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 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.
Exploring more of the island. A short hike and excellent scenery at this fresh water natural river & pool. The water was cool (65 degrees) and sparkling clear. Refreshing and secluded, very few people around the park. #ilovepuertorico #womenwhoexplore #femaletravelbloggers #girlslovetravel #paradise #placespuertorico
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.
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.
The 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!
The walk back to our car was slow and leisurely. We passed only a few people along the river and in the camp grounds.
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.
Once 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.