Cueva Clara de Empalme

Cueva Clara - Cueva de Empalme - Cueva de Camuy


Useful Information

Location: Parque Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, Carr. 129, km. 18.9, Camuy. Northwestern Puerto Rico, 2 hours west of San Juan, near Lares, on Route 129. Signposted
(18.345828, -66.822366)
Open: Currently closed due to Hurricane Maria.
All year Wed-Sun, Hol 8-17.
Last tour 15:30.
[2020]
Fee: Currently closed due to Hurricane Maria.
Adults USD 18, Children (4-12) USD 13, Children (0-3) free, Seniors (65+) USD 9.
Groups (30+): Adults USD 14, Children USD 12.
No group rates Sun, Hol, high season.
[2020]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyRiver cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:
Guided tours: L=1,000 m, D=90 min.
V=150,000/a [2009]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: partly
Bibliography:  
Address: Parque Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy, 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

1986 begin of development as a show cave.
JAN-2008 a visitor died from falling rock, Clara Cave closed to the public.
JAN-2009 Clara Cave reopened.
OCT-2017 closed due to Hurricane Maria.

Description

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

Cueva Clara de Empalme or often simply called Cueva Clara is the main show cave at the Parque Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy. Actually it is not an independent cave, but a single chamber of this cave system, which is developed for the public. This is the only show cave tour at the park, but there are other tours like self guided walks to the sinkholes. The so-called Spanish Tour also uses this part of the cave. The tour starts with a short movie about the cave and cave security, followed by a tram or trolley ride into the entrance of the cave. The huge chamber is 210 m in length and 65 m high. Visitors get audioguides in English and Español - Spanish.

The cave is entered through the main chamber Cueva Clara. Then the trail follows a passage which is up to 50 m high and 60 m wide. A huge karstfenster is a result of a partly collapse of the ceiling, on sunny days the sun rays shine into the cave. Another sight is the largest stalagmite of Puerto Rico. Finally you reach Sumidero de Empalme (Empalme Sinkhole), a 135 m deep collapse doline.

The cave tour was closed for more than a year during 2008, because of an accident. A rockfall from the face of the cliff above the huge portal hit a visitor and killed her. As a result the cave was closed immediately and then the cliff face was secured. As this is the main tour, the only attractions which remained where the sinkholes. This caused annoyance among visitors, as there was no possibility to visit a cave. However, the cliff is secure now and the cave was reopened. But in 2017 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico quite hard. The cave had to be closed again, and it is still closed in 2020.

Cueva Clara is very popular and it is quite tricky to visit the cave, so some explanation seems necessary. The park collects a parking fee, the ticket has a number which is required to purchase the cave ticket. After parking go to the Boleteria (Ticketing Center) with the parking ticket an buy your tickets. They are selling tickets with waiting numbers, and the numbers are called by loudspeaker. They will call number ranges and you have to check if your number is in the range. What makes the system tricky, is that they sometimes reset the numbers, so they are not necessarily increasing. To avoid a long wait you should arrive before 10.