Is Puerto Rico the land of natural oases’? I sure think so. There’s nothing more relaxing than getting out of the sun by swimming in a crystal clear swimming hole. Charco El Pilon is one of the best on the island too!
If you’re visiting the western part of Puerto Rico, especially the towns of Cabo Rojo or Rincon, this must be on your list. It was our last activity before leaving, and we’re sure glad we ended on a good one.
In this guide, I’ll review everything you need to know about Charco El Pilon and why you MUST add it to your itinerary.
What is Charco El Pilon?
If you’re looking for a natural oasis in the middle of the Puerto Rican jungle, then this is it. There’s a waterfall in the main section of the swimming area.
If you keep climbing up, you’ll reach a section called Charco La Iglesia, which is another cool spot. This hike doesn’t require much strenuous hiking besides crossing many rivers.
Where is Charco El Pilon?
Charco El Pilon is located in the Maricao State Forest. It’s one of the first forest reserves in Puerto Rico to be named a state forest and thus is often called Monte del Estado.
It’s located about an hour from Rincon and 45 minutes from Cabo Rojo. A must if visiting either spot!
Another great spot if staying on the western part of the island is the famous Gozalandia waterfall.
Rincon to Charco El Pilon
If you want to see a lot of Puerto Rico when visiting, renting a car is necessary. We rented one for six weeks and drove around almost the entire island—an adventure of a lifetime.
When driving from Rincon, we took PR-2 South almost the entire time until reaching the San German hospital. This is the town the park is closest to.
Take a left on PR-361 and follow the winding road until you reach the entrance. We suggest using Google Maps the entire way.
The trail is right next to this building and this street is where everyone parks at.
Things to Know Before Hiking to Charco El Pilon
Charco El Pilon is an adventure of a lifetime and you should be prepared for it. Overall, this is an easy trial to follow and can be done by the whole family.
We saw a few snakes along the trail, so keep your eyes peeled! This is commonplace in Puerto Rico but it shouldn’t deter you from hiking on the island.
What to Bring
Charco El Pilon isn’t your traditional hike. There are many river crossings and a swimming hole at the end. You want to come prepared!
Below are a few things I suggest bringing with you for this hike and potentially many others on the island.
Following this Google Maps route will lead you to the spot where most people park. The actual building that is linked is close to the entrance.
Don’t park at this building, but there’s a small spot (fits three) next to these buildings, or you can park on the road.
We arrived at the trailhead at around 9 am and we were the only ones there. The street was packed once we got back to our car at 12:30.
Charco La Iglesia
Charco La Iglesia is another spot past the end of the Charco El Pilon hike. This spot reminds me somewhat of the Narrows in Zion but slightly deeper.
You can reach it by following the trail straight instead of taking a right when you hear the waterfall. We saw many people going straight there if you need others to follow.
Other Similar Activities to Do in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is full of adventure and there are plenty of other water activities/hikes to do. Below is a list of some of my favorites that I did during my trip.
- Infinity Pool Hike (El Yunque)
- Charco Prieto Waterfall
- Las Tinajas Falls
- La Zanja Trail
- Las Paylas
- Juan Diego Falls
- Playa Colora
Hiking Details for Charco El Pilon
- Distance: This hike is a 2.5-mile out & back trail.
- Duration: On average, it will take people 1 – 2 hours to finish. This depends on fitness level and time at the swimming hole.
- Difficulty: I’d rank this hike easy to moderate because of the many river crossings but minimal elevation gain.
- Incline: The elevation for this hike is around 528 feet or 161 meters.
- Hiking Guide: A guide is not needed for this hike and is easily accessible by the public
Best Places to Stay in Rincon, Puerto Rico
Rincon is a surfer’s paradise. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and nightlife options all in town! Below are some of the best places to stay for all types of budgets!
- Rincon Beach Resort: Looking to relax during your Puerto Rico visit entirely? You won’t find a better deal for a resort on the island.
- Coconuts Palms Inn: This is one of the most stunning accommodations in Rincon that’s also a great price!
- Sunset Paradise Villas: Does a hot tub overlooking the ocean sound fun to you? Then look no further than this spectacular hotel!
My Experience Hiking to Charco El Pilon
It was our last few days on the island and we wanted to end it with a bang. What better way to end this magical trip than experience another natural oasis?
We aimed to get here as early as possible to have as much time alone at the swimming hole. The drive was easy but when we got off PR-2, the roads became extremely winding.
This is often the case in the mountain of Puerto Rico but it wasn’t too bad.
The trail starts out on somewhat of a gravel road until you pass what seems to be a water building on your left. The real trail begins diagonally to the right of that.
The trail is easy to follow, but there are many river crossings. These river crossings aren’t as deep as La Coca Trail but we still took our time crossing them.
We spotted the trail on the other side when we arrived at each river crossing. This helped us know where to go along the river and not to waste any steps.
We knew we had reached Charco El Pilon because we could hear the waterfall. If you keep hiking straight (and some go slightly to the right), then you can reach Charco La Iglesia.
We reached the swimming hole with around 30 minutes of it to ourselves. It was better than I thought it’d be. The water was crystal clear and the signature Puerto Rican flag was hanging in the backdrop.
It’s not too deep of a swimming hole, so there weren’t many cliff-jumping spots. I did jump off the middle rock a few times, though.
Final Thoughts on Hiking to Charco El Pilon
This is an easy hike and one I suggest the whole family do. It does get crowded the later in the day you go, so I highly suggest you try your best to get here early. The best part was when we had the entire swimming hole to ourselves. I wish there were more cliff jumping spots but overall, we love saying that this was our last activity in Puerto Rico. It was an excellent one!
Thank you for reading my guide to Charco El Pilon. I hope this blog post has helped convince you to add this natural oasis to your Puerto Rican itinerary.