Puerto Rico's Best Hiking Area is San Cristobal Canyon
Located between the towns of Aibonito and Barranquitas, the picturesque San Cristobal Canyon cuts its way dramatically through the Central Cordillera Mountains. This is Puerto Rico’s only canyon and is a very popular hiking destination. The canyon is nine kilometers in length, with its deepest point being around 150 meters, and has the Usabon River flowing through it. Diverse vegetation clings tenaciously to the cliff sides of the canyon and several fast flowing waterfalls and crystal clear pools add to the dramatic beauty of this unique location in Puerto Rico.
The San Cristobal Canyon is somewhat off the beaten track and not that easy to locate, but locals will be able to guide you. If you are traveling from Aibonito toward Barranquitas, you will most likely enter the canyon along the trail at Barrio Llanos. The trail is steep, and depending on weather conditions, may be wet and slippery. But those who have ventured in San Cristobal Canyon will tell you that it is well worth the effort. While hikers are permitted to explore the canyon without a guide, less experienced hikers may want to make use of a local guide who is familiar with the routes and will point out interesting flora and fauna along the way.
The Neblina waterfall (Cascada la Nablina) is Puerto Rico’s highest waterfall and is a breath-taking sight as it tumbles in a series of narrow streams over a cliff into a pool below. Be sure to take some time to enjoy a swim in this pure, clean water where you can watch the streams of water hitting the crags above and spraying out in all directions. It is possible to hike quite a stretch downstream where you will come across a second waterfall, a bit smaller than the first, but nonetheless beautiful. The river bed is very rocky in places and the fast flowing water is an awesome sight as it rushes over the rocks. Once you reach the third waterfall, it’s not possible to go any further and you’ll have to turn back.
Depending on your level of fitness and how much time you want to spend splashing around in the pool below the Neblina waterfall, the hike takes around four hours. Less energetic explorers can still get a great view of the canyon and its waterfalls from the top. If you decide to go hiking, don’t rush it, but rather allow yourself to enjoy the peace and tranquility, along with the extraordinary beauty of the San Cristobal Canyon – one of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful natural treasures.