Where do I begin to even start explaining this 7 week trip to Puerto Rico? I could start with the obvious, yes, it's warm. But I wont because that didn't stop us from having an amazing time and sending lines. I guess I could start with the Deep Water Soloing on wild shaped limestone cliffs over the ocean. Maybe I should start talking about the 50'-70' granite towers that protrude out of the jungle that await bolts and machetes? Oh, okay, how about the amazing established limestone sport climbing caves all over the island and many more to be bolted and developed....but I shouldn't start there either. Alright, I think I should start with my favorite area on the near perfect granite blocs around Yabucoa. If you've followed along on my Instagram or Facebook or "Climbing Puerto Rico's" social media pages, you'll recognize the name "Yabucoa". In my opinion, it will be a new destination for bouldering for people all around the world looking for some adventure, paradise and climbing. Let's focus on this area for the blog, I want you to know everything about this paradise. Here is some quick beta for travel, lodging, time of year, before I geek out on areas and problems.
Puerto Rico is rather small with just 3,515 sq miles and a population around 3.5 million - Is that 857 people per square mile? The capital is San Juan and it has a Spanish european touch to its "old san juan" section of town. A big beautiful historic fort, cobblestone streets filled with shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. A pizza place we went to (a lot) is called "Pirilo Pizza Rustica" and it also close to a top rated cocktail bar "La Factoría". Walk along the lagoon and go check out the "mini Miami" and hit some black jack tables and pool bars. No need for currency exchange, it's USD ya'll!
Getting to the island
There are a few airports, people often ask me what one they should fly into - you want to fly to San Juan's major airport, airport code is SJU. Jet blue and American Airlines are most common and best deals. When you land, if you have Verizon or AT&T you can just turn you phone right on, no extra charges for data or text/call because it's NOT International. Everything goes in PR!
You will need to rent a car if you plan on going to Yabucoa (right at the airport). If you can, rent something that will go up insanely steep (but paved) roads. A 4x4 isn't needed but something with power. If you want to stay around for a longer time, then buying a car will be easy due to the fact that there is on avg. 5 cars per house hold. Not an accurate estimate but you wont have a problem finding a beater to beat. The drive from SJU airport to Yabucoa is 1 hour and you will have to pay tolls.
Directions to the main parking of the Yabucoa area can be found HERE!
Oh, and there are no driving rules, expect everyone to cut you off, slam on the breaks with no break lights and pass you in the break down lane.
You have a few options to stay in Yabucoa - 1) The best option is to stay in a house that I rented during my recent trip. It's in Yabucoa, 5 min drive to the biggest density of blocs, 10 min to supermarket and cafes and resides in a gated community. If you want more info on this house, contact me directly as I dont want to give the contact info publicly.
Option 2) for lodging is a local motel/hotel set up. It's also in Yabucoa, I know NOTHING about this place, I just know it exists...kind of. Good luck!
Other important things to know
Bugs and plants
The best part about Puerto Rico, nothing on the island is deadly; like no deadly bugs, plants or monkey that would maul your face open. There are a few things to know that will help you stay comfortable and 'less' itchy. 1) The mosquitoes can be bothersome, depends on your tolerance for these little pests, bug spray in a way - worked? 2) There are plants (i don't have a picture, sorry) that are like nettle that we have here in the states but I think is the devil. It's causes about 10-20 minuets of itching, not bad compared to the 3) Piss ants (real name; small ass ants you can't see and they pee on you). Sounds just gross but it actually is the worst itching pain I've been in. You need to be careful when shaking trees, grabbing branches but the good thing is, they are only really bad in the "Peidra Blanca" area.
You can get away with a shorts, closed toe sneakers and no shirt for weeks on end here. Not that it's recommend but it's my go-to outfit (or lack of). Thin pants and long sleeve are really helpful to have from the bugs and plants and sun if you really need. Most people use them the first day and they go to shorts because of the heat.
Interested in Developing? Here are some jungle tips:
If you do (and I mean, when you do because you will) establish a line, let us know about it! Take a photo, grade and name it and we will add it to our log books, blogs and list of boulders in Yabucoa! I know it can be hard to tell us exactly where it is. Email me and i'll be sure to share it with the local boys at ClimbingPR!
Machetes - Tools of the trade
So if you haven't used one, now is your time to learn and not chop off your foot or your friends arms. Go to the local "Hectors hard wear" store in Yabucoa and buy yourself a machete. Ask for Hector and tell him you are a climber, he will be psyched to know that climbers can bring him money . (Hector will try to sell you everything in his store, also, if its in season, buy the local honey, Hector sells that too!). You will need a machete for the trails mostly as they grow in VERY quickly and if you want to develop something, you will want a saw to trim thicker bushes. Short rope and harness for cleaning too!
So, it's warm here, sometimes it's even way to warm to climb. But like most climbing areas around the world, there is a time of year and time of day to hit certains climbs. The coolest temps are winter months between November to March, but the coldest is around January and February. The best time of the day to climb is in the evenings before dark and after a rain storm. You'll want to watch the humidity, teamed up with shade and breeze and those right there are the sending temps you'll want. I found that in the mornings, if it rained for an hour or less by the evening the humidity was the lowest. That's when most of the harder lines went down. Yes, I am a bit of a dork with weather beta but hey, you do what you have to do. And now you know. "Thanks Josh".
The southeast climbing sectors are relatively close to one another. The climbing is split up into 3 areas in my mind; 1) "Yabucoa" the biggest cluster of blocs and problems, 2) "Peidra Blanca", and 3) "The Bull Farm". There are many areas we have hiked and are marked on the map below as "Roadside blocs". These areas have an overwhelming amount of stone that we haven't touched with a brush or hands yet.
*Please do not visit the "Bull Farm" as of now (12/26/15) we are working to finalize parking and land access.
PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU PLAN ON CLIMBING IN YABUCOA
I want to point out that this isn't all the registered climbs here, in fact there are many more. I put in what we have developed the most, easiest to find and legit access. A lot of the climbing is still new to the residents of Yabucoa and we don't want to disrupt the home owners and their land by overloading them with parking and random people on their property. Please take in consideration that we are all responsible for the climbing in Yabucoa, one wrong move or action and it could be jeopardized.
Below you'll find the "Yabucoa" area zoomed in with names and parking areas. Each area has special feelings and scenics. All of these sectors are walkable from one another and either sit in the jungle under the canopy or out in the fields along the hills. Take a look at the interactive map (below) if you want beta on the - where and how:
Yabucoa Sector Breakdown
THE FLAG BLOCS
The Flag Boulders
This area is one of my favorites because of setting, view and problem quality all spread across these 3 massive blocs. For more info about each climb, refer to the topo map above.
And once again, if you need directions to the parking area from San Juan click here.
ALL PHOTOS BELOW ARE TAKEN BY THE MOST FAMOUS AND MOST AMAZING - DAN KRAUSS (Unless marked)
The Slide Area
This area can be seen from the Flag boulders, if you look across the main section of the field you'll see all the blocs lined along the jungle's edge. We call this jungle "The underworld" and you'll see why when you adventure around in there. Here is a view from the "flag blocs" as to where the blocs sit.
To walk to the "slide area" get to the top of the Flag blocs and walk left along the ridge, its a faint trail by now but as you hike along, it drops down and leads directly to the "Black Bloc".
The next area is just between the Flag and Slide but below in the jungle. There isn't much developed down there but a few projects await. Here is a picture of "The big mama project" The locals showed me when I returned back to the island and I thought it was perfect. I've returned a few times late in the evening for night sessions, but still the upper two moves haven't gone. Next trip back, I will focus more time on the beauty!
Here is the highlight video from the trip!
So if you are heading to Puerto Rico, feel free to reach out to me or the locals over at www.ClimbingPR.com and check out all their hard work. I wouldn't have ever been to Puerto Rico or writing this blog if it wasn't for the small, generous crew of local climbers. Special thanks to Bryant Huffman and his wonderful wife Valeria and Jorge Armando Lassus for their constant cleaning and exploring. Thanks to Jean, Luis, Jordan, Hector and the other passionate climbers on the island. Keep it up boys!