The most difficult part about the caves in Puerto Rico? Figuring out how to get to them.
Maybe it’s my suburban upbringing talking, but the region seems to have a pretty strong aversion to road signage. Still, pick the right dirt road to turn on or find the correct gas station to park at, and you’ll be treated to the sweeping views, gorgeous rock formations and diverse ecosystems each cave has to offer.
While these caves aren’t as winding, muddy and tight as the ones you might be used to, they are definitely worth pulling yourself away from the white sand beaches for.
Here’s how to pack two great caving trips into one day:
How to get there: Your trailhead begins on Route 10 at KM 75 in Arecibo, so if you’re coming from the northwest side of the island, you’ll see a gas station on the left-hand side of the road — park in the small stone lot next to it (look for signs for the cave here).
A $10 required entrance fee will get you hard hats and flashlights — I suggest packing headlamps along just in case (they’re easier to use and free up hands for taking pictures). The short trail begins right there.
Cueva Ventana means “Window Cave,” and the picturesque view of the valley below is definitely worth throwing back the curtains for. The hike up from the parking lot to the back entrance of the cave is well-maintained and short; along the way you’ll notice a large tree whose roots dip down into a cavern below.
Bypass this and save it for later, continuing up the path until you bend around the corner and find a short series of steps and a rope on the left leading into the mouth of another section of cave — this will take you to Cueva Ventana.
There’s a short walk through the dark, with lofty ceilings thrusting forth huge stalactites. Look for bats, large spiders, roaches, lizards, swallows and if you’re lucky, a large snake before spotting the light at the end of a tunnel.
Follow it out into a warm and sunny cave mouth, where you can toe the lip of the opening that rises 700 feet or so above the lush green valley below.
When you’re done there, take some time to head into the other caves and search for Taíno petroglyphs (the real ones, not the more recent graffiti). I suggest getting to the cave early, around 9 a.m., to beat the crowds, which can reach up to 800 people through the course of a weekend day.
We went on a Thursday and were the only guests around.
La Cueva del Indio
How to get there: Take Route 22 out of Arecibo. Turn right at Route 2 and go over a few bridges. At the light, take a left, followed by a quick right turn onto 681. Follow this to kilomete 7.8 or so and look for a sign on the left in a wooded area. It should say, “Cueva del Indio.”
Pull in here and wait for someone from the bar to come out and take your money — parking costs $2 and each person will cost 50 cents. Take a minute to pack your belongings with you or hide them in the trunk of your car.
The owner of the bar will explain to you where to go from the parking lot, as this is not a formal park.
To the right you’ll hike up a jagged limestone hill and over a natural rock arch to see the Seven Arches, more natural rock formations extending out from a desolate beach.
To the left is the entrance to the sea cave. If it’s a stormy day, it could be dangerous, as waves crash close to the entrance, so take caution. Otherwise, climb down the ladder tied to the cave entrance and head into the sandy-floored cavern.
The cave is bright and lofty, with hundreds of bats sleeping in the crags above you. There are some fun tunnels and rocks to scramble around on, and keep an eye out for more petroglyphs and sea life.
When you’re done, take a break on the ledges above the caves to spot sea turtles and maybe even a whale before heading back to the car.
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