Climbing puerto rico: Climbing in Puerto Rico

Rock Climbing Puerto Rico — Aventuras Tierra Adentro

WARNING

Rock climbing is a sport where you can be seriously hurt or fatally injured. This section of information is not meant to be an instruction manual for rock climbing.

​The information contained, including route description, difficulty ratings, and route drawings is not accurate. Do not depend on this information for your safety. Your knowledge, experience, skills, and judgment are of greater value.

Climbing Paradise
  • Fabulous weather
  • Beaches of fine, powdery sand
  • Friendly people
  • Lots of “extreme” shopping
  • Tasty food
  • Great caving
  • Exotic rain forest and burning deserts
  • Top Scuba diving sites
  • Awesome kayaking in bio luminescent bays
  • Exciting nightlife
  • Wild dancing: salsa, merengue, you name it.
  • Smooth sailing
  • Beautiful snorkeling
  • Horseback riding
  • Time travel to centuries-old Spanish forts and historic city of Old San Juan
  • Superb sport climbing!

About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the smallest island in the archipelago known as the Greater Antilles, located in the Caribbean Sea. Puerto Ricans like to say that it is “the largest of the Lesser Antilles”. The island is 110 miles long and 35 miles wide and rises to 4,390 feet at the highest point (Cerro Punta) along its Central Mountain Range.

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With all year warm temperatures, little seasonal temperature variation, easy access limestone crags and plenty of rest day activities, the island is becoming a popular sport-climbing destination for climbers from around the world. Because it is an unincorporated territory of the United States, US citizens do not require a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. However, some form of government-issued photo identification is required.

The official currency used in Puerto Rico is the US dollar. While Spanish is the island’s primary language, English is widely spoken, particularly in the tourism areas. On the other hand, the taste, feel and rhythms of Puerto Rico are distinctly Caribbean-Hispanic in nature, influenced by its Spanish, Taíno Indian, and African roots. With a laid-back attitude of “why do today what you can leave for tomorrow”, partying and having a good time is a priority for most islanders.

Four main climbing areas have been developed, three of them limestone and one basalt. Most of the climbs are well-protected single pitch ranging from 5.8 to 5.13, although 5.10’s and 5.11’s are more abundant. What lacks in quantity of multi-pitch routes is compensated by the quality of the few.

When to climb

Puerto Rico enjoys a summery tropical climate. You can climb any month of the year, but some are better than others. Summer temperatures hover from 90 to 95 °F with high humidity. Climbing in the shade is OK, but you’ll sweat like hell, so bring a ton of chalk! The rainy months are September (the latter part), October, November, and December; maybe even January. Because rainfalls are usually of short duration –though they may be intense– it is often possible to wait them out. Some routes might dry fast; some might stay drenched so… bring a ton of chalk! By far the best climbing months are February and March, with low humidity, around 70 °F temperatures, and dry rock. You’ll want to climb every route so… bring a ton of chalk!

Guide Books

Puerto Rico Rock Climbing Mini-Guides series provide the best source for rock climbing information on the island. They might be mini but they are big in details. Why mini guides instead of just a full guide? First, there is so much developing happening on the island, that printing a full guide book will probably be outdated in a couple of months after its publication. Mini guides makes it easier to reprint and attempt to stay updated.

Guides for each area are available for download. They are stored in Portable Document Format (PDF), which require Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 and later in order to be viewed. Printed Mini-Guides are available at our store.

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What Do You Get For Your Money?

Paying for an electronic data file can seem a bit weird; after all, it is difficult to see exactly what you have bought. In the case of the Guides, you will have purchased a full-color PDF file to keep on your mobile device, to be printed out or stored on your computer.

The Guides Include
  • Logistics, i.e., when to climb, accommodations, flights, and transportation, gear, flora and fauna.
  • Maps and directions to the climbing area.
  • Route specifics, i.e., description, bolts, degree of difficulty, star ratings, length, etc.
  • Things to do on rest days.
  • Full color pictures!

Be Welcome Here: Exploring Puerto Rico’s Climbing

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The author clips at the lip of a roof while sampling Puerto Rico’s limestone.Courtesy Orlando Torres Lugo/Vulmaro Dark

“Be welcome here.”

These were the first words a local climber said as I approached the cliff on our first day in  Puerto Rico. My wife, Cyn, and I had travelled to the beautiful island getaway to teach a climbing clinic for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our goal was to take a group of veterans, with varying disabilities, out climbing as part of their healing process. We do this all around the country through the non-profit, Adaptive Adventures, based in Lakewood, Colorado.

After the island-changing storm that was Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico took a major hit. It wasn’t just the storm, but also the aftermath: loss of tourism, no electricity, and even the roads were gone in many places. We spoke with locals who went 3-9 months without power. This was the norm and thinking about it is mind bending. Can you imagine a major city in the lower 48 going three months without power? The people were forced to work together to bring the island back to it’s natural beauty and to reignite the tourism that helps to run the economy.

While in San Juan, the remnants of Maria are hard to see (in some places the traffic lights still don’t work), but when you head into the countryside you’ll find lingering problems. Damaged roads, downed trees down, and some power issues remain, but will not effect your travel in the slightest. If anything, hearing stories of how the people of Puerto Rico banded together during the recovery renewed my faith in how humans treat each other.

Courtesy Orlando Torres Lugo/Vulmaro Dark

Prior to coming to the island, I had heard a smattering of beta about the climbing on PR. We had the digital guide and a Colorado friend, who is a PR native, shared island beta with us.

On our first two days we climbed in Enrique Julio Monagas Park, a state-run land preserve in the Nuevo Bayamón region. We were looking to get the lay of the land for the clinic, hoping to give the veterans a great experience. The area has nine sectors with varying styles of routes on limestone that is fluted and littered with attached tufas and pockets, making for great flow of movement and position. The routes are varied, some athletic and powerful like Cianuro (5.11c), where unlocking the sequence through the pockets proves to be the crux. Or Bacalaito, a unique 10b, that starts down in a pit, climbs up through a hole, and extends up a pumpy prow to the chains. Shanghai Bombay, a standout technical 12a, keeps you on your toes and fighting the pump, with the crux coming right below the anchors on terrain which gradually steepens as you go. These high-quality limestone routes stand up to five stars anywhere and the areas aren’t crowded or overused. Oh, and did I mention, it holds shade all day?

Escaping the buzz of San Juan, on our way to Ciales on day three, we saw the impressive potential for climbing paired with the stunning beauty of the island. Cobalt blue ocean to our right and rainforest covered mountains to our left, we eased into the small town of Ciales feeling right at home. The valley, carved by the Rio Grande de Manati, gives off a rural vibe flanked by limestone walls—some obvious, others hidden. The approach to Caliche is short and steep, and once at the base, you’re rewarded with a stellar view. The humidity makes it feel like you’re working hard, so be prepared with plenty of chalk and water. Orlando, our new friend, met us at the base and pointed us toward the crag’s gems. A standout day of tufa pinching, and pocket pulling ensued. Don’t miss Pompi Pompi, an 11b rope-stretcher pumpfest that rises up through two roof sections to finish on long stretches of solution pockets. Across the valley, Orlando points out the Food Truck Wall, a brilliant wall of 11’s and 12’s hidden by the forest. On our way out, we run into Eli Helmuth, a local developer with Colorado roots, who runs Climbing Life Guides, based in Ciales. Eli settled in PR with his wife and two kids for the climate and potential for new routes and ecotourism. He hosts an AirBnB and is expanding his reach with a new 16-acre area, complete with cliff base lodging and new routes aplenty. It’s a visionary place for all of us who are drawn to warm temps paired with steep limestone cliffs soaring up from the rainforest.

Courtesy Orlando Torres Lugo/Vulmaro Dark

I have to speak to the culture that is Puerto Rico. Hospitality is king and the local climbing community reflects that in its outgoing and welcoming nature. Happy to share beta and point you in the direction of areas with little information in print, it was easy to feel at home. Beyond that, we were amazed by the help offered for our veteran group. Bryant Huffman, a local developer and guide, runs Climbing PR and is opening a bouldering gym in San Juan. Just after meeting at the crag on the first day of our veteran outing, we exchanged information so he could help the vets stay active at the gym once we left. Nicole Vidal, another a local guide, who started Moca Climbing + Coaching generously offered harnesses and helmets for our climbers so we wouldn’t have to truck gear to the island. And our new friend Orlando, who we just met by chance on our second day, volunteered for the entire two day clinic. Who does that?! Our veterans, who had never climbed, were greeted by the climbing locals with such warmth and encouragement, they were excited by what climbing has to offer. You should buy a ticket and head there to experience it for yourself. For Cyn and I, climbing is a fantastic way to experience the world we live in, but the physical act takes a backseat to the people we meet and experiences we have when we travel. This place and these people really impressed both of us, and we can’t wait to go back and explore all the island has to offer.

Getting there

Flights to San Juan route through major hubs in the States, we went thru Dallas and Chicago. You don’t need a passport since its a US Territory, just a drivers license. You can rent a car at the airport, and driving is, well, interesting.

Season

You can climb year round since the island temps don’t vary much, but February and March are the driest months. It’s a bit humid so bring lots of Friction Labs with you. There is a rainy season in May, but we climbed in a cave on one rain day and never got wet.

Lodging

The island has lots to chose from, we did an AirBnB, but there are hotels ranging from five star to dirtbag.

Eating

The food is amazing, Caribbean fare and its everywhere.

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