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Hike to Jungle Rivers & Waterfalls on La Coca Trail

Update- 10/2021 New rules- in order to visit this and the other trails and features along north RT 191 on weekends, you need to make a reservation on webpage or via mobil app.

Waterfall along La Coca Trail

For reasons that I can’t figure out, of the trails right along Road 191 in El Yunque National Forest, La Coca Trail is seemingly unknown. It is as if someone found out how beautiful it is and decided to keep it a secret! We invested some time and effort in hiking this trail, and were handsomely rewarded with rivers, waterfalls and swimming pools galore!

Not for the Faint of Heart

I will say this right off the bat — this trail is not used often, so parts of this trail is not well-maintained and it is a bit difficult, so it is NOT for the average El Yunque visitor. But if you are a hiker, or someone who is prepared for this experience, and have a sense of adventure, I feel this was a not-to-be-missed trail.

La Coca Trail is just past La Coca Falls as you are driving up Road 191. The trail head is located at about KM 8.8 on the left (eastern) side of the road. There is a small parking lot there and a trail map.

La Coca Trail map

Note — There is a trail map at the trail head. STUDY it. La Coca Trail is not on the trail map you get from the ranger’s station and the trail itself is not well-marked. We took a picture of the trail map with our digital camera so we could refer to it during the hike when we had to make a decision. But here is a tip we noticed— when you get to a river, cross it and the trail continues on the other side (this is not real obvious when you are there). There is an end-of-trail marker at the third (and final) river. Click the map to the left for a bigger map in a new window.


About the Trail

La Coca Trail

This trail starts at an elevation of 1476 feet and descends to 820 feet. It is an in and out. The length of the trail is 1.6 to 1.8 miles (depending on what source you’re reading) each way.

When you take a look at these numbers you’ll quickly realize that this is a downhill trail on the way in. Which means is an uphill trail on the way out — after your hot and tired. The last 0.4 KM almost killed me!


Our Trek on La Coca Trail

We started out at about 1pm on a Saturday. I was actually surprised to see another car in the parking lot, as this trail is hardly ever used. We had "done" this trail a few years ago, but at that time, it was only open up to the first river crossing. Now the whole trail is open. I am glad we went again and got to do the whole thing. It is really a pretty trail.

First River Crossing on La Coca Trail

This trail is rated as "difficult" — and I would agree with that. The first ½ mile down is slippery rock. Then a river crossing. The next ½ mile is downhill in slippery mud to another river crossing. The last part is mixed mud and rocks, until you get to the end at a third river. For the river crossings you have to either go across on slippery river rock or through the water. The water is only ankle- knee deep at the crossing points. When you finish these challenges, you turn around and do them again, but this time going up the mountain!

But don’t think I am complaining — this trail is beautiful! It is probably the most "jungle-like" of all of the trails I have seen in El Yunque. We saw large areas of wild heliconias, wild gingers, bananas, and huge philodendrons. The river crossings are great — beautiful river pools to play in and waterfalls to enjoy. And I heard and saw more birds and different plant life than I have seen on most trails in the rain forest. And the sound of the river along various parts of the trail, with distant views of waterfalls … It was just a stunning trail in all aspects! Well worth the time and effort.

Waterfall at the First River Crossing on La Coca Trail

We took our time and explored and played in each of the rivers. It took us about 4 hours from start to finish. Hiking the trail in and out takes a minimum of 3 hours for the physically fit, but plan on more time so you can play (and cool off) in the rivers. I mentioned earlier that the trail is not maintained very well — there were times it looked more like a riverbed then a trail. Sometimes it was a little difficult to decide which way to go. But we managed fine.

For a shorter walk, but still being able to enjoy a quiet trail to the river and waterfall, just go to the first river (it is about ½ mile each way). When you get to the first river crossing, head up stream to get to the waterfall. This is still a difficult hike, but worth it as you will probably have it all to yourself.

Going Off-Trail

The El Yunque National Forest posts the following Safety Awareness Notices

  • To avoid becoming lost DO NOT leave the trails.
  • We recommend caution when swimming or wading in Forest streams. River rocks are extremely slippery and may cause a bad fall.
  • Due to periodic rain at mountain peaks, and especially after persistent rain fall, flash floods can occur.

Waterfall along La Coca Trail

I agree with all of these points, so I would NEVER suggest anyone go off the trail. At around half way through, we heard and saw glimpses of waterfalls in the distance, off the trail. They are beautiful. I wouldn’t suggest trying to go see them so you may get hurt/lost. Speaking with a Forest representative, they have to send “Search and Rescue” teams out to this trail all the time because people go off trail and can’t make it back for some reason.


Tips, Notes & Other Important Things

  • Bring water — lots! I’d suggest at least 1-2 liter/person. We only had ½ liter for each of us, and it was not enough.
  • You need to wear at least sneakers with good traction or hiking shoes for this trail — no flip flops!
  • If you have long hiking pants and a long sleeve shirt, wear them. The trail is not maintained very well, you will be muddy and brushing against plant life. I did notice some Stinging Nettle type plants along this trail (Ortiga Brava and Urera braccifera).
  • Second River Crossing on La Coca Trail

  • Be careful of what trees you grab for support — some have thorns!
  • Bring water shoes if you want to play in the rivers (or be prepared to get your hiking shoes wet), because the underwater rocks are sharp.
  • Bring a swim suit — either change at the rivers or wear it underneath (but that would be really HOT!). I didn’t bring mine, as I am not usually a river swimmer, but it was hot and the trail is very private, so I went in au natural. The water is VERY cold (about 60 degrees!) but refreshing.
  • The gates across Road 191 close at 5:00pm, so make sure you leave enough time to get back to your car before 4:45pm to get out of the forest before the gates are locked.

Like the rest of El Yunque National Forest, there is no charge to hike on this trail.

Open daily 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m . Ranger stations are open 9-5. The gates close at 5:00pm.

Remember to pack out all of your trash!

Allow 3–4 hours total.

Drive up Road 191 on the north side of El Yunque until you pass La Coca Falls just the right of the road. Continue driving and start looking at kilometer markers. The trail head is on the left hand side around KM 8.8. There’s a small parking lot at the trail head. The trail head is marked with a sign.

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 24 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Yes, there is a La Coca Fall right along the road. There is parking right there. There is a La Coca Trail which is different and goes down the river.

Comment by Gwenn on 19 Feb 2019

When I look on other sites, it looks like La Coca Falls is right next to a road and people can drive to it. Is that true, or does this trail lead you to a secluded falls?

Comment by Naomi Leak on 16 Feb 2019

I'm reading this after I went to the trail. Everything is completely right! It was a beautiful experience I will do it again. What I wore: Dri fit shorts and tank top and a swimsuit underneath, However I 100% recommend the pants! I was wearing hiking sandals and they worked just fine. Reading this I noticed it recommends to not attempt to go up the river to see the waterfalls, but I did; of course it took me a while because like it says here the rocks are slippery and you could hurt yourself badly. On the first river you encounter if you go uphill there is a waterfall but you have to climb a wall to get to it. This article is more than accurate, from my personal opinion I wouldn't recommend this trail if you don't consider yourself to be fit. I went on the trail on December 3rd, 2018.

Comment by Rocio Velazquez on 12 Dec 2018

yes, they are going to close Angelito for a little while soon to remake the bridge, so they are going to open a few other trails to take it's place.

Comment by Gwenn on 14 Oct 2018

I went yesterday October 13, 2018 to El Yunque, and asked to one of the employees of Wildlife Services standing at the blocked road area, and he told me that The Coca trail will be opened in 2 or 3 more weeks, also the road will be opened until Juan Diego waterfall in a month. At the moment the only trails open is Angelito trail (good condition) and Trade Winds trail to the other side of the forest. I hope this happen, but in other hand the bad is that the trails to the peaks probably will take a year or more to re-open.

Comment by Angel on 14 Oct 2018

No, no camping yet. You can contact the people at El Yunque for first hand info. They respond quickly to messages on Facebook.

Comment by Gwenn on 18 Jul 2018

Wow, thanks for the immediate response! Much appreciated. Any word on if you're able to camp in the park? Thanks

Comment by Jim Titus on 18 Jul 2018

Your list is complete except for El Toro Trail is also open. I spoke to the people at the Portalito and they said La Coca Trail is closed. Right at the trail head was a landslide (which is now repaired), but they messed up the trail. So it is closed and overgrown. Of course, we did see where someone went down it, through the weeds. But it is officially off limits. I hope they will reopen it soon, but she did not specify a date. But I heard more trails should open by the end of July.

Comment by Gwenn on 18 Jul 2018

Hey Gwenn, Just read this on the El Yunque official website (link below): " The following recreation sites, roads and trails are accessible on a limited basis: Recreation Sites: 1) La Coca Falls and parking areas; 2) Yokahu Tower 3) Puente Roto day use site; and 4) Angelito trailhead Roads: 1) PR191 to Yokahu Tower; 2) PR988; 3) PR966, and 4) PR186 Trails: A portion of Angelito trail is currently open" Any chance you could clarify what is and isn't open for us? Any chance of hiking in La Coca in the next month or two? Thanks!

Comment by Jim Titus on 17 Jul 2018

We hiked it in January 2017. The trail review is spot on. This is a difficult trail, but a lot of fun. We made a detour to some of the beautiful waterfalls just visible to the side, and enjoyed cooling off in a swimming hole. Really enjoyed the trip!

Comment by Tom Bierschenk on 14 Jan 2017

Gwenn I love your articles about El Yunque. Thanks for sharing this information. We plan to check out this trail in February.

Comment by Phyllis on 26 Dec 2016

This trail is very steep, hard and long, The pictures of waterfalls you see are OFF TRAIL. So if you hike the official trail youll see nothing.

Comment by Local hiker on 25 Nov 2016

no we never did it- it is closed and has been for many years. I believe it used to go down toward road 988. But it is really in horrible shape. Used to take a few hours, now, even if you could follow what is left of the trail, it would take many hours. I found these old maps:

Comment by Gwenn on 11 Sep 2016

We did this trail about 3 weeks ago and we arrived where we think was the end of the trail. However, for our surprise, at the camping area there was a sign for Carrillo trail. I have never heard about this trail but I'm very curious to do it. I also search for information about it but there is nothing. Have you done this trail?

Comment by Janice L. on 11 Sep 2016

We have done this trail on two separate occasions and agree that Gwenn's review hit it spot on. The trail, while not overly difficult, is very challenging and you should be well prepared for what you're about to get yourself into. Your experience will depend on whether or not it has rained in the last few days. The first time we went (January 2014) it had rained the day before and we did barely made it to the second river before throwing in the towel. The second time (March 2015) the trail was significantly more dry and we completed it in roughly 4 hours total, including almost an hour of swimming and resting. Only complaint is that the gift shop at the end was very disappointing! Disclaimer!!! : This guide is slightly misleading in the fact that while there were three rivers, you will cross the first river twice. The third river marks the end of the tail. PS - The swimming hole at the end is well worth the effort you will put into this trail! The water is cool and refreshing and makes for a few good pictures. Also, thank you to Gwenn! Without this article we would have never even thought to do this trail. Buenos suerte a todos!

Comment by John Johnson on 07 Mar 2015

Haha. A group of my friends and I were driving up from Luquillo and were determined to hike the first trail we found. That was La Coca. Everything in this article is true. It's beautiful and incredible. We walked to the first river and followed it to the waterfall and back tracked to the car. It was an experience I would not trade for anything now, but during... it was hell, but awesome hell. We were out of shape and not expecting a difficult trail. It's awesome if you know what are getting in to and are prepared physically and mentally.

Comment by KJ on 18 Feb 2015

Supposedly it is named after one of the original owners of the land- Juan Diego de la Coca. There is also a trail called Juan Diego that leads to other falls.

Comment by Gwenn on 04 Jan 2015

De donde sale el nombre La Coca para esta cascada en el yunque? Why the name of La Coca for the waterfall in the rain forest El Yunque?

Comment by Luz Noelia Casiano on 03 Jan 2015

My wife daughter,son,and I did this trail.We. are not in good shape by no means. We forgot to get infiio on this trail. What a surpise. We got to the first river and people where going back. My son didn't want to get his shoes any more muddy. My wife and my son headed back. I was assuming this tail come out at the road near where we entered .Wrong idea. My daughter and I went the whole way until we got to the sign that said you are at the end. It was getting late and no phone signal.So we start back. And it start to rain hard. We were not wearing the right clothes. Will we maid it back all full of mud. Thanl god.

Comment by michael iraci on 19 Mar 2014

I've always considered La Coca for the tourists, but now I know better.

Comment by Josh on 01 Jul 2013

good job guys! nice read!

Comment by Ricardo on 27 May 2013

looks so beautiful wish everyone in the world knew about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment by alexa on 15 Mar 2011

Gwenn, thanks for the info. I walked this trail on 11/26/2009. The trail can be challenging because of the mud. In addition, there is a lot of wildlife on this trail so be careful of snails and stay alert to catch the birds in the canopy... It took me around 3 hours to hike on my own. I would greatly recommend long pants and a hiking pole, I did not have either of these amenities but missed them. The trail is not very well maintained in the section between the second and third rivers. There are a lot of fallen trees that havent been cleared so you actually have to leave the trail for a bit. There is also a part where you have to climb in a mud wall with a few more fallen trees on your right. In addition, whenever you run into a river section, except for the final section, YOU CROSS IT. I made the mistake of looking around on the one bank rather than crossing and lost a lot of time. Also, climbing on the rocks with boots on is DANGEROUS!!! if you are going to go swimming just go for it and be wary of how slippery things can get if they dont have any light on them! All in all, I had a great time, definitely challenging and worth it. I even got to see some jungle crayfish! Thanks again Gwenn, you were my personal tour guide through el yunque!

Comment by P Loughran on 27 Nov 2009

Thank you so much! Your articles ARE SO HELPFULL!! You Are my hero! :)

Comment by Linda Irizarry on 13 Jul 2009

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