More Exploration in Guánica Dry Forest
The Guánica Dry Forest has loads of hiking and biking trails, and it offers a number of different sights and opportunities for viewing nature. Our most recent hike on the Ballena Trail was no exception. Besides the amazing cactus and easy bird viewing, we found small cave, ruins, and a 700-year old tree.
The Guánica Dry Forest (Bosque Seco de Guánica) is an amazing forest reserve on the south west coast of Puerto Rico. It is a dry forest, meaning that the plants and animals living there have adapted to the dry, arid environment. So, instead of lush green forest, you will see cactus and small-leaved shrubbery. The soil is primarily limestone. The air is hot, dry and salty from the proximity of the sea. The forest has many miles of trails to explore. It is such a special and unique place that it has been designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.
First off I have to admit, this hike was an accident … We had planned to hike a different trail off of Road 333. But when we saw the gate at the Ballena Trail, we assumed that we had found the trail we planned to hike. That’s what happens when you assume! Regardless, I was not disappointed in the hike we actually took.
We have done a few hikes in the Guánica Dry Forest in the past and have enjoyed them, and this time was no exception. We got there early (8am) parked at the gate on Route 333, and started walking up hill. The trail is rock/stone/earthen, so it was easy walking in sturdy shoes (sneakers). It is a pretty steep path up-hill. Along the way, there are great bird-watching opportunities. We took our time walking up the hill, checking out the cactus and other plants along the way.
As we approached the top, we found a nice, well-maintained trail that went off to the right, so we took it. It led us up to the lime caves (cueva del cal) and the sugarmill ruins that are right next to the parking lot.
NOTE – If you don’t want to hike up-hill, and you just want to see the cave and the ruins, simply drive up Road 334 to the main entrance, park, and then take the short walk from the parking lot.
We explored the caves a little. Many parts of them have fallen in. At one time, lime was mined in these caves. We also spent a little time at the sugermill ruins. The caves were pretty neat, and you can get some nice photos there.
NOTE – The caves are closed and off-limits. It is not permitted, nor safe, to enter the limestone caves.
When we finished looking around, we started back downhill toward our car. We got to a point where there was a sign for the side-trail to the Guayacán Centenario (many centuries old Guayacan tree), we took this little side hike.
The sign says it is 200 meters to the tree. This side trail starts out flat, but then gets more tricky with ups and downs and scrambling over rocks. It was the longest 200-meter trail that I have been on (it seemed much longer!). But it was worth the effort. The tree was beautiful. You can see how it has struggled to survive in this harsh environment. The roots are like artwork around all the rocks.
Once we were done with the tree, we backtracked to the main trail and continued downhill to our car. By this time, it was getting pretty hot and sunny, so we restocked our water supply. Bring plenty of water … more than you think you will need. It gets hot and thirsty here.
Across the street from where we parked was the gate to the lower part of the Ballena Trail that leads to Punta Ballenas. The walk to the beach was about ½ mile long, and I have to say I wasn’t too impressed with the beach. We walked almost to the end of the beach on the west end of the cove, picking our way through the floatsam and trash. After a while of this, we decided we were done, gave up, and walked back to the car.
Afterward, we come to find there is a really nice clean, calm beach just a little past where we stopped. If we had just walked a little further around the end of the point. DUH! We were so close. Guess we will have to go back!
We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ...
- Ballena Trail: (17.958520, -66.861850)
- Guanica Dry Forest, parking: (17.971414, -66.868768)
- Guayacán Centenario: (17.962052, -66.866201)
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!