There are quite a few lovely swimming holes throughout Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest. The Angelito Trail leads to a great swimming spot on the river surrounded by the beautiful, lush rainforest scenery. If you’re looking for an easy trail with some rocks to relax on and river pools to take a dip in, Angelito is definitely a place to add to your El Yunque adventure!
Getting to the Angelito Trailhead
The Angelito trailhead sits off PR-988 just inside the limits of El Yunque National Forest. You can either reach it from PR-191 or PR-983, which are both connected by PR-988. The parking area is just off the side of PR-988 and there is signage around it, making it easy to see as you’re driving. Just in case, we recommend downloading maps for the area to make sure you’re headed the right way. Service in the forest is a bit spotty.
Parking here is limited – just parallel spots off the side of the road – so it might be hard to find a spot, especially during busy times of year. You may have to circle back as you wait for a spot to open up. Only park in designated areas as this road is very narrow and you will get ticketed if you park illegally.
Roads in the park are subject to closures during hazardous weather that can cause landslides and flooding. Always check the El Yunque National Forest website for updates and closures before your visit.
Once you reach the parking area, the start of the trail is easy to find as it is well-tracked and there are some signs at the start.
If you don’t have your own transportation, booking a tour is a good option that will allow you to hit multiple park highlights. Some tour itineraries may include a stop at Charco Los Angelitos. Taxis and rideshares are not permitted past the El Portal Visitor’s Center without special permits, so a tour is your best bet if you don’t plan to rent a car.
El Yunque National Forest is open from between 7:30 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, unlike much of PR-191, this public stretch of road near Angelito has no gate that closes each afternoon. So Angelito is accessible outside of this timeframe.
Fees & Reservations
While some attractions in El Yunque National Forest, such as the Mt. Britton Tower and La Mina Falls, require a timed entry ticket, one is not required to visit Angelito. This may change, as the area has become more popular.
The Angelito Trail and Swimming Hole
Hike Type: Easy out-and-back trail
Distance: 0.6 kilometers (0.4 miles) round trip
Duration: 30-40 minutes of hiking time plus however long you want to spend at the swimming hole
Regulations: Park only in designated areas. Pack out all trash. Pets are permitted but must be leashed
Exploring Charco Los Angelitos
After hiking earlier that day throughout El Yunque, we were eager to take a swim to cool off. We headed down the trail, which was fairly flat and well-maintained the whole way. Large moss-covered trees and dense undergrowth surrounded us. We enjoyed the scenic trail before quickly arriving at the banks of the Rio Mameyes and Las Damas pool. There were a couple families perched on the rocks around the pool and kids swam in the calm water and swung from the small rope swing.
We wanted to find a place to lay out our towels and hang out, so we crossed the river and headed downstream a short ways. The water was quite chilly, especially when the sun disappeared behind the clouds. We found an ideal spot consisting of a few large boulders to lay out on, a couple smaller pools to take a dip in, and stunning rainforest views all around.
If the shores right along Las Damas pool are too crowded for your liking, there are quite a few nice spots further along the river to hang out at. There isn’t really a path though, so use caution as you make your way along or across the river.
What to Bring
Snacks/Food: This is a great place to enjoy a snack or picnic! Please pack out your trash.
Swimsuit: There aren’t any facilities here or at the trailhead, so wear your swimsuit if you don’t want to change in the rainforest.
Comfortable Shoes: We recommend wearing shoes like Tevas or Chacos. These are comfortable for hiking, have decent tread for the slippery rocks and sometimes muddy trail, and can be worn in the river to protect your feet from the rocky bottom.
Camera: If you feel like taking some photos of this beautiful spot.
Sun Protection: Most of the trail is shaded, but bring sunglasses, a hat, and/or sunscreen if you’re planning on hanging by the river for a while.
Bug Spray: We didn’t really encounter many bugs when we went, but this may vary depending on the weather that day and time of year.
Extra Notes on the Angelito Trail and Swimming Hole
Flash Floods: Rain is frequent in El Yunque and flash floods aren’t uncommon. Use your best judgement when deciding to swim at Angelito and try to avoid entering the river during days when the park receives heavy rain. After recent rains, the water levels may rise significantly and the river water may become murky and brown instead of calm and clear.
Mongooses and other wildlife: There are feisty little mongooses that hang out along the Angelito Trail. We saw one as we approached the pool and it ran straight down the trail towards us and was hissing at other visitors. They apparently hang out here frequently because we have heard about them approaching other people and even biting them. Read more about mongooses in El Yunque here. To avoid a rabies shot on your vacation, steer clear of these little guys and avoid feeding the wildlife. Keep an eye out for other animals, including parakeets, snakes, frogs, and many more.
Crowds: While Angelito still isn’t as crowded as some of the other swimming spots in El Yunque, it has gained popularity with travelers. It is also a very popular spot with the locals, particularly on weekends. So if you’d like a quieter experience, try to go earlier in the morning to get a parking spot and visit on a weekday.