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Spots on The Rock

A daring and draining expedition

Find San Carlos Falls in a verdant river valley

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Deep in a vibrant river valley ravine, waterfalls shower down from more than 40 feet into a pleasant swimming pool – the perfect paradise to get away.

This weekend we journey to San Carlos Falls, one of the island's largest. We'll also check out a superb swimming hole along the lazy Lonfit River.

A daring and draining expedition, the trek to San Carlos is a difficult one, not for the faint of heart and not for pets or children.

In fact, this hike is a greater feat for athletes in search of their next challenge, or regular hikers looking to reach the next level.

Check weather conditions and forecasts before heading out. I recommend doing this hike when it's dry, because it could easily turn into a nightmarish slip-and-slide sojourn when wet.

At the same time, I do recommend going a day or two after a good, heavy rainfall for a more jaw-dropping, dramatic waterfall.

On the beaten path

To start, walk uphill on Larson Road. In a minute, enter the well-defined path, walled off by jungle, to your left.

At the end of this path is a dirt road. Turn left and follow the road for another 10 minutes, or a half-mile.

The trail will naturally curve to the right, passing through off-road tracks and large, muddy potholes.

Continue on the beaten path as it merges onto a paved road that winds left, descending a small hill.

Follow the straightforward trail until it passes a fenced-in valve unit. Turn right here and continue down the paved road to a radio tower.

Take a breather here before continuing onto the next leg of the sloping hike. When you're ready, to the right of the tower is the route to the river valley.

Central valley views

For the next half-hour of the hike, follow the beaten path as it travels over red dirt slopes walled off by sword grass. Around are wide-ranging views of the island's captivating central valley.

Note that this trail transforms throughout the year. Sword grass grows abundantly across the landscape, but sudden wildfires might have cleared the way. Try to follow the most traveled trails.

Rendezvousing over the open ridgeline, the path will come to the edge of a valley ravine. You should see the trail drop into a steep jungle entryway.

This is the first of three steep stretches along the hike, not counting the times you'll have to redo them. Practice extreme caution as you make your way down the 20-foot drop, utilizing the provided rope and nearby trees as handholds.

Once you've safely descended the dreadful drop, you should find yourself inside the pristine valley with a cool jungle canopy above and the Lonfit River flowing within a few feet.

Follow the river downstream, to the right, in order to reach the top of the waterfall. Watch out for the slick and slippery river grime!

In a matter of minutes, you'll stumble upon the top of stunning San Carlos Falls.

Take some time here to enjoy views of the verdant river valley, but don't feel free enough to jump into the seemingly safe swimming hole 40 feet below.

The water is too shallow in most parts, and other parts are littered with large boulders. It's definitely a deadly drop.

A sight to behold

To get to the base of the falls, cross the river and find the jungle path that leads up the second steep hillside. Use the provided ropes and other handholds to safely climb up.

Once you reach the top, navigate your way down the third and final steep slope, which ends near the base of the waterfall. Whew!

After all the ups and downs, settle your stuff nearby and take in the breathtaking beauty of the river valley, furnished with perky palm trees, big basalt rocks and fascinating jungle foliage.

San Carlos Falls, which may be a trickle during the dry season, is still a sight to behold year-round. Jump into the inviting waters for a quick cool-down. Plant yourself under the falls for a wonderful water massage.

Extend your expedition

Consider extending the expedition a little farther to reach San Carlos Swim Hole, an easy 15-minute river walk away.

To get there, follow the river downstream on a path along the side of the flowing water. The Lonfit River is generally shallow and easy to traverse, but be careful walking over any algae-covered rocks.

At the fork in the river, take a right, and this time travel upstream for another 10 minutes. The riverside path may be overgrown during certain times of the year, so walking through the river is another safe option.

Soon, you should stumble upon the emerald-green oasis, shaded by a few swaying palm trees.

The ledges surrounding the picturesque pool are about 4 to 6 feet high. Walk around the left side of the swim hole to get to the top, where you can plunge into the pool below.

After making a splash in this outdoor delight, retrace your steps through the long and trying journey back to your car along the same path you came in.

Happy hiking!


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