Hurricane Sam (updated 24 Sep 2021 @ 8am)
📍 Hurricane Sam is expected to strengthen to a "major" hurricane (Category 3) on Friday night or Saturday. The current forecast projection has the storm passing to the northeast of Puerto Rico. We will be keeping an eye on this system over coming days to monitor its development.
🌊 Expect storm surge from the hurricane to affect our beaches, especially on the north and east sides of the island, during the first half of the coming week.
🌦️ Keep an eye on our weather page for updates from the National Hurricane Center
Temporary Mandates from 02 Sep to 14 Oct 2021 (updated 20 Sep 2021)
😷 Masks covering mouth & nose are required for everyone, regardess of vaccination status, in public, indoor spaces, and in outdoor spaces where 50 or more people are gathered.
🛒 Restaurants, bars, and stores must remain closed from 12 midnight to 5am. This limitation does not apply to supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, food take out and delivery, or healthcare.
🍺 Alcohol cannot be sold anywhere, nor consumed in public, from 12 midnight to 5am.
🚩 Effective 02 Sep to 14 Oct 2021 per executive order EO-2021-065. Note that this executive order was extended until 14 Oct on 20 Sep.
Current COVID-19 Mandates, with no end date (updated 30 Aug 2021)
😷 Masks covering mouth & nose are required for everyone, regardess of vaccination status, in public, indoor spaces.
🏨 In order to check-in to any lodging facility (short-term rentals, AirBNB, hotels, resorts, etc), all members of your party are required to show either (a) vaccination card showing that you are "fully vaccinated", (b) negative test results of test administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival, or (c) evidence of positive test in last 3 months along with documentation proving your recovery. This applies to all people 2 (two) years old and older. If you are unvaccinated and staying more than a week, you are required to show new negative test results weekly. Effective 16 Aug 2021 per executive order EO-2021-062.
🍔 In order to be admitted to a bunch of different places (restaurants, bars, theaters, tours, excursions, casinos, etc) you are required to show either (a) vaccination card showing that you are "fully vaccinated", (b) negative test results of test administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival, or (c) evidence of positive test in last 3 months along with documentation proving your recovery. Other types of businesses may, at their option, require this documention to access their facility.This applies to all people 12 (twelve) years old and older. Effective 23 Aug 2021 per executive order EO-2021-063.
✈️ All domestic travelers arriving in Puerto Rico are are required to show either (a) vaccination card showing that you are "fully vaccinated", (b) negative test results of test administered no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival, or (c) evidence of positive test in last 3 months along with documentation proving your recovery. This applies to all people 2 (two) years old and older.If you are un-vaccinated and do not have negative results when you arrive to PR, you have 48 hours to produce those results. Otherwise you will be fined $300 per person. See the PR Government Travel Safe site for details, and to submit your contact tracing information

Charco Azul and Cuevas Arenales

The area is open. There is now a few tours that also use the area and can show you some really cool places here.

There is now a neighbor at the top of the hill (on the right just after the concrete turnoff) that offers supervised parking ($3). I HIGHLY recommend parking here. This makes this trip much safer. So worth the money for your piece of mind!

After exploring Puerto Rico since 2003, and writing about it here since 2007, I still find some beautiful sites that just amaze me. Charco Azul & Cuevas Arenales (Blue Pool & Sand Cave) in Vega Baja is one of these places.

Located less than an hour’s drive from of San Juan, this little area looks like it is from another planet or era. Millions of years of rain and river water has carved these rocks into beautifully odd formations. It is a great place to spend a few hours cooling off.

The Cat is Out of the Bag

In late 2014, this local “secret” started getting a lot of social media interest, and some television coverage. The photos were so cool looking, of course we had to check it out! I will tell you, the photos do not do it justice. You really have to see it in person. This area is other worldly looking.

Sometimes called Charco los Murielogos de las Cuevas Arenales (loosely translated as Pool of the Bats at Sand Caves), this area has cave-like rock formations, a Charco Azul (or blue-water “swimming hole”), and a blue-water river area.

Charco Azul and Cuevas Arenales

Swimming Through the Caves

After you park your car, you walk past the water company pumping station to the end of the road. Continue to the the end of the trail that leads you right into the ankle-deep river, then continue upriver (to the right) for just a few minutes more. You see the pool and the rocks.

The Charco Azul is a deep swimming area just under the “caves”. People jump from all heights into this pool. The river winds itself through the “Caves” (really this is just really tall rock formations, eroded by the river and rain over millions of years). I think swimming through the rock channel was one of the coolest parts — just lazily floating along, and gazing at the unusual and beautiful rock formations. Water trickles down through the rock even in dry weather, and you can see loads of “flowstones” forming on the walls.

This area is really more like overhangs (open on one side). We walked through them, though doing this requires good footing (and good footwear) and a little climbing skills.

They are interesting, but I think going the water way through here was prettier. Once through the rock area, the river goes back to being just a river, with high rock walls on each side. There was one rock-face that had lots of Golondrinas’ (birds that are similar to Barn Swallows) nest on it. I hear there are also a few petroglyphs on the cave walls, but I did not notice any.

Charco Azul and Cuevas Arenales

While we were there, we met a nice young local guy (Michael) who is working on his degree to be a tour guide, and show Puerto Rico off to the world! He volunteered to take us down-river to where the river falls into an underground cave (the real Cuevas Arenales that the area is named after). He said it was a really cool area. Michael said he and his friends go into the river on the lower side of these subterranean caves and climb up-river to this opening.

He also told us about the trail that goes off behind the water company pump that leads to more cool rock formation areas. This second trail and river area was empty except for us. A little less impressive, but peaceful. Still worth a visit. We didn’t think it would be safe to try to explore and visit a dark underground cave with a river running through it alone, so we left that for a future tour.

Charco Azul and Cuevas Arenales

Really Important Info

Pay close attention to this section, even if you don’t pay attention to anything else we’ve written here

This whole area is at the bottom of a dead-end, single-lane, steep road that the water company uses to reach their pumping station and dam. Because of the recent exposure on social media, this area will get more and more popular, crowded, and difficult to access. It is a very steep and slippery hill to get down/up.

  1. This area is probably not for little kids or the elderly. The walk down to the river is about 10-15 minutes, the pools are deep, and the road, caves, and rocks are slippery and dangerous if you slip or fall.
  2. As tempting as it is, do not take your car down to the bottom of the hill. As you drive down, you’ll be on a blacktop/asphalt road. At one point, there is a right-hand turn onto a concrete/cement road. Do not drive onto this concrete road, and if you ignore that warning, do not drive past the blue water company gate. Park where we put the “parking” mark on the map below. The concrete road is too steep for a regular car to make it back up easily. We know. It happened to us. And we were warned about it (after we had driven down to the bottom of the hill). Park on the blacktop (or better yet- pay to park in the yard), and walk down to the river.
  3. Ok … If you ignored point #2, when you get ready to leave, you will need to back up car up the entire hill in reverse (assuming your car is front-wheel drive, as most are today) to get it back to the road. Take our word for it … not a fun way to end your visit!
  4. Leave NOTHING of value in your car…..maybe even leave it open. Smash and grabs occasionally happen here.
  5. As we’ve mentioned, the concrete part of the road is steep and (oddly) really slippery, even when dry. Not only don’t car tires grab, neither do most shoes … besides ourselves, we saw a number of other people slip and fall on the way up and down. Please be careful.
  6. Go early in the day. This area gets busier as day goes on, parking is limited, and the roads are narrow, making getting out difficult.
  7. Please keep the area clean. It seems the local area thugs use this area to dump (allegedly) stolen cars and burn them. But there was also a bunch of other “day tripper” trash when we were there. Please clean up after yourselves (and others), and take the trash out with you.

Charco Azul and Cuevas Arenales


Allow about 45 minutes to drive from the San Juan area.

I found a tour company that leads tours of the area NaturHabitat Eco Tours. We have used them, and recommend a tour of the area. They take you underground, through the caves. If you want more info, contact them on their Facebook page.

From the San Juan area, take Route 22 west to Exit 35. Then take Route 160 South to KM 10.8. Look for a sign that says “Bienvenidos a La Gallera” — but the “G” is missing (so it reads more like “Bienvenidos a La  allera”), then just after that, turn right onto Calle Andre Sierra Torres and follow road down. There were (homemade, wooden) signs for the “Rio” posted along the way to help you stay on correct road. The road goes down, and there were a few forks along the way — so stay to the right, then left, then right at the forks. Or just follow the signs … that’s what we did. Once you park, walk down the concrete road, turn left at the water pumping station, then head right toward the river.

Park on the blacktop road, before the concrete part of the road (and definitely before the blue gate) and walk down, wear shoes with good traction … that hill is slippery.

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 ... 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 20 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Love your advice! Made me laugh when you said "even if you ignore ...." Thank you for your time and advice... will visit Charco Azul today!!!

Comment by Marcos Lopez on 13 May 2019

The GPS coordinates are correct for this spot.

Comment by Gwenn on 01 May 2019

Google coordinates given at the end are for a different Charco azul on the Northern part of PR. Follow the road numbers as stated and won't be any trouble finding the place ??

Comment by Julio De Jesus on 30 Apr 2019

This place is pretty amazing! However, it is overrun by screeching teens when we went, and the water is murky in spots. The water is warmer the typical mountain streams, which was nice. I will go back when the teens are not there. It looks like families welcome.

Comment by Tom Drum on 17 Apr 2019

We have never used them, but a new company NaturHabitat eco tours ( does tours there.

Comment by Gwenn on 20 Jun 2018

Anyone knows where I can book a tour to go to this place for a day trip from san juan? don't know how to drive so kind of have to book a tour

Comment by Ruby on 19 Jun 2018

I am not sure about individuals , but I know I saw a tour group that uses the area offering tours.

Comment by Gwenn on 06 Mar 2018

Anyone know if it has been opened?

Comment by Michael Trotter on 06 Mar 2018

Thanks for the update.

Comment by Gwenn on 30 Dec 2017

Tried to get down there today and unfortunately it's been closed since Maria because of safety reasons.

Comment by Emilia Majersik on 29 Dec 2017

Thanks Gwenn. I will do that. :-)

Comment by Tony S on 07 Feb 2017

"Safe"- well if you pay for the ride to the river, then that slippery walk down the hill is not a problem. You can decide how much you want your kids climbing on the cave sides and go with them to make sure they are ok. The water is deep in spots. One must always watch the river/weather for flash floods if weather is bad in the area. But with precaution, I think you are ok.

Comment by Gwenn on 03 Feb 2017

Question: I am planning to visit PR in mid Feb this year with my family wife & two boys 11 & 6. Would this be a good place to go experience the nature without any risk? We will rent a car and of course follow all the instructions suggestions on this article. Asking because the article suggests "This area is probably not for little kids or the elderly."

Comment by Tony S on 02 Feb 2017

I went yesterday with my brother and my nephew. I highly recommend the parking on top. We went early and it was empty. Exploring we end up at the end of the trail. I had the chance to put my car facing out before park. By the time we left, some cars did not have the space to turn their cars before park, and I guess it was going to be difficult for them to leave. A minivan had trouble to go up the hill when they were leaving. We drove my 4Runner, and we have no trouble, but need to clarify it was a dry sunny day. On wet surface is another story. Plus you don't know if there is somebody coming down and there is no space for 2 cars, meaning you will have to go backwards and do it again. Highly recommended the parking for $3 USD, the rest is well explained in this articles. The only thing is that I am comparing the pictures here with mines, and we found less green on the entrance of the cave, which I think is a more cool view for a cave (the brown dirt one). Great article as usual!!

Comment by Francisco on 11 Jun 2016

Great details about parking and how to get to the actual river. The road to get here is super curvy and narrow. I can vouch for the fact that the nice neighbor charges 3$ for parking and is outside tinkering in his yard. I wore minimal sneakers while I swam so I could explore a bit on the rocks. Water shoes would be ideal. We didn't have issues with the concrete being slippery, but I could see if it rained, that it may be slippery. The locals drove their SUVs through the shallow part of the river and set up "shop" with a BBQ and music. (Tried to imagine what it would like within this)! I went on a Tuesday afternoon.

Comment by Shannon on 24 May 2016

I went here back in February, left my car up the top of the hill and returned to it with the window smashed and front grill broken. Nothing was taken from my car, just the damage done. It is a beautiful spot but unfortunately I will no longer be returning here due to the lack of security.

Comment by Leah on 15 Apr 2016

Thank you so much for sharing this place! I went today (Jan-1-2016) by myself and really enjoyed swimming through the little river. I had the place all to myself for the entire 3 hours I was there. One thing I would add for swimming in the water is that, be careful of the hidden big rocks under the water, there are a few, and I hit my legs on them a couple times, and they gave me bruises. Other than this, it was such a great experience, and I would love to go back next time I visit Puerto Rico.

Comment by Daniel Zhao on 01 Jan 2016

Awesome place. Thank you so much for the detailed directions and parking tips. We visited on a Monday, early afternoon. My husband and I had the place to ourselves for the majority of the time, joined in the beginning by a single person, and joined in the end by some locals swimming and jumping off of the "cliffs". We felt a strong spiritual presence at this spot, which may be in part to us having the land to ourselves. There are many faces and animals to be viewed in the stone areas around the water. I did see what I believed to be a petroglyph...further up the river past a couple of small rapid/super mini waterfall areas. Going upriver it was on a rock to the right, in the river...I couldn't get close to it as it began to pour on us and I had to turn around, but from what I could see it looked like a very young fetus...animal or human. It was carved into the rock with rounded edges and wasn't like any of the other things I saw in the area. Very cool. I took a picture from halfway across the river, unfortunately it's not very detailed.

Comment by Mary Torres on 20 Nov 2015

My husband and I (left kids at home) visited today, a Friday, and arrived at around 11:00. Easy to find, not a lot of people there, and WE LOVED IT! Floating in the cool water, the amazing caves, scrambling and climbing up-river after the cave just to see what was around each bend. It was a perfect day-cation. We discussed and we think we could have brought the kids (4 and 2) in their floaties to swim in the pool and through the cave but no further. Though, the hike back up to the hill would have been slow, whiney, and likely involve us carrying them portions of the way. Thanks for letting us know about this spot!

Comment by Nicole on 09 Oct 2015

It was so beautiful there.

Comment by Andrea Victoria Santana Rivera VIllanueva Galarza VIllegas on 29 Jul 2015

Leave a Comment & Continue the Discussion

All fields are required.

Your email address will not be published.
More Info
Ads & Sponsors

Other Puerto Rico Resources …

Coqui's Hideaway Rainforest Villa in Rio Grande Located in the Foothills of El Yunque