Let Your Troubles Float Away at La Zanja
We love when we can find something nice to explore that is close to our home. And, in this age of internet, the neat, “lesser known” places become famous almost over night. La Zanja (“the Trench”, in English) is one of those places. Once photos started being posted on social media, it immediately goes on everyone’s must-visit list. Now, you’re lucky if you can be there alone.
Located in Fajardo, on the northeastern-most tip of Puerto Rico, right along the rugged coast, this little pool is a hidden gem. It is in Las Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve property, so it is not accessible by car. Getting there is a bit of a walk, but La Zanja is so pretty, it is worth the hike.
Let’s get this out of the way up-front — Before you all start leaving us comments blaming us for “spoiling” another secret place, let’s be real … La Zanja is not a secret anymore. It has a Facebook page. It has been written about in newspapers, blogs, and there are plenty of YouTube videos. There has been a pin on Google Maps, for over a year, showing the exact location. So, we’re not giving away any secrets here. We’re just telling you about our hike to this pretty place.
We hoped to be the only ones there, so we got an early start on a weekday in June, before the “summer rush” started. The starting point for this hike is at the malecon in Fajardo. There may be parking on the street, but if not, pay to park at Seven Seas beach and walk from there.
You will be walking along the beach heading north-east. This long stretch of beach is known as Playa La Matita. It is a great beach area to just hang out, enjoy the calm water, and even try some snorkeling . But I digress …
Continue walking along the beach until the sand ends. You will notice a trail just at the water’s edge that will lead you into the trees in the right direction. Your goal is the rock mountain at the end of this area. The trail weaves through the trees and eventually dumps you back onto the beach, where it is a very rocky. You’ll continue down the beach until it ends.
At this point, you need to make a decision: You either continue along the rocks, at the water’s edge, or you take the trail into the trees to your right. Continuing along the rocks is more scenic, but is also more difficult, slippery, possibly wet, and takes longer. No matter which path your choose, you’ll end up at the same spot eventually.
If you chose to continue along the rocks, you’ll need to go in and out of the water, and climb over boulders until you get to the very tip. Once there, you will see a path that leads up the hill from the beach. While you’re here, take the time to enjoy this area, and the sea birds that visit. It’s really pretty.
Follow that path upward, and then along the hill to the east. There are a number of paths that criss-cross the hill, but they all seem to lead to the same spot — the top of the trench.
Going back to the spot you needed to make a decision on the beach … If you opted to not follow the rocks along the water’s edge, but instead opted to take the path into the trees … here’s some info for you …
The trail from the beach leads into Las Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve. This is private land, owned by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. They have a sign posted at the beginning of the trail that says it is for all to enjoy and to keep it clean — so I assume it is OK to use. This trail leads to a paved road inside the nature reserve. Once you get to the road, turn left and walk to the rocky beach. On the beach, turn left again and head west. You’ll find a trail at the west end of the rocky beach that leads up the hill to the top of the trench.
OK … whether to took the rocky path along the water, or the trail through the trees, we’re all at the same spot now … at the top of La Zanja.
From the top of the trench, you need to carefully make your way down the rocks, about 30 feet, to the water. At the bottom, there is a cave, which is great because it gives you a nice dry and shady spot to keep your stuff dry and to relax. The floor of the cave is rocks, so having water shoes is a good idea.
The water in La Zanja is inviting. It’s a nice pool but there are some larger rocks that are close to surface, so floating is better than trying to swim/kick. And jumping or diving is definitely a bad idea. There are rocks at the mouth of La Zanga that keep most of the rough northern swells out, but not all, so you need to be careful of the current. When we went, the waves were pretty big, so there was a bit of a current trying to wash you in and suck you out. But we stayed closer to the cave and we were fine.
We had snorkel gear with us and were surprised that there were fish in the trench and that there were no sea urchins. We spent an hour or so here, enjoying the area.
Please make sure not to litter and if you see any trash, please pick it up and take it out with you so we can all preserve and enjoy the beauty of Puerto Rico.
The ocean on the north side of the island can be rough, especially in the winter, or when there is a storm in the area. Don’t be stupid near the water. Help is a far way away, and you may not have mobile phone service once you get out onto the rocks.
The hike from the malecon to La Zanja is 45-60 minutes, over rocks, through water, and there are some low cactus once you get onto the hill. Wear closed-toe shoes like sneakers that can get wet, or at least water shoes. Sunscreen, hat, and plenty of water to drink are all required.
This hike is definitely NOT for everyone. No matter which way you go, you’ll be walking about an hour in the full sun, climbing rocks, and climbing down about 30-feet of rock wall to get to the water.
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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!