CAMPING SITES PUERTO RICO – PART 2
The camping sites Puerto Rico are beautiful and you must know where to go before you arrive! This is Part 2 of our Camping information post. See Part 1 to get the information of booking and pre-planning your camping experience. Remember, you need at least 10 days beforehand to book! Camping In Puerto Rico – Part 1.
*Update 2016 Ways To Win The War Vs Mosquitos:
Puerto Rico. Zika virus and what to do if you travel? Just to alert you guys, it’s still way super safe and statiscically speaking the odds are in your favor that you will still have a great time Camping in Puerto Rico if you take some precautions.
Let me be straight up. Mosquitos do exist in Puerto Rico.
How to win? (I’m just doing this myself in our backyard and it’s done wonders on my daily battle vs. mosquitos)
Check out this great article. Citronella.
NORTH SHORE CAMPING
*Camuy Cave Park (National Parks): $5 per person to camp (park entrance separate). Check In 4:00PM, Check Out 1:00PM. Phone: 787-898-3100 or 787-898-3136. Facilities include bathrooms/showers/. Located at the well known Camuy Cave Park (See Adventure Day 4) and allowed for summer only (June 15-August 15). Directions: http://goo.gl/maps/ls6NY
*Rio Abajo State Forest (DRNA): $5 per person to camp. DRNA permit process. One of the best kept secrets to camp out in Puerto Rico resides in the Bosque Estatal de Rio Abajo in norther part of Utuado south of Arecibo. Not only can you camp out here, but you can explore caves, and hike here as well in this beautiful karst region.
The forest offers you unique opportunities to hike mountains, sperlunk in caves, natural swimming-holes, underground rivers, and crazy bird watching and wildlife. In fact, the Puerto Rican Parrot can be seen here as re- population efforts have been on the way for a few years now. There is a visitor area and a picnic area if you’re only coming for a few hours.
The 5,000 acre park sits near Highway 621 Km 4.4, and is a lush and tropical forest with rising altitudes between 700-1400 feet. The two best trails to hike are the Visitor’s Trail and Las Perdices Trail. There are other trails, but you run the risk of completely going into the unknown and poorly maintained paths. But if you’re up for the adventure…by all means, explore! There’s supposedly about 70 trails so if you spend a weekend camping out here we’d imagine you can discover some great spots. Both underground, and above ground this place is beautiful. Look for the bamboo forest.
Directions Rio Abajo:
Bosque Estatal De Río Abajo
Utuado, 00641, Puerto Rico
*Cambalache State Forest (DRNA): $5 per person to camp. One of Puerto Rico’s most unique and charming state forests is located between the towns of Arecibo and Barcenoleta – named the Cambalache State Forest.
What makes Cambalache unique is that it provides some of the best mountain biking experiences and trails surrounded by untouched nature and shaded palm trees. The park itself does not offer rentals for bikes and you have to bring your own or decide to walk and “hike” the trails.
The trail is basically single track and one big loop that spans about 1,000 acres (about 4 miles), with other side trails intersecting within that circle. The topography of the course has challenging uphills and rewarding down-hills that more than pay off all the hard work. Definitely much funner to go downhill on a bike than hiking, but hiking does allow for some contemplative peace and quiet and zen moments. There is no one big “aha scenic vista” or anything of the sort, but rest assured that you will definitely immerse yourself in some of the best peace and quiet at this park.
Whatever you choose to do at Cambalache, figure to spend at least two to three hours here enjoying the day.
The park is free and does provide a few picnic areas to have a nice lunch or use their grills. Parking is located inside or outside the gates of the park.
The camping is probably one of the least sought after and thus less crowded. There are showers and basic facilities. Depends on what you want on your camping experience we guess, but sometimes it’s best to not hear people but the sounds of the natural world around us instead.
Bosque Estatal De Cambalache
Sabana Hoyos, Arecibo 00652, Puerto Rico
*Cerro Gordo Beach (National Parks) $13 a night to camp. We almost feel like not writing about this place for those traveling to Puerto Rico because we love it so much and love everything it has to offer. However, since this book is called Puerto Rico Adventures Revealed, we’ll allow this little secret place of ours to shine so it can be shared.
Cerro Gordo Beach is located in Vega Alta near Dorado along this perfect oasis on the north shore. Why is it so special to us? Basically you can spend a few days here in relative peace and quite and yet have some minor adventures thrown in for good fun. The beach is located off of road PR-690 on KM 7.1.
First, you’ll notice that there’s a beautiful turquoise beach with a picturesque rock wall on the far east end of the beach which protects the heavy surf in order to make this beach swimmable. It’s usually very quiet here during the weekdays and with a manageable crowd during the weekends. It’s known as one of the beaches for snorkeling or scuba diving as some beginner’s classes also come here, but we also hear there’s rough currents along the rocks so use your common judgement. There is a roped off area for swimming and lifeguards to watch over since it is a balneario and government run.
This crescent shaped beach is one of the favorites of the locals in the area and it’s many palm trees on the soft sand provide enough shade for everyone. In terms of her facilities, there is more than enough parking, bathrooms, showers, and even gazebos to rent.
As a bonus, if you head uphill above the beach there is a wondrous camping area that provide barbecue grills, picnic tables, and even some electrical outlets. The cool thing about this camping area is that it provides great views (if you look for them), as well as a beautiful nearby hiking/mountain bike trail called Bosque De Breas. Just head towards the camping area and look for the signs. We once ran this entire length of the trail and it pays off every now and then with incredible views. Many uphills and downhills and roots and shade galore inside this trail, and we highly recommend it if you’re into this.
If you’re dizzy with the array of options you have on checking out a beach on the north shore of Puerto Rico, then let us make it easy for you. This is the place. It has it all. Camping, swimming, views, hiking, facilities, etc. You get the point.
Hours: WED-SUN 8:30AM-5:00PM except summers May-August open 7 days a week.
Camping: $13 a night. Check in at 2:00PM. Check out at 12:00PM.
Phone for more information: 787-883-2730
Phone for camping information: 787-883-2730 or 787-883-2515
Balneario Cerro Gordo
EAST SHORE CAMPING
*El Yunque Rainforest Camping: There’s some other information that’s relevant to camping that is not run by the “major 2 ” El Yunque Rainforest also offers very rustic camping that is run by the U.S. Forest Service (787-888-1810). You can get your permit the day of as long as you get there early enough, but you would have to get to the offices at the rainforest. The camping is not the greatest, and in our opinion El Yunque is best left for day trips and not to spend it overnight as there are basically no camping facilities.
El Yunque National Forest
Río Grande 00745, Puerto Rico
*La Monserrate Beach (National Parks) – Luquillo. $10 a night to camp, $13 with water, $17 with water and light. Facilities include showers and bathrooms and security. Great beach camping in the beautiful beaches of Luquillo. Open Wednesday-Sunday. Phone: 787-889-5871.
*Seven Seas Beach (National Parks) – Fajardo. $10 a night to camp. One of our favorite beach places to camp out, although it can get quite crowded here. There are facilities and “outdoor showers” to use. You really can’t go wrong with this beautiful beach, and we especially enjoy the 25 minute hike to Playa Escondida (see Day 1 Adventure). Open Wednesday-Sunday. Phone: 787-863-8180.
Parque Nacional Balneario Seven Seas
Carretera. 195, km. 4.8 ½, Puerto Rico 987, Fajardo, 00738, Puerto Rico
SOUTH SHORE CAMPING
*Lago Luchetti Wildlife Refuge – DRNA Permit Process. $4 a night. Basic camping facilities with showers, and restrooms and picnic tables (dock as well) along the south shore at Lake Luchetti – a beautiful lake near a mountain reservoir between Yauco and Ponce.
Lake Luchetti Reserve
Maricao, 00606, Puerto Rico
*Susua Forest – DRNA Permit Process. $5 a night to camp. Located in the mountains of Yauco, camping is available with basic facilities with hoards of hiking trails to be had as well as a good spot for mountainbiking. Great for bird watching as well and some cabin camping available as well.
Bosque Estatal De Susúa
Sabana Grande, 00637, Puerto Rico
*Aguire Forest – DRNA Permit Process. $5 a night to camp. South of the town of Guayama as you approach Bahia De Jobos (yet another bay on the south shore of Puerto Rico), is probably the most unknown forest in the entire island – Aguirre Forest Reserve.
Guayama is known as the city of the witches, but don’t let that scare you if you happen to be traveling on this side of the island. The Aguirre forest includes loads of mangroves to explore, a boardwalk to walk around, bird watching, and a great opportunity to see manatees up close and personal. There are currently no camping facilities at Aguirre, but it’s a good place to spend a few hours if you just want to hike around in nature and have good facilities. Bird watchers especially love this place.
To get here, follow Road 7710 south of Guayama along the coast until you see the signs. Further down the road are also some pretty cool sights along the Bahia de Jobos.
Bosque Estatal De Aguirre
Guayama, 00784, Puerto Rico
*Punta Guilarte (National Parks). $10 a night to camp. Near the beaches of Arroyo on the southeast portion of the island of Puerto Rico. Basic camping facilities as well as vacation rentals. Phone: 787-839-3565. Open Wednesday-Sunday.
CORDILLERA CENTRAL CAMPING
*Maricao State Forest (National Parks). You have the option of tent camping, or the Maricao State Forest offers cabins with full amenities for your convenience. To obtain the proper paperwork and permission to have these facilities you must contact 787-873-5652 or 787-873-5632. More than likely in Maricao they will only be able to answer in spanish, and if you can’t then call the San Juan offices at 787-622-5200 x128. What your asking for is the solicitation of camping forms, or the “solicitud de area de campar” for Maricao. There are only 12 scenic campsites available, each with BBQ pits and picnic tables and ample space to pitch a tent, or you can rent one of 24 small cabins that feature hot water, a refrigerator, and other amenities. The cost to camp out by tent is $15, and the cabins rent out between $65-$75 per night.
Check in to the facilities is between 12-4PM at the main vacation center, and they ask for a minimum of 2 night stay sometimes depending on the season. Make sure when you call ahead that you clear this up and ask for 1 day if possible since you are driving the length of the Panoramic Route and will and may in fact camp out in other state parks along the way (more on this later!). Checkout time the next day is 12:00PM.
The Maricao State Forest is actually the largest one in the island of Puerto Rico, and is by far one of the nicest ones. It makes for a great spot along the Panoramic Route to spend your a night or two here outdoors in the cool, clean mountain air. There’s an absolutely breathtaking observation point right that’s a quick 2 minute hike from the campsites. If you opted for cabin camping (separate facility from camping) there’s also nearby swimming pools, basketball courts, and other recreational activities. You can use the pool for an additional $2 per day (either form of camping) – just make sure you state that when you call and make your reservations for the date you’ll be here. It gets cold in the mountains, so keep that in mind. Spend your day relaxing and being outdoors camping in one of Puerto Rico’s best state forests along the Panoramic Route of Puerto Rico (La Ruta Panoramica)!
We also wanted to point out that the parks do allow for you to make a fire in their designated pits. Use extreme caution when starting the fires. Sometimes you may get lucky and find all the wood you need for the night in one spot, and yet others you would have to bring your own logs. Making a fire and keeping it going through the night is what camping is all about and half the fun! If it rains, remember you will have wet branches and it will be much harder to keep the fire going. Prepare beforehand to enjoy your nights camping!
Maricao State Forest
*Guilarte State Forest (DRNA). $20 a night to camp. Guilarte Forest is one of the most beautiful reserves in the Cordillera Central mountain range, and features dense tropical forests that feature many different types of species of trees.
The impressive mountain Guilarte is one of the three largest mountains on the island at about 3,900 feet. The Guilarte Forest is not as well known as Maricao or Toro Negro forest, but they do have cabins and a tent area available for rent to camp in an impressive eucalyptus tree forest. There is no electricity in the cabins, but there are beds and barbecue pits, etc. The charge is $20 per night and you must make reservations at least 10 days in advance with the DRNA. Information: 787-829-5767 / DRNA 787-724-3647.
There are numerous hiking trails and a great opportunity to bird watch, but if you’re driving along the Panoramic Route the Guilarte Forest makes for a great spot to have a picnic as the facilities are serene and amazing to enjoy the afternoon near the beautiful Lake Garzas. Lake Garzas also has a small pedestrian bridge that crosses a portion of the lake that makes for great pictures! The lake is also used for kayaking, and fishing and was man-made in 1941. There’s great views to be seen from these heights!The route to Guilarte Forest is PR-131 till it turns to PR-518 which is north of Lake Garzas.
Monte Guilarte Forest
*Toro Negro Forest Reserve (DRNA) $4 a night to camp.
While it’s not as nice in our opinion as the camping site from in Maricao State Forest, Toro Negro makes for a nice camping spot with cool things to do in and around the campsite. You can easily set up camp and set your things up (unfortunately taking gear to the campsite requires a bit of a walk since you just can’t drive your car up to your camping spot), and make plans to explore your surrounding areas.
Toro Negro Forest camp site is the highest elevation camp site on the island, although it doesn’t offer those “views” that you can see from Maricao. It does however provide you with the opportunity to hike up to these views and it just takes a bit more planning and time and effort. Because of it’s the highest camping sight in the island, Toro Negro is a popular spot to camp.
This camping sites Puerto Rico and offices are located on PR-143 on KM 32.4 and they will provide you information and orientate you with your surroundings. The highlights that surround you include a hike that’s about 15 minutes from the camp site that leads to a swimming pond with a tiny waterfall called “Charco Confesora” (Confession Pond), as well as El Bolo Trail which leads to another Tower Observation point but makes for a bit of an adventurous hike. Most of the time these trails have barely anybody traversing them so it makes for a great place to hike if you want to get away from it all and connect with nature.
El Bolo Trail starts off across the street from the DRNA office (the driveway of forest maintenance area) that is a pretty good uphill climb at times on the rocks but eventually leads you to a grassy trail. Follow the signs for “El Torre” (The Tower) to the observation tower that is mostly uphill in rocky terrain so come prepared! Once up there the tower provides yet another fantastic range of views of the Cordillera Central mountain region. The hike is about 2 miles, and overall 4 miles roundtrip so you most likely should do this the morning after you’ve camped out if you plan on doing this. Odds are it will be too late at night and after setting up camp to hike on this adventure, but it’s a great option for the morning before hitting the road and continuing on the Panoramic route of Puerto Rico.
Another trail adjacent to El Bolo Trail is called La Piscina Trail (The Pool Trail) which leads you to a river-fed swimming pool that’s recently been refurbished. The trail eventually leads back to the main road on PR-143 and back to the campsite area. The other option you have from the campsite either during the afternoon or early morning is to hike to Confession Pond (Charco Confesora). The trail is seen just beyond the campsites, and encounters some muddy paths for about 15 minutes before you eventually hear the streams of water and the cool blue pond that makes for a great morning swim. It’s a bit of a hike and slippery at times, but worth your effort. If not, the campsite offers a much smaller pond but the feeling is all the same! If you didn’t camp out, you can still hike to this pond via the Dona Petra trail.
The campsite features 6 camping shelters and a covered BBQ pit, water, as well as a spot to build your campfire. There are restrooms with showers (wear flip flops!), and has a nice little small water pond that you can hang out in and dip into. It’s pretty calm and serene here, with an open field as well for playing sports and hangin’ out. Because it is located on one of the highest points in the island, it does get cold here at night. Also, because many clouds congregate here you may encounter rains and cold winds so if you decide to camp here keep in mind that the sun won’t be shining full blast and it’s extremely likely you will be under rain. We advise if you camp here at this spot, keep that in mind and bring some dry branches and logs in order to have a warm fire at night because of the rains. Prepare beforehand!
Toro Negro Camping: DRNA 787-999-2200 x 5156. $4 to camp. Permit required 10 days before.
near Ruta Panorámica, Bosque Estatal De Toro Negro, Villalba, Orocovis 00766, Puerto Rico
*Carite Forest (DRNA). Along the eastern portion of the Cordillera Central sights and near the towns of Guavate and Patillas is over 6,000 acres of a forest along the Ruta Panoramica and what is known as the Sierra De Cayey. Boasting great views with an elevation over 2,000 feet and offering options to experience nature at its finest, Carite Forest is a great stop to check out if you’re in the area along PR-184 or to spend your night camping if you did the Panoramic Route of Puerto Rico.
The forest is pretty much divided into two distinct areas: the north section closer to Guavate, and the more popular south section near Patillas.
The reason the south side of the Carite Forest is more popular is due to the fact that Charco Azul (Blue Swimming Hole) is located there as well as the fact that it lies right on the path of the Panoramic Route of Puerto Rico.
Blue Swimming Hole (Charco Azul) is a 10 minute hike to a 70X70 natural gem of great place to jump into the water and cool down (the water is super cold!). It’s pretty much only blue when the sun is shining down on it, and is especially enjoyed on weekends as it is a very popular place for local kids and families. You must bring proper water and/or hiking shoes to make this trek, but once here you’ll be able to enjoy this natural beauty.
We’ve emphasized this enough in other parts of this book but remember to not leave trash behind and pick up after yourselves. In fact, if you see garbage do a great deed for the day and at least fill a plastic bag and dump it in the proper garbage to help keep this area clean for others to enjoy.
While Charco Azul is the most popular “destination” of Carite Forest, there are many other more picturesque swimming holes that provide more privacy if you look around and wander around. Some adventures you just have to figure out for yourselves!
On another section, there is also a hidden gem called The 3 Streams or Survivor Falls near Route 184 KM 12 (south of La Ruta Panoramica and off the path) adjacent to a bar called “Los Tres Chorros.” Look for the small bridge next to tall grass and there you will find a faint foot trail that leads you here. The trail leads to a waterfall and three swimming ponds.
This is another natural playground in Puerto Rico where you will be able to cliff jump into the deep part of the pool, and swing off ropes. Make sure you see some of the local kids do it before so you know what to do!
Camping as mentioned is allowed in the Charco Azul portion of Carite Forest and is run by the DRNA as mentioned earlier. Permits are required for camping, but we don’t particularly like this camping area as it is crowded (especially on weekends) and on an area that is not exactly ideal for camping as many of the facilities are not in the best shape.
near Puerto Rico 184, Patillas, 00723, Puerto Rico
WEST SHORE CAMPING
*Guajataca State Forest (DRNA). $5 a night to camp. The Guajataca Forest is yet another beautiful forest reserve located on the northwestern portion of the island and makes for a great outdoor place to explore, hike, camp, and even check out one of the island’s coolest caves – Cueva Del Viento (Cave of the Wind)
This specific forests boasts over 2,300 acres in the splendid karst region, so it’s elevation hovers between 500 and 1,000 feet and makes a neat observation point. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails to explore numbered in 14 different “trail points”, with the most popular being the Interpretative Trail and Trail #1 which you can easily do both in one day.
The camping is run by the DRNA and you can contact them for permits and they have basic camping facilities such as showers and restrooms. To get here, go south from PR-2 till you get to PR-446 which will lead you right into the forest. There’s also a nice tall wooden observation deck which makes for a peaceful and pleasant way to spend an afternoon observing the surrounding environment.
Guajataca Forest Reserve is also the perfect place to take an “off the beaten path” hike into yet another hidden cave in Puerto Rico – Cueva Del Viento.
The trailhead to Cueva Del Viento begins at the parking lot of the ranger station on PR-446 KM 9 and you’re looking for the signs that point to “Trail #1.” The trail is a bit over 2 miles long, so give yourselves a few hours to take your time to explore and enjoy the hike in the Guajataca Forest Reserve. Stay on trail #1 even when it meanders into other trails, and eventually you will get to the top of the steps to the cave’s entrance. Descend into the cave and enjoy the scenery. Obviously it’s a cave so you must remember to bring your flashlights or headlamps in order to check out all the formations that the cave forms. The cave itself is pretty impressive and makes for an awesome photo opportunity. Since Guajataca Forest Reserve is probably one of the least visited forests in the island, there’s a great chance you can have this place all to yourselves most of the time. Cueva Del Viento or Cave of the Wind provides you the perfect opportunity to just listen and feel the silence that’s always there.
near Puerto Rico 446, Isabela, Puerto Rico
*Tres Hermanos National Park (National Parks). $10 or $17 to camp depending on if you want water and light. Open Wednesday – Sunday. Check in is at 3:00PM and checkout is at 12:00PM. Tres Hermanos is another balneario on the beach in the west shore of the island in the town of Anasco near Rincon. There are basic camping facilities and you are near the beach. Phone: 787-826-1610.
near Playa, Añasco 00610, Puerto Rico
*Bamboo Tropical Treehouse “Glamping” (privately owned for rent). Located in the town of Rincon, this is a unique camping adventure. See Day 3 Adventure Section for details. http://www.tropical-treehouse.com/
OFFSHORE ISLAND CAMPING
*Mona Island (DRNA). It is possible to camp on Mona Island out on the west coast, and you would have to get special clearance and permission from DRNA as well as information on the boat you will be using to get there. You would leave from Mayaguez, but would definitely need to pre plan with ample time this camping expedition. The place from what we hear is out of this world and the Galapagos of the Caribbean.
*Vieques Island – Sun Bay Beach (National Parks). $10 a night to camp. Camping in the beautiful offshore island of Vieques in a pristine beach with good camping facilities and showers. What more in life is there? Phone: 787-741-8198. Open Wednesday-Sunday. You would make arrangements in Fajardo to get to Vieques via ferry or you can also find places in San Juan that will fly you there.
*Flamenco Beach Camping in Culebra (See Below for Permit Process). One of the best beaches in the world offers camping right on this picturesque beach. Just hop on the ferry from Fajardo and here you are! The campsite is run by the Autoridad De Conservacion y Desarollo De Culebra (787-742-0700). and they don’t take reservations. Because they can fit over 400 tents, you can usually just walk up and reserve on the spot or the next morning. However, keep in mind there are super busy times for locals to camp there especially during Easter Week where it’s next to impossible to get a spot. We’re not even sure who wants to camp with over 400 people, but I guess people do. Call ahead and get some insight before you just show up.
“Sorry…out to live. Be back soon!” -Unknown