We were very excited and eager to begin the exploration in San Cristóbal Canyon in Barranquitas and Aibonito, Puerto Rico.
The meeting place was at “Finca Los Llanos” (Los Llanos Farm), a property located in the Municipality of Aibonito and administered by “Para la Naturaleza”, an organization devoted to the conservation of the environment. There we met Mr. Roberto Cerpa, Ms. María Cristina López and Mr. Nicolás Cruz, the three “Para la Naturaleza” tour guides, whose commitment, organization, supervision and knowledge exceeded our expectations about this adventure.
According to Mr. Cerpa, the area of the San Cristóbal Canyon, which is protected by “Para La Naturaleza”, comprises around 1,778 cuerdas (1,727 acres) of land located mostly in the Municipality of Barranquitas. He explained that various rivers flow through the canyon. The Usabón River was the one that accompanied us during our adventure. This river is around 9 kilometers long, as stated by Mr. Cerpa.
As we hiked towards the San Cristóbal Canyon, the fauna was prominent. A female Golden silk orbweaver spider (Nephila clavipes) welcomed us while we admired a view of the canyon. The Pearly-eyed Thrasher bird (“Zorzal Pardo” in Spanish) (Margarops fuscatus) greeted us with its birdsong. Mr. Cerpa gladly identified these species.
We hiked down the hill through the “Camino del Llano”, a forest land trail full of a variety of trees. One of the adventurers noticed the birdsong of the San Pedrito (Todus mexicanus), an endemic bird of Puerto Rico.
Then we reached our first goal: the Usabón River. As we crossed the river, we were wrapped around by the water, the rocks and the huge natural area surrounding us.
Our next goal: “Niebla del Usabón” waterfall. At this location, we had the chance to drink water and eat some snacks while admiring the beautiful ecosystem. Standing out alone, there was another female Golden silk orbweaver spider, as identified by Mr. Cerpa.
We headed back to the Usabón River through a different route, crossing the river and hiking over more rocks while not knowing the beautiful ecotreasure that awaited us ahead: “Charca La Cabra” (La Cabra natural pool). Serenity and the power of nature were felt at this place.
The water in and the rock formations around La Cabra natural pool were amazing. Mr. Cerpa pointed out that the orange color found at a rock surface is due to lichen, an organism resulting from the symbiosis of algae and fungus. He explained that lichens need sunlight and moist environments to live.
Afterwards, we continued hiking towards the Usabón River. Suddenly, a precious butterfly with green and brown colors flew around us. Ms. López, one of the tour guides, identified it as the Malachite butterfly (“Malaquita” in Spanish) (Siproeta stelenes). Then she said out loud: “Look at the Calisto nubila!” Surprisingly, another butterfly decided to show up.
Then we hiked on narrow paths surrounded by rocks and trees that led us to the next ecotreasure: the precious “Charco Azul” (Blue natural pool) area. As we stood on top of the cliff, we had the opportunity to admire this natural pool, and see both sides of the Usabón River (one side located in Aibonito and the other in Barranquitas). (There is another natural pool named “Charco Azul” in Carite Forest, Patillas, Puerto Rico.)
We reached the point where the adventure got more interesting since our next goal was rappelling. As we rappelled 50 feet down the cliff, we were able to admire the wonderful scenery around us. The view of “Charco Azul” at this point was breathless. As we swam on this natural pool, water became the main character of the experience. Then we, the water and the rest of the ecosystem became one.
No words would be enough to describe fully the encounter with this ecotreasure. At this place, you have the power to create the experience of your choice.
After we enjoyed the wonders of “Charco Azul” in San Cristóbal Canyon, the extreme adventure continued. We hiked on a split-like route surrounded by rocks and swam on “Charco El Tapón” (Tapón natural pool).
Finally, the last goal was to climb a very steep forest land hill known as “Vereda del Diablo” (Devil’s Path). This 30-45 minute hike was the toughest challenge during the San Cristóbal Canyon extreme adventure. However, it was worth it not only because of the fitness workout, but also due to the diverse flora to admire.
Canyoneering in San Cristóbal Canyon is a one-of-a-kind experience that you will enjoy every step of the way.
For tours, you may contact “Para La Naturaleza” at 787-722-5882 from Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.