting there is slightly harder. You really have to keep your eyes peeled not to pass it and go whizzing on by to the town of Utuado.
To get to Barrio la Planta, take PR-22 Oeste (West) out of San Juan. You will go a lot further on PR-22 than for Doña Juana. You'll pass a huge shopping center called Barceloneta Outlet. Keep going till you reach the exit to PR-10. There are two exits, so be sure to take the PR-10 exit Sur (south). Now you will need to keep your eyes very well peeled, so drive a little slower. You will pass under an overpass right off the highway, then a small area with cattle and a ferretería, or hardware store. There will be another boca calle (head of a street) with a sign for a neighborhood. Pass that. At the second boca calle, you will see a sign for a "Comunidad la Planta" or something like that. Turn in there and follow the street all the way to the end. (See the map below for directions this far.) At the end of that street, you will pass a covered basketball court. Just beyond that, take the right-hand turn. It is a very narrow road from here. You will need to dodge sleepy dogs and strutting chickens. Follow it to the small fork, where you take a left and then find parking right by the old electric plant (pictured). From there, it's a short walk on a trail to the beach and waterfall.
Depending on the day, the place may be completely quiet, like in our video (we took it Christmas morning), or it may be full of locals swimming, fishing, and barbecuing. Either way, they are likely to be very friendly and want to know how you found the place. If you don't speak Spanish, don't worry. Someone will speak English. We've gotten more than one invitation to have lunch with people. Like with the waterfall above, we find that the locals are super excited to see visitors from outside visit, and often are flattered.
Barrio la Planta (HD)
Map to the above waterfall - this will get you to the general neighborhood - See the above directions for specifics
A beautiful freshwater beach and waterfall.
Bonus trip: Cueva Ventana
When you leave Barrio la Planta, keep going up PR-10 North just a mile or two and you will come to another gorgeous sight, Cueva Ventana (Cave of the Window). It's called this because you walk through a dark, damp cave that suddenly opens into a spectacular window in the side of a cliff. Out of this window, you see across a verdant valley to a river sparkling at the bottom. It feels a thousand miles from normal, like a scene from the movie "Avatar."
Back when we discovered Cueva Ventana, it was an unknown site and there was no official anything there, but these days it got on the map thanks to Justin Timberlake. He shot part of Runner Runner there. Thanks a lot, buddy. So now there's a small entrance fee, which is worth it.