Climbing in Puerto Rico

Secluded Beach north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

I just returned from a weeklong climbing trip down to the limestone crags of Puerto Rico.  I had first heard about the Puerto Rican climbing scene reading a copy of Rock and Ice during one of those days at work where it’s raining outside, and there is no one climbing except the guy who asks what bouldering is.  The pictures lured me in with plenty of tufas, dws, overhangs, and local flavor.  Cheap airfare and a December average low temperature of 77 sealed the deal.  The climbing didn’t disappoint, it turned out a week wasn’t nearly enough to explore all the island has to offer.  I’d highly recommend Puerto Rico to anyone looking for a vacation spot where they can get in solid climbing.  I’ll offer some beta so potential  trips can avoid my mistakes.

5 Things to know before you go:

  1. If you want to climb you will need to rent a car.  Don’t make the mistake of picking the cheapest company (USave) like I did.  Go with one of the legit companies like Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, and you won’t have to worry about driving all trip with the check engine light on.
  2. Standard GPSs don’t work in Puerto Rico.  The newer Garmin I brought had no recollection that Puerto Rico existed which made navigation harder than anticipated.  I’d recommend printing directions to places before you leave .
  3. Puerto Rico is technically America, but…check out your cell service prices.  I have Verizon and data and texting was normal price but talk was expensive.  Good to know.
  4. If you are staying for a week or less don’t try to hit every climbing area.  Driving around Puerto Rico is tedious at best with way more traffic than you’d expect and tons of little highways to confuse you.  If I could do it again I’d stay near San Juan and just climb in Bayamon where there is a little bit of everything.  Or, if you are into multi pitch stay around San German and check out the beautiful lines at Rosario complete with a crazy over hanging section called “The Gym.”
  5. Solid free guides to climbing areas can be found at http://www.aventuraspr.com/  Navigate to the climbing section and then the link will be in the bottom right.  Make sure to print these before you head out.

Starting with Bayamon II…

…Just a thirty minute drive from San Juan, Bayamon II has over a hundred routes that range from 5.7 to 5.12d.  The sectors are a quick ten minute hike from the parking lot of Julio Enrique Monegas Park right next to a GOYA factory that I’m pretty sure you can see from space.

Directions:   From San Juan take 22 west (it will say towards Bayamon) to exit 9 (to carr 5).  Make a left on carr 5 and then another left on carr 28.  Go through the GOYA factory and make the first right after the factory.  Drive to the end of this road.  There will be some sort of sketchy prison on your right and a gate to the park on the very back left.  Go through the park gate and then make your way  right towards the pavilion and playground.  Park in the lot next to the swing set with the obvious trail head.

The cleanest park bathrooms ever are located right across from the swings.

Approach: From the parking, lot follow the trail head into the forest. After about 100m the trail looks like it either goes left or right. You want to go kind of straight, under a small pavilion,on the path that is basically a sidewalk.

From this sidewalk you will see a carabiner signpost marking the trail to the crag.

Stay straight on this trail, you will eventually come to a grass clearing and continue straight.  The path will eventually climb a final hill and then hook to the left and you should be able to see glimpses of the rock wall through the woods.  Take the trail to the right marked with another carabiner and you will be at the face of El Puente.  Or, continue straight on the large path until you reach a cool overlook tower.  From there you take a trail to the right to the Passillo sector.

Climbing: The warm up area is La Escalera.

The stairs that let you know you have reached La Escalera

A high density of fun, easy climbs lets you move down the wall knocking climbs out one after another so you can get used to the style.

If 5.10 is your sweet spot, Original is the Sector for you.

Tufa City is the norm in the Original Sector

Bad feet but cool tufas to pull on creates a love it or hate it relationship.  One piece of advice: There appears to be so many great holds that it can be hard to pick which one to use.  This can mean spending way too much time searching for the money hold.  Find something decent and just go for it.  It’ll make the climbing much more enjoyable.

The El Puente sector has solid, long, hard climbs in the 5.10-12 range.  Try Chocolate Sky 5.11d (it is the one in the pit that runs straight up the old, glued in bolts).  It’s the most fun you can have with a harness on and is well protected on the crux section.

Pasillo is the must do sector.

Kill the Bastard 5.10c

Pasillo consists of a 50m canyon that has both sides bolted.  It is cool and shady with plenty of routes to help you weather the sweltering December heat.  Just a heads up, I found a few of these climbs’ crux moves are right below the anchors (Kill the Bastard 5.10c and Free the Women 5.10c).

We climbed at Bayamon for two solid days and were only able to hit 4 of the 9 sectors, a testament to just how much climbing there is in Bayamon.

Rosario, San German…

…With one of the coolest overhanging areas I’ve seen and some of the most solid tall exposed routes, Rosario is well worth the drive into the middle of nowhere, south-western Puerto Rico.

Directions: We followed the directions in the Adventuras guide.  They were pretty solid and they have a picture of the parking area. “From road #2 take exit #168 to road #330 north. Drive 3.8 miles and turn right to road #348. After 1.6 miles park on the left side of the road just before crossing a small bridge over a creek.”  Next to the creek there will be some sort of apartment complex with dogs barking and roosters making rooster noises.  Put your valuables in the trunk and lock it up.

Approach:  Across the road towards the giant bamboo you will see a chain saying “do not enter” in spanish.  Hop over the chain and continue along the creek to your left, through a clearing, until you can’t go straight anymore.  Then head right along a big bouler that will offer some shaky terrain (I wouldn’t recommend wearing sandals).  Continue on this path until you can see the rock face, at which point you should see a faint path leading right to Obstinada 5.10a. To get to the gym section you just head left along the wall up hill and then down.  You will know when you reach it.

Climbing: In the Vertical Jamming Sector, Obstinada 5.10a is a must do.

View from Obsinada of surrounding forest

  Fun fluid climbing that everyone can enjoy.  From the top of Obstinada there are four routes to your right ascending some of the most solid rock in Puerto Rico.  There are some three pitch routes that I didn’t try but would likely offer one of the best views on the island.  Bring at least 14 quickdraws to tame this wall.

I also tried Ushuaia 5.10d or Pangea 5.11a (they share the first six bolts) and would like to warn potential climbers not to underestimate the climb.  Most of the ratings in Puerto Rico felt fairly accurate until I hopped on this sandbagged sketchball route.  The “boulderly start” will feel like you are trying to clip draws on a V5.  After that, the “beautiful slab” section has you pulling on crumbling crimps that will leave you sweating bullets.  Maybe I messed up and went the wrong way or something, but caution to those that get on this route.

The Gym sector would be the coolest sector I’ve seen (I love overhangs) if it wasn’t for the absurdly sketchy protection.

Sketchy webbings can be seen on the left.

All the protection I had seen in Puerto Rico had been solid and well placed.  The Gym has a bolt here and there, but the main protection is webbing tied through holes in the rock.  We were lucky enough to run into some locals we had met two days earlier in Bayamon.  They told us what webbing was good and what they wouldn’t want to climb.  A good rule of thumb is to avoid any webbing that is gray, faded, or covered in cobwebs.  Cobwebs are another issue that is surprisingly bad but won’t kill you.  When the guide book advised, “bring a broom”, they weren’t kidding.

Despite the questionable pro and abundance of spiderwebs, this sector should not be passed up.  There are very few places outside of a climbing gym where you have 5.9s on a 45 degree overhang.

Piel de Serpiente 5.9

The locals showed us a route that wasn’t in the climbing guide that was a barrel of pump-fest fun.  This route starts in the middle right in fron of the obvious boulder and has green webbing.  It starts off with some fairy tale good layback moves then moves into a tricky jamming sector.  The last move requires a dyno to the solid hold that the anchor webbing is tied to (there are lowering carabiners on the anchor webbing).

Other Attractions of Note:

If you are staying near San Juan go with http://www.coquidelmar.com/.  One of the best price to quality ratios I’ve seen in my travels.

Cueva del Indio.  This is listed as a DWS spot in the Rock and Ice piece.  When we went the sea was angry, and the 20ft waves persuaded us to wait to try some psicobloc.  The trip, however, was still worth exploring these cool caves with ancient cave carvings.  You can walk down empty beaches punctuated by magnificent features like the ones pictured above.  Best of all the total costs is only $2/car to park at this random cafe that will sell you a coconut chopped open and filled with alcohol for $5.  Solid directions and information can be found at the bottom of http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/cueva-del-indio/

We also went to the Cavernas di Camuy.  Very cool caves.

 You can also camp there, $5/person, but you have to arrive by 4pm.  Otherwise you have to sweet talk the security guard to letting you sleep under the picnic pavilions, promising to pay in the morning.

If you have any more questions I would be glad to help you out, just post a comment below.

Cheers,

Bierson

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33 thoughts on “Climbing in Puerto Rico

    • Hey man nice article, glad you enjoyed the island. We are trying to spread the word about the climbing in the island, so thanks for this article. Check out our blog , there you can see more stuff on the island so you can get a feel of what more we have to offer: climbingpr.blogspot.com

  1. I just came from climbing in Puerto Rico and your blog was a good source. I also used the Adventura Tierra Adentro guide and it was very very helpful. Also, the climbing community is very helpful and welcoming.

  2. can you post a needed gear list, i couldn’t see much on your belts, is it lead climbing or access to anchor at top to drop a belay rope?

    • Most of the climbing is lead climbing. You should be set with 15 quick draws. I didn’t see too many opportunities to set up a top rop, but you could always lead something easy then move to a route you want to try out on top rope. Hope that helps!

  3. This. Is. Awesome! We went here to climb and could not find it because the park was closed for construction. I just saved your entire Page – and will return. Was it easy to set up a top-rope on the Routes in Bayamon? If not (and for the lead climbing), what did you bring for nuts and cams? THANK YOU!!

      • All of the routes were well bolted. Nothing is too run out, especially at Bayamon II. I didn’t bring any trad gear and was fine. The one thing that was potentially sketchy were the webbings at Rosario and a few of the anchors in Bayamon. The anchors in Bayamon occasionally had two normal carabiners that had seen better days. That being said, Whenever there were sketchy biners we were able to use chains or anchor bolts instead. I just wouldn’t blindly clip into biners at the anchors, inspect them first.

  4. Pingback: Rock Climbing on Cayman Brac | Bierson's Beta

  5. This is so helpful! I’m heading down in a few weeks. I read quickly so may have missed it, but what’s the word on the bouldering situation? I went to one of the blog spots mentioned and it looks like there’s potential. Also the beach bouldering in the R&I article looks promising. Thanks!!

  6. Saludos
    Im happy you had a fun climbing trip in PR. If you come back, make sure you visit Cayey and Ciales. Check http://www.adventurespr.com for guide books.
    Also wanted to let you know we started re-bolting at Rosario. Next time it will be another story…solid rock, solid climbs and solid anchors and bolts. No raggedy third world country webbing to clip.
    Hope to meet you sometime at our store.
    Rossano Boscarino

    • Hi Rossano,

      Can you please provide any information regarding the durability of the older bolted routes? I assume no titanium bolts have been used and thus makes us hesitant to book a trip without know how safe it will be. We are interested in the Bayamon area.

      Ben

      • From: Rossano Boscarino

        Hola Ben
        The bolts at Bayamon are little by little being replace. Not necessary because they are dangerous, but more because they are slowly corroding and by the time they all need replacement, me and my partener (and a couple of friends) probably won’t be climbing by that time. Not dead just retired from climbing. From what I have notice (over 2 decades), maintness and cleaning of the routes will probably be none, or in other words NOT be done when we retire. I wish I’m wrong and that we do get some fresh young energy from a new generation taking over these endeavors. Only time will tell.
        So just in case…we are changing everything to stainless steel 1/2 bolts.
        At Bayamon, some of the old bolts are perfect, some are so so, and some look bad. I still will bet most are good even with bad looks. Anyway even a bran new titanium glue in bolt may also fail. There is no guaranties in this sport.
        There are more variables then the material of the bolt your clipping.
        But do not worry, Im certain that one of the reasons people love climbing here is the well protected routes. Relax…select the right climb for you and have fun.
        I know Biersons said just go to Bayamon if you are short on time, but I disagree by far. You should not miss Caliche and Cayey ( San German is too far if you are staying in San Juan area). Almost every route has being rebolted. You need to get To these crags. Trust me, Im the local and a developer. In 1 hour you can be touching the rock. Just get the guide books, only $5 which is given back to you as a beefy 1/2″ stainless steel bolt and a beautiful relaxing click of a QuickDraw.
        Rossano
        Sent from my iPhone

      • I’d go with Rossano’s recommendations. I only recommended staying at Bayamon because there was so much fun climbing that we didn’t even get to. Hopefully a longer trip next time!

      • Hey Bierson
        Nice hearing directly from you!
        Sorry about my disagreement but as you said, there is a lot of fun to be have at Bayamon. Just wanted to say that all your information is right on and to remind you to get in touch with me for climbing if you come back.
        Rossano Boscarino

      • Hey Rossano,

        Thanks for your reply! We have already booked our trip and will be staying in San Juan for 10 days in late January. After asking more questions about the Bayamon area we have learned more about the area and your efforts to replace bolts and keep the area clean for years to come. We really cannot thank you enough for your efforts.
        Our major concern was the fact we were looking for a redpoint trip rather than a volume of climbs while we were in beautiful Puerto Rico (that is: we were planning on taking falls/hanging while working out the fun and harder limestone routes Bayamon has to offer). However, it sounds like Caliche may be the better option for our goals this trip.
        We are also working to convince other climbing friends to join us in PR to which the common response has been “There is climbing in Puerto Rico?!”. So we are doing our best to educate our community of all that PR can offer in climbing to push the routes in the mainstream. Maybe more traffic will help with the cleaning… But hopefully after our fun and successful trip to PR we will return for years to come.
        The day we arrive we will be visiting the local climbing shop to purchase the Bayamon guide, (hopefully the new guide will be available when we arrive in January and it sounds like we should pick up the Caliche guide online before we arrive) ask any further questions about which routes to avoid or routes we must absolutely climb, and purchase anything else we need or make a donation to support the local shop.
        Again please excuse the ignorance of original question as I was just starting to hear about PR climbing and I want to make sure it will be a fun, safe trip and where we are free to take a few whippers 🙂

        Thank you again,
        Ben

  7. Hey Rossano,

    Thanks for your reply! We have already booked our trip and will be staying in San Juan for 10 days in late January. After asking more questions about the Bayamon area we have learned more about the area and your efforts to replace bolts and keep the area clean for years to come. We really cannot thank you enough for your efforts.
    Our major concern was the fact we were looking for a redpoint trip rather than a volume of climbs while we were in beautiful Puerto Rico (that is: we were planning on taking falls/hanging while working out the fun and harder limestone routes Bayamon has to offer). However, it sounds like Caliche may be the better option for our goals this trip.
    We are also working to convince other climbing friends to join us in PR to which the common response has been “There is climbing in Puerto Rico?!”. So we are doing our best to educate our community of all that PR can offer in climbing to push the routes in the mainstream. Maybe more traffic will help with the cleaning… But hopefully after our fun and successful trip to PR we will return for years to come.
    The day we arrive we will be visiting the local climbing shop to purchase the Bayamon guide, (hopefully the new guide will be available when we arrive in January and it sounds like we should pick up the Caliche guide online before we arrive) ask any further questions about which routes to avoid or routes we must absolutely climb, and purchase anything else we need or make a donation to support the local shop.
    Again please excuse the ignorance of original question as I was just starting to hear about PR climbing and I want to make sure it will be a fun, safe trip and where we are free to take a few whippers 🙂

    Thank you again,
    Ben

  8. Hey Ben
    I feel like I already know you.
    No problem with any questions?
    Feel free to ask me more. If you don’t hear from me soon, I’m just way to busy to even check my e-mails. Eventually I’ll answer. Good pick on Ciales. Hard routes one next to each
    other. And some easy ones for warming up too!
    We will try our best to have Bayamon new guide book ready, but it’s taking more time then what we thought. Anyway if it is not ready we will have the old one available. It’s ok, (not as nice as the new one with all the drawings of the and walls and even bolts position), and it has everything you need to know to enjoy a grat day of climbing at Bayamon, Monagas park.
    Looking forward to meeting you and your friends at our shop/office.
    By the way, Cayey has 2 routes that you might be interested. Head To Toe and Antidoto. There is more but these sound like the ones you are looking for.
    These are the projects of manny people for a reason.
    Hasta luego
    Rossano

    • Hi,
      I know im a year late but I just found out all of this climbing spotS in PR!
      I was climing in Colorado and I arrived to the island a month ago and I just want to climb all day!
      Do you know of any climing groups in PR if there are still some?

      THANKS!
      YEITA

  9. Greetings Ben,
    Thank you for putting together all this info on the climbing in PR. My partner and I are planning to spend a few days there in late January, and I am hoping you can give me some advice on where to stay. Or do you have contact info for any locals that could advise me on safe/conveniently located neighborhoods? I would like to rent a place through airbnb in an area that works well for accessing the climbing. I’m trying to decide if it would be work the traffic/driving to stay in the Old San Juan area or if we should find a place closer to Bayamon and Ciales. I want to make sure we stay someplace safe with a good grocery store near by. We don’t need restaurants as we plan to cook in the rental. We are stopping in PR on our way home from the BVI, so we will have had plenty of beach time, no need to stay close to the coast in PR.
    Anyway, I’d appreciate any advice!
    Best,
    Evening

  10. Hi. Thanks for all the useful info I am headed to PR in August as part of a family reunion. though most of my time will get spent hanging around with my inlaws, I hope to climb for a few days. I am looking for bouldering and deep water solo stuff near San Juan. I won’t have a rope and won’t have as much freedom as I would like to travel the island. That and bouldering on the beach is as good as it gets. Also, is it reasonable to bicyle around San Juan?

    Any thoughts on this?

    Also, I found this page from your El Potrero Chico page. I went there last November. Your page covers the experience well. Thanks

    • I unfortunately didn’t get to beach boulder at all but it does look pretty awesome. Cycling around San Juan sounds like a good time, but I don’t think it would work as a means of transport around the island. If you’re not bringing any ropes I’d say reach out to the adventura team and rent some gear just to check out the cool climbing for a day.

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