Friday, February 1, 2013

What to Do in Puerto Rico: Gozalandia Waterfall

This 50 foot beauty was worth the trek but not easy to find. Sometimes called the "secret waterfall" it's been featured in several films (like The Perfect Getaway) so it stands to reason that the secret is out and you should be able to find this natural pool with a little persistence and patience.

From Maravilla in Las Marias we wound our way down the mountain to San Sebastian. From Route 446 you turn right on a bridge in town until you get to a long locked gate on your left. Sound vague? Well it is. With only those directions we came into town only to find the bridge we were supposed to turn onto was blocked off for construction. But wait..was that even the bridge? Is there another bridge?

We stopped by a man sweeping his driveway and rolled down the window. I greeted the man and then asked if he spoke English. He said no and asked if I spoke Spanish. In my paltry, broken Spanish I told him "We look for Gozalandia Waterfall" and then smiled. A woman from the porch came closer and spoke with him, both of them glancing over at the defunct bridge.

"Ok follow him," she said to us, as our spontaneous guide hopped in his car and pulled out in front of us. We wound around past the bridge and up a hill into a neighborhood for some time until the car in front of us stopped and our guide got out of his car to talk to a man in his yard. We sat for several minutes, listening to the exchange with no comprehension, smiling wide tourist grins every time they looked over at us in between words. Finally the man whose grass we were half parked on motioned us to move our car into his yard and pointed down behind the house.

Our guide, ever accommodating, explained in Spanish that we would have to cross this man's property to get to the falls and he would show us. At least I think that's what he said. In any case we followed him down the fence to a broken section and crawled through to an overgrown path that lead down the hill. Our giude chattered on in Spanish, throwing a "No habla espanol? Nunca?" over his shoulder every so often to which I would reply "Nunca, lo siento."

After a turn in the wrong direction, to the sighs and agitated arm gestures of our guide, we finally got to a place where we could hear running water. A pavilion had been built at the bottom of the hill with a lagoon and just below that was a path that lead to steep wooden steps down to the pool of the waterfall. Our guide bid us well at this point, still shaking his head at our touristy gumption and trekked back up the mountain.

Relieved to have found it and ready to rest from the humid hike we gratefully sank into the cool waters of the pool. Within minutes the swelling in Mom's feet went down and we all felt lighter.

Several other families and couples were there sitting on the rocks or swimming in the pool and one daring dude was using a rope to climb up part of the falls to slide down what looked like a painful though smoother portion of rocks.

To the right of the falls is a section of rocks that are smooth and bulbous like hardened lava. If you're brave enough there is a little cave in the rocks. A 3 second breath hold is all you need to get into it and then you pop up into a cave big enough for 3 people to precariously chat and make echoes.

The moral of our Gozalandia Waterfall adventure, as with so much of Puerto Rico, is that the locals are the key to your success. Their generosity and good spirits were revealed to us again and again on this trip. Maybe it's just how Puerto Ricans are. Or maybe you can learn to be that way living on such a gorgeous island.

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