CHASING THE MAP

Fun Exploring the Rio Camuy Caves in Puerto Rico

When the word cave comes to mind, I think dark, musty, spiderweb filled, creepy crawlies, and bat-infested chamber. Doesn’t sound too inviting, does it? A bit scary, but also adventure filled. Kind of like an Indiana Jones movie. When I learned that we would be venturing into our first ever cave, I became more excited than doubtful.

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Our first time ever entering a cave was on our recent trip to Puerto Rico. Rio Camuy Cave Park, approximately 1 1/2 hours northwest of San Juan, is the third largest underground cave system in the world. The entire park encompasses nearly 300 acres and is one of the most popular natural outdoor attractions on the island.

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We loaded into the car very early, knowing that we had an almost 2 hour drive to the caves from Luquillo. It’s highly recommended that you get there early, as you never know when it’s going to be so busy that all the tours have been sold out and the gates are closed and locked. They don’t take reservations, so it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Once there, you pay a $4 fee to park your vehicle. Admission to the caves costs $12 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, and $7 for children ages 4-12. They only accept CASH, so make sure you plan accordingly, or you’re likely to be highly inconvenienced.

Tour times vary slightly, but usually run no longer than an hour and a half.

Trams, which reminded me of mini rollercoasters, are then filled up with people, and the decent down into the caves begins. The flora and fauna on the way down is beautiful, so make sure to look around and enjoy your surroundings. Many of the plants and trees are marked so that you can identify what it is you’re looking at.

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The tour starts at Cueva Clara, which is approximately 170 feet tall. Before you know it, you’ll be surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites millions of years old. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

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At the entrance to the caves, your tour guide provides you with some basic instructions and then provides information throughout the tour in both English and Spanish. I would suggest walking near the front of the tour, so that you can clearly hear your guide and not get lost in the shuffle. Tours can sometimes be large and noisy and you find that you have to strain to hear what is being said.

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Paths are concrete and some are better lit than others. You might want to bring a small flashlight along with you to both help you illuminate your way along the path and to see the many wonders before your eyes better. There are handrails for you to hold onto as well.

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I’d also suggest wearing shoes with decent soles. The cave is damp and moisture filled, causing the ground to be quite slippery. I’d leave the flip flops and sandals home if I were you. An elderly woman slipped and fell during my tour, and it can happen to even the most able bodied person. Walk with caution and you should be okay.

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As I mentioned to begin with, I haven’t been in other caves besides this one. As a result, I don’t have anything else with which to compare it to. I will say, however, that I was truly awed by the sheer magnitude of the cave. The natural formations are breathtaking, and you’ll hear the lulling sounds of the underground river. It was cool, but not cold, and a T-shirt served me just fine.

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The tram returns visitors to the top again, where you are released into the park’s gift shop. We looked around but didn’t find anything that we couldn’t live without. There are a few local artists who sell their wares in the lobby area when you wait to go down into the caves, so you might find a nice pair of earrings or bracelet while you wait.

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I’d suggest bringing some extra cash for the ride home as well, as we passed many portable fruit stands along the sides of the road. Sadly, we didn’t, and had to keep driving.

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I’d recommend the Rio Camuy Caves, especially to those who have never had the opportunity to explore caves before. It’s a fantastic activity which also gives you an interesting lesson about how natural phenomenas such as these are formed. You feel like an explorer making fascinating discoveries in a dark, underground cavern, something you’re clearly not able to experience aboveground.

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