Charco Azul Fresh Water Natural Pool Puerto Rico Travel Guide

Ever since moving to Puerto Rico earlier this year, I am beach and water obsessed.   Coming from the hot, dry desert the beach is still a magical, mysterious place.  I am always on the hunt for special, secluded little places and ask all of the long-term residents about their favorite spots.  So I was surprised when multiple trusted locals told me about the secret mountain pools around the island.  Intrigued by other natural water activities, we decided on a visit to Charco Azul.

charco-azul-natural-pool-puerto-ricoCharco Azul is a fresh water, natural swimming pool located in the southeast mountain region of Puerto Rico.   It is close  to our neighborhood in Palmas Del Mar.  It is also the most popular natural pool on the island.   We braced ourselves for huge crowds and (possible) disappointment, then drove out Sunday morning in the off season (August – November) to explore.

Getting there was no easy task.  Charcol Azul is located 38 km /24 miles directly from our house.  I found the direct roads on a (gasp, paper) map.  Yet, GPS mapping suggested two different much longer routes – the trip up through Caguas is 68 km /42 miles each way for an hour+ drive.  We set out on the shorter route, ignoring GPS only to find unmarked roads and the last stretch of road (we think) less than 10 km /6 miles from Charco Azul that could only be driven with a 4×4  off-road vehicle.  So, we turned around and took the suggested long way around from the South, driving for another hour!

Because of the horrible mountain road conditions and 2 lane roads along the Southern coast route, the easiest way to reach Charco Azul is from Caguas.  The scenic route along the beach runs through several small towns and takes longer to drive through.  Forget about trying the “direct” route even with a 4×4, there was evidence of recent mud slides and other road closures.  Follow the Google suggested route, and trust that it will take much longer to reach than seems possible for the relative short distance.

There are a few areas for parking across from the marked entrance.  There were only a few cars plus one tour bus in the main lot on our visit.  It is a short walk from the parking area across the street to the Charco Azul gate.  Admission and parking is free.2016-charco-azul-river-bridge

It is a short walk on paved trail from the gate to the natural pool (approximately 1/2 mile).  The trail would be easy for stroller, wheelchair, or cooler on wheels.

2016-charco-azul-poolThe natural pool is about 40 feet wide, with a gradual slope on one side to easily walk down in the cool water, and even cooler water (about 65 degrees) near the small waterfall feeding the pool.  Several people around us were jumping from the rocks above to the deep end of the pool.

This popular spot only had a handful of people, and the most crowded period was still fewer people than I have ever seen at La Mina Falls in El Yunque rain forest!

2016-charco-azul-near-pool The walk back to our car was slow and leisurely.  We passed only a few people along the river and in the camp grounds.

Camping Area at Charco Azul along the river
Camping Area at Charco Azul along the river

Facilities:  There are covered picnic ramadas, benches, and bathrooms.

What to Wear:  Water shoes and swim suit.

Other Information:  Bring your own food and drinks.  There are grills for cooking near the ramadas.  Most people brought in coolers and chairs, planning to stay all day.  Open Tuesday – Sunday from 6 AM – 6 PM, permits and reservations are required for the main Ramada and campgrounds.  The smaller ramadas near the pool are first come.

2016-charco-azul-river-entranceOnce we figured out the driving route, getting home was simple.  Next time we will plan for the longer drive time and pack a picnic lunch so that we can stay a few more hours and enjoy this  well maintained park along with the secluded little rivers.

35 thoughts on “Charco Azul Fresh Water Natural Pool Puerto Rico Travel Guide”

  1. It feels quite amazing to find these hidden natural gems. Looks like a small simple place but quite tranquil. Always loved finding some natural pools myself

  2. I can imagine the excitement of stumbling to this place and the disappointment of leaving early. This post will be helpful for others to prepare for a trip there. I am adding this to my never ending list!

  3. I have never been to Puerto Rico and this post has inspired me! Hidden gems are always the best as they don’t get as much wear and tear from tourism as other places. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a lovely spot! It is almost like a hidden gem. I would love to take a dip in the water. Natural pools aren’t exactly everywhere in the middle of Toronto.

    1. I bet! The natural pools in Puerto Rico have an added bonus, you can swim in the water year round! There is only a few degrees F difference in temperature for the air and water all year. It is always summer in Puerto Rico!

    1. We swam in the pool and stood in the shallow end to cool off for a bit. We would have stayed longer, if we had brought a snack!

  5. Love the pictures! This sounds like a great spot for a day trip, picnic included. I imagine if people are grilling stuff around you, you get hungry fast. And swimming might not help much with that 🙂

  6. Oh this means the water is drinkable?

    It is quite rare nowadays. I remember back home (my Mom’s home town) were we used to play and swim at fresh water rivers.. Now sadly its gone – completely dried up!

  7. Oh wow, sounds like this is the perfect little getaway. The fresh water pool, a waterfall, not many crowds. I would love it. Definitely good tip to bring lunch though. Makes it so much easier to relax and keep your plans flexible when you’re prepared!

    1. Yes, it proves that I can still read a paper map. Unfortunately, it did not include any information about being 4×4 required road.

  8. I love natural pools, there’s nothing better than a cool dip when it’s hot and sweaty weather! I’ve never been to Puerto Rico but definitely want to go – I’ll check out Charco Azul when I do!

  9. This seems to be a real gem of a place. The fact that is secluded makes it all the more attractive. These kind of places are what make traveling so interesting.

  10. This is a great place for a picnic or a barbeque and family day. The pool looked cool and clear. What a sweet place to beat the heat in Puerto Rico. I have always wanted to visit there and do the whole road that encircles the island.

    1. We spent 2 weeks in Puerto Rico last summer, every day we fell in love a little more. We knew this adventure was right for us! Sometimes it pays off to dive into the unknown.

  11. Natural swimming pools are the best thing ever! We have a ton of quarries where I’m from in New England and they are what I miss most about being abroad! How exciting that you’re in Puerto Rico now! Have you been to Vieques yet? I heard the beach there is sooo beautiful! Mud slides are the absolute worst!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I love living in Puerto Rico, there is so much to explore!! I have been to Culebra a few times, and Vieques once. We can actually see Vieques from our the short of our local beach! I am currently on the hunt for the best beach in Puerto Rico, it is a tough job but somebody has got to do it!

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