El Yunque’s Best-Kept Secret: Juan Diego Falls
Playing in a waterfall in the rainforest sounds wonderful doesn’t it? El Yunque has a few waterfalls that are really lovely and very popular. I am about to let you in on a secret – Juan Diego Falls. You can’t see them from the road, in fact to get to the largest and best ones, you have to be willing to do some off-road climbing and get muddy. But I think the reward is worth it.
Located in El Yunque National Forest at KM 9.5 on Road 191 is Quebrada Juan Diego (or Juan Diego Stream). There are two streams here- as you come up the road. When you get close to mile marker km 9.5, park in the designated areas only- keeping your tires on the inside of the white line (if parking on the road area). At the second stream, you will see the trailhead marker and a little path on the right hand side of the road (as you are coming up the road). It is really a short trail, maybe an 1/8 mile long at the most. It is uneven, occasionally muddy and slippery, and there are some rocks to step up and down from. But I think it is very doable.
As you walk along this trail, you will get to a couple of little waterfalls (maybe 6 feet tall) that have little pools to sit in and cool down. The rocks at these falls are very interesting – more vertical walls than river rocks. The falls get larger as you go up. When you come to the "end" of the trail, there is a nice large area to have a picnic and a 15-foot waterfall. It is easy to walk right into the pool and sit or stand under the waterfall.
When you get here, you’re all happy new-found spot … then you look up, you will notice a much larger waterfall! But how to get there?
This is where you need to be adventurous, physically fit and a bit foolish of a risk taker. This is where we went climbing. This part is off the official trail, so I would never suggest anyone do it. It is also not for the unprepared (no flip flops!).Back when we initially did this trail, it was best to do the “worn path” on the left-hand side of the fall. But now, 1/15 the right-hand side has a pretty “decent” path going up.
Recently (1/16) we took this trail. As we went up the right side, the first Y to the left leads to the upper Juan Diego Falls.
It is about 40 ft tall. And there is a nice "swimming" area that is very easy to just walk into to get under the falls. It is really beautiful – it rivals La Mina in size, but it does have less water volume. The best part was that it was empty except for us, and then a little a few people showed up. We were there on a Saturday at about 11:00am – when La Mina Falls is normally packed! The tranquility and beauty of enjoying nature by yourself is fantastic. I know locals know about this place, so I bet it is crowded on weekends in June/July and any holiday! Personally, I think if you do get to this beauty, you can skip La Mina Falls. The crowds at La Mina will just disappoint you.
We are really into hiking, rivers and climbing, so we went on, and on up the muddy trail. Again, this part is off the official trail, so I would never even suggest anyone do it. Do it at your own risk. The trail is pretty well used/obvious at first and later as we went up, it is smaller but someone has marked it with orange tape. There are a number of waterfalls and pools to swim in along the way. The path crosses back over to the left of the river as you go higher and higher (something to remember when coming back down!). The tape marked trail eventually ended (after about 45 mins of walking) at another nice 30 ft falls. Really pretty!
I would suggest wearing some shoes that can get muddy and wet that also have good traction.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.
- El Yunque, Juan Diego Stream: (18.312445, -65.775101)
- El Yunque, Juan Diego Trail: (18.311816, -65.777207)
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!