I am generally claustrophobic, have a slight fear of the dark, and a fairly active imagination, yet I still like caves.
Just about every time an opportunity presents itself, I’ll pay the fee, watch the short educational video, and follow a college student on break as they give an over-rehearsed tour. Stalagmites, stalactites, cave-kisses, “Don’t slip. The floor is wet.” and whatever you do, “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING!”
So far this had been the formula for almost every cave. Some were bigger than others, and sometimes the tour guide actually have more personality than a cave-dwelling robot. Carlsbad even allows guests a little bit more freedom to explore on their own. But, up until now, caves were highly controlled environments without much room for surprises. Ceuva del Viento is different. A sign with an arrow, some wooden steps, and a big black hole leading into the earth.
Our prior knowledge of the cave was fairly limited, but PuertoRicoDayTrips.com spoke highly of it, and it was conveniently located on the way up to Arecibo. All we really knew was that it was located in the Guajataca State Forest and we’d need a flashlight. The drive into the park does a nice job of showcasing yet another one of Puerto Rico’s diverse ecosystems. It is a jungle like El Yunque, but it is very rocky, and broad-leafed trees seem to dominate over the more tropical palms and bamboo. The drive through the park looks short on a map, but is constantly twisting and curving with plenty of blind corners. You won’t be going fast, and you really should honk when making some of the turns.
Apparently State Forests are free. So, don’t worry about the cost, but that also means you won’t get much in the way of a visitor center, snacks, or water. Bring whatever you think you’ll need. (Including the flashlight!) There is a main HQ, but serves mostly as a place to check-in and get a map, both things you will want to do before wandering into the bowels of the earth.
Once you’re on the trail, everything is laid out rather nicely. The first stretch is an interpretive trail complete with little educational signs describing the land, trees, animals, or history. All of the intersections are clearly marked, and the walk itself isn’t very challenging. Assuming you can walk for a half hour, you’ll be fine. Along the way try to keep an eye out for mini-caves. We noticed two particular locations where holes along the trailside disappeared deep into the ground.
As you approach the cave the terrain gets a little more challenging. Nothing too discouraging, but the descent to the cave’s entrance is a combination of mud, rocks, and oddly spaced steps. It doesn’t take long, and you’re there.
Yup. That’s it. I’ll admit there was a moment of, “That’s cool. Guess we’ll be heading back now…” In retrospect, the entrance isn’t THAT bad, but after years of manicured entryways, elevators, and doors that couldn’t be left open, this was a shock. No one cared if we had paid our entrance fee or made us toss our food and drinks. I don’t think our sign-in even constituted as a waiver should something happen to us.
I’d like to take a moment to set up some guidelines for visiting this cave. Even though there are no rules or warnings on site, you would greatly benefit from a few pointers.
- Bring a flashlight.
- Bring a flashlight. Yeah. It is that important. Without one you won’t get past the steps in the above photo. And, no, the LED light on your cell phone wont cut it. This is one of those circumstances where you’ll actually want a decent source of light. We had two flashlights and one was significantly better than the other as far as lumination was concerned. The only perk to the smaller light was a red-light feature. Keep in mind that an overpowered flashlight is great for cave exploring, but it is not so great for the bats that live inside. One website suggested that shining a bright light directly at the bats could blind them, and that red light would not be nearly as offensive to them.
- Go slow. The cave isn’t THAT big, so there’s no hurry. It’s also rather slippery, and I’d imagine it can get downright sloppy after a good rain.
- Go both ways, and feel free to explore. At first we thought the cave only went in one direction. You’ll also find spots where you think you can’t go any further. Take a look around. There are a few boulders you’ll want to climb over to go deeper.
- Follow a root. It may look like a drainage pipe, but it’s actually a root and it goes a long, long way. As tall as the tree was, the roots probably went for at least a quarter mile.
- Don’t be a jerk. I was surprised that there wasn’t more vandalism, but you don’t need to carve your name to be a subterranean asshole. Don’t shine you light on the ceiling/bats. Watch your step for creepy crawlies. And, don’t take any souvenirs. I’d hate for such a uniquely accessible attraction to get locked up due to someone’s negligence.
That being said… Go check out a cave!
Here’s my list of blog entries for Puerto Rico.
- Vieques: The Island We Couldn’t Leave
- El Yunque: Spanish for “The Yunque”
- Cabo Rojo: Southwestern Puerto Rico
- Lechon: You’ll have to be a stronger vegetarian than me…
- The Western Coast: Boqueron & Bacalaito, Mayagüez & Maize, and Rincón
- Bosque Estatal De Guajataca, y la cueva del viento: Guajataca State Forest, and the Cave of the Wind
- So, this guy has a waterfall in his backyard…
- Arecibo Observatory
- Old San Juan