Salt Flats & Wildlife Refuge in Cabo Rojo

Cabo Rojo Salt Flats

While the name salt flats doesn’t conjure images of a natural area, it is actually a pretty neat place. The salt flats are part of a larger wildlife refuge set aside in Cabo Rojo. There is an observation tower that over looks the salt mining operation and an interpretative center for information about the area.

As it turns out, indigenous people have been mining salt in this area for over a thousand years before the Spanish came to Puerto Rico. Salt was (and still is) a valuable commodity, so it continues to be mined in this area.

A Visit to the Salt Flats

Our first stop was at the Interpretive Center. Officially called the Centro Interpretativo de las Salinas de Cabo Rojo (CISCR), it is run by local volunteers (from Caborrojenos Pro Salud y Ambiente, Inc.) who really know the area and the salt-mining process. There are all sorts of information posters, pictures and displays in this center. The bilingual guide told us the process of salt mining.

Cabo Rojo Salt Flats

It seems the water in this area is very salty. So, using the same pits that have been used for generations, they flood the pits, and then let the wind and sun evaporate the water. This leaves very salty water behind. Salt crystals form and fall to the bottom of the pit. Once there is enough salt built up, they drain the pits of water and then scrape and scoop the salt crystals out using heavy machinery. They put the salt in large piles (which you can see in the photos). The salt is used for non-food purposes, like swimming pools, ice melting and soil amendments. Supposedly, there is a video about it in the info center, but we didn’t get a chance to see it.

After visiting the information center, we went across the street and into the observation tower to watch since they were mining the salt that day. It was a great view up there.

The Wildlife Refuge

The US Fish & Wildlife Service maintains over 1800 acres in Cabo Rojo as a National Wildlife Refuge and the salt flats have been incorporated into it. There are walking & bike trails all around in this area. This refuge is a Mecca for bird watching.

Cabo Rojo Salt Flats

The trails range in length from about 1 to 2 miles, and start right behind the interpretive center. There is a nice loop trail very close to the building that has a lot of informational signs along the way, so one can learn about the nature and wildlife of the area. Or for a fee, they offer interpretive guides that will go on the walks with you, but you need to make a reservation for this.

The wildlife refuge has many ecosystems in it — from dry forests, lagoons ranging from hyper-saline to regular marine, mangrove forests, sea grass and coral reefs. So there is a large variety of different areas, to see different animals and plants that call these areas home. One of the trails is a butterfly trail where you can see among other things … butterflies! There are also bike trails.

After one is done with the salt flats and the wildlife refuge, you might want to visit the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse or La Playuela Beach, which are both just a little farther down Road 301.

Details

The interpretive center is free. They have a donation box to help offset costs, as well as a small gift shop. Trail tours (by reservation) are $6 per adult, $4 for seniors and kids. You can walk them on your own for free.

The interpretive center is open Thursday to Sunday from 8:30am until 4:30pm, maybe be open an hour later in Sundays.

Bring bug spray and drinking water. Wear closed toe shoes, sun screen, hat and sunglasses. It is hot there!

Allow 30-60 minutes for the interpretive center and for viewing the salt mining. Allow more time if you intend to use any of the trails in the wildlife refuge. These trails can be a bird lovers paradise.

You can call 787-851-2999 for more information.

There is a composting restroom available.

The salt flats are located at Road 301 Km 11 in Cabo Rojo.

Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.

PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 9 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

When I asked a few years ago, they said they sold it in the States for non-food uses...but for things like pool/water softener salt etc. You would have to call them and ask for specific.

Comment by Gwenn on 24 Oct 2016

where to buy the salt fom cabo rojo where is distributed or what it is used for

Comment by pedro on 23 Oct 2016

is beautiful i don't understand why they don't charge for anything

Comment by dora maya on 09 Sep 2016

In middle- to high-salinity ponds, Halobacteria, which is actually a group of halophilic Archaea (sometimes called Haloarchaea), shift the colour to pink, red and orange. The hyper concentrated salt water in these flats has a large number of Halobacterium salinarum.

Comment by Gwenn on 09 Jul 2016

Ok I get it it is a very very cool place but WHY IS THE WATER PINK?

Comment by Leslie Ann Montalvo Ayala on 18 Jun 2016

I don;t know for sure, but if I remember correctly, the trails were behind the gates. But I think you could park on the street and hop the gate at the parking.

Comment by Gwenn on 23 Jan 2016

Do you know if the trails can be accessed on the days that the interpretive center is closed? Thanks!

Comment by Carol Deer on 22 Jan 2016

If you are coming out this far, DEFINITELY check out the Cabo Rojo Liighthouse and adjacent Playuela Beach. It would be a shame to be so close, and not see them. You'll have to go through a bumpy dirt road to get there, but so worth it.

Comment by Josh on 03 Sep 2011

The Cabo Rojo Salt Flats WRP (Wetland Reserve Program) is a coastal wetland that is under a USDA-NRCS WRP Conservation Easement managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Over 190 acres are delineated on the area.

Comment by Edwin Almodovar on 19 Aug 2011

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