Hiking to El Yunque’s Best Kept Secret – Juan Diego Falls, Puerto Rico

Exploring El Yunque’s trails and waterfalls is a popular activity for visitors to Puerto Rico. Full day and half day hiking tours leave from Old San Juan and allow tourists to explore the magical rainforest and its miles of breathtaking terrain.

Within the national park there are a number of trails which can be explored with or without a guide. We opted for a half-day hiking tour with Bespoke Lifestyle Management, which took us to the Juan Diego Falls.

Juan Diego Falls is actually a set of waterfalls that cannot be seen from the road. This hike is less popular than others and considered to be one of El Yunque’s best kept secrets. The trail is steep and muddy but very rewarding.

The trailhead is located at kilometre 9.5 on Road 191 in the El Yunque National Forest, near La Coca Falls, and follows the river deep into the heart of the rainforest. Be prepared to get muddy (and sweaty) as you clamber up steep ascents, holding tree roots to keep you from slipping.

Close to the beginning of the path, a sign warns visitors of flash floods. These floods can occur throughout the year but are more frequent during the rainy months of April and May. Intense, heavy rain can create flash flood conditions and a sudden surge can claim victims in less than one minute.

Soon the path reaches the first waterfall. Beautiful as it is, one cannot help but notice the larger, higher waterfall behind.

The trail becomes steeper as it continues upwards towards the next waterfall. Shoes with good grip are a must and tread carefully to avoid tripping over tree roots.

The curtain of water falls into a shallow pool below and visitors can paddle around the edge to cool off in the water or have their picture taken behind it.

For many, this is where the hike ends, however Juan Diego has one more hidden gem. The trail becomes more strenuous as it continues upwards and the final approach requires hikers to clamber up the small cascades. The next waterfall flows into a watering hole that is deep enough to swim in. After a short but tough trail the water is delightfully refreshing and, being so well hidden, you are likely to be the only ones enjoying it!

Return back to the road by following the same path and a short drive or walk will then take you to La Coca Falls, a popular waterfall due to its unique rock surface that appears to be very smooth.

Before setting off on a hike through El Yunque rainforest, it is important that all visitors take into account some safety considerations. Always have respect for the rainforest and discuss how to alert one another and climb to safety in case of a flash flood. Always be alert for sudden storms and the sound of rushing water.

Wear good hiking shoes that you can also paddle in water with, as you are likely to be crossing streams and rivers, as well as climbing over muddy and rocky terrain. Although the weather is often hot and humid, it does rain a lot, so make sure to bring light rain gear and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated on the way.

Visitors are asked not to spray insect repellant in the rainforest and not to wear insect repellant when wading or bathing in the rivers or waterfalls. The rivers have a very fragile ecosystem and such toxins can be very dangerous to the flora and fauna. Luckily, mosquitoes are not a problem in El Yunque and so insect repellant should not be necessary. Anyone walking or hiking in the national park should also take care not to litter.

The trails are well marked but the forest is vast and parts of the terrain can be dangerous. It is important that hikers stick to the trails and avoid heading into unmarked areas, which could lead to steep drops or other hidden dangers. Visitors can pick up a trail map from a ranger station or download one online.

Camping is allowed in El Yunque but permits must be completed two weeks in advance.


  • http://traveltoms.com/juan-diego-falls/
  • https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/elyunque/news-events/?cid=STELPRDB5419587
  • http://www.elyunque.com/elyunque.htm
  • https://www.theoutbound.com/puerto-rico/photography/explore-juan-diego-falls
  • http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/juan-diego-falls/
  • https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/puerto-rico/articles/the-most-beautiful-waterfalls-in-puerto-rico/
  • https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC5RFXF_juan-diego-waterfalls-el-yunque?guid=4b53e248-1696-4fa1-a9c1-720e3ab90803

12 thoughts on “Hiking to El Yunque’s Best Kept Secret – Juan Diego Falls, Puerto Rico

  • May 6, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Wow! Id love to go hiking there! The muddy tracks and slippery tree roots sound like an adventure! Interesting to know about the insect repellent too! Never even thought of that..

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      May 6, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Yes, it certainly was an adventure! We had never thought about the consequences on the eco system of bathing in rivers with mosquito repellant on either. Wont be doing that again!

  • May 6, 2017 at 10:24 am

    What a fantastic waterfall to hike, a bit of a hidden treasure I would say, isn’t nice finding a “best kept secret” 😀 Thanks for bringing this lovely hike to our attention and for the information you have provided! #feetdotravel

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      May 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      We love finding hidden gems like these! Well worth the hike too, as many of the other waterfalls get very crowded!

  • May 6, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Looks a hard but rewarding hike. Like the tip about visitors and insect repellant when wading or bathing in the rivers and waterfalls, affecting the ecosystem. Not thought of that before so thanks for sharing. #feetdotravel

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      May 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Definitely both hard and rewarding! We had never thought about the insect repellant and the impact it would have on the ecosystem, will definitely be more careful from now on! Of course, it helps when there are no mosquitoes!

  • May 6, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    This looks like an amazing park to go for a hike – the waterfalls look stunning! At my recent trip through South America, I went hiking a few times and loved it. It’s such an rewarding feeling! It was interesting to read about the repellent as well – wouldn’t have thought that it affects the ecosystem much. How long did the hike take? Thanks for sharing 🙂

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      May 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Yes, we hadn’t thought about repellent either! In total it took a couple of hours but that included a swim in the waterfalls 🙂

  • May 6, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Wow, I absolutely love waterfalls and this looks like a stunning place to visit. Love the adventurous element and an opportunity to hike through the jungle! Puerto Rico is definitely on the list – looks amazing!

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      May 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      We definitely recommend it – there is so much more to Puerto Rico than we had previously thought!

  • May 7, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Wow what an awesome hike! That’s okay its muddy and wet that makes it all more the fun. Wonderful stunning photos of the waterfalls. I pinned this for later use when I make a trip to Puerto Rico. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Profile gravatar of Uncover Travel
      May 7, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the post. When you go to Puerto Rico you should definitely take a trip to El Yunque, it is a beautiful place!

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Hiking to El Yunque’s Best Kept Secret – Juan Diego Falls, Puerto Rico

by Uncover Travel time to read: 3 min
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