Parque Las Cavernas del Río Camuy

Río Camuy Cave Park


Useful Information

Location: Km 19.0, PR-129, Lares, 00669.
Northwestern Puerto Rico, 2 hours west of San Juan, near Lares, on Route 129, km 9.8.
(18.345828, -66.822366)
Open: All year Wed-Sun, Hol 9-17.
[2022]
Fee: Cars USD 4, Buses USD 5, Bikes USD 2.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyRiver cave KarstTiankeng
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=11,000 m.
Guided tours: self guided.
V=140,000/a [2000] V=150,000/a [2009]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: partly
Bibliography: Jeanne Gurnee, Russel H. Gurnee (1973): Discovery at the Rio Camuy, Crown Publishers; 1st edition (January 1, 1973), ISBN 0-517-50594-0.
Address: Parque Las Cavernas del Río Camuy, Km 19.0, PR-129, Lares, 00669, Tel: +1-787-898-8508. E-mail:
Administración de Terrenos, PO Box 3767, San Juan, Tel: +1-787-898-3100, Tel: +1-787-898-3136.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1958 discovered by Jeanne Gurnee and Russel H. Gurnee.
1986 begin of development as a show cave.
1987 park established.
SEP-2017 closed due to hurricane Maria.
24-MAR-2021 park re-opened.

Description

photography
Entrance to Cueva Clara, as seen from inside, Rio Camuy, Puerto Rico. Public Domain.

Parque Las Cavernas del Río Camuy (Río Camuy Cave Park) protects a karst area along Río Camuy, about 15 km south of the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Río Camuy runs north and forms the border between the municipalities Camuy and Hatillo to the north and Lares and Utuado to the south. But close to where the borders of Lares, Utuado and Hatillo meet, the river reaches an area of limestone outcrop, which is heavily karstified, and vanishes underground. After less than four kilometers it reappears on the surface. So far 16 entrances to the system are known.

Visiting the park seems to be free, except for the parking fee, so you can just spend a day walking from outlook to outlook. The dolines are quite spectacular. Numerous caves in the area, like Cathedral Cave, Resurgencia Cave, Yuyú Cave, and Spiral Cave, are guided on cave trekking tours by various tour operators. The park rangers offer various walking tours in both English and Spanish.

There are two huge sinkholes, which were made accessible to tourists by wooden trails. The Sumidero Tres Pueblos (Tri-Towns Sinkhole) is 185 m long, 145 m wide, and 125 m deep. This is big enough to qualify this doline as a tiankeng. It is crossed by zip lines, a rather new addition. The Cueva y Sumidero de Espiral (Spiral Cave and Sinkhole) is home to an endemic species of cave fish which is totally blind.

The cave system of Río Camuy is said to be the worlds second- or third-longest river cave. This is obviously nonsense or at least 30 years outdated, there is no official statistic for river caves, but there are definitely numerous longer river caves. As continually new caves are discovered and explored, such lists tend to change quite frequently. Such untrue superlatives-related statements are unfortunately quite common. Show cave owners tend to read such statements in publications, which are true for the time they were published, and then such empty phrases are repeated by guides and publications for decades. The park and the show cave are managed by Parques Nacionales (Puerto Rico National Parks). Unfortunately they are not very good at the management of the cave, they do no research, instead they install zip lines and such. As a result there is not much reliable information about the cave system available, most outdated. The cleanup after the last hurricane took four years, considering the importance of this site for tourism that's a real shame. They have almost 150,000 visitors per year, when they are open they are crowded, but nevertheless they close two days per week. They do not even have a website [2022].

Some parts of the system were explored first by the Taino Indians, Puerto Rico's first inhabitants. Archaeological evidence has been discovered. Later they were explored by cavers from the U.S.A.. A small part of this cave system was developed as a show cave by Jeanne Gurnee and Russel H. Gurnee, authors of the Gurnee Guide to American Show Caves, and John Ganter. They operated the site for decades before they retired.