Feel the Rush; a River Slide Adventure in Puerto Rico

I climb up the slippery rocks with my sister-in-law. We eye the torrent of water that is flowing to our right and try to figure out where we should get in. I slowly climb into the middle of the river slide, holding on to the rocks at the side while I get my bearings…and my courage! I let go and race down the smooth river rock. I twist and turn as I pick up speed. With a splash I hit the pool at the bottom. What fun! I just took a ride on the natural water slide called Las Pailas (or Paylas) in Luquillo, Puerto Rico.

After we slide a couple times, we are able to convince our daughters to try. They love it! Our husbands think we are crazy and won’t go. Their loss! The water is refreshing, not too cold, and the adrenaline rush is great.

We walk a little farther down river, climbing over the rocks and giant boulders. We find a waterfall cavern and a smaller slide. The speed of the rushing water makes it challenging to get to the waterfall, but we do it. There is a natural shelf behind the falls, so we push our way through the water to reach it. Amazing! Everyone tries the smaller slide. It doesn’t go as fast, but is still lots of fun. It ends in a big beautiful pool, surrounded by large rocks. The water is clear enough to see some fish swimming along near the edge.

While swimming in the big pool, we notice a rope hanging from a tree on a cliff overlooking the water. We climb up and decide the rope is too scary, but jumping off the cliff into the pool is great fun.

We tire ourselves out and sit on the rocks to enjoy our picnic lunch in the sun. Las Pailas is a great find! Thank you to our nephew Daniel for showing it to us.

Puerto Rico has many of these hidden slides, waterfalls and pools that are waiting to be explored. The locals love them, as they tend not to be full of tourists. The best time to enjoy them without crowds is in the winter when Puerto Ricans think the water is too cold. Weekdays are also your best bet. Have fun exploring!

Can I do this adventure?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Courage Level: 3 The longer top slide is a bit intimidating. The first year I went, my nephew showed us just where to get in, so that we didn’t go so fast and lose control. The second year, he wasn’t with us and we got in too high. We went really fast, with no control, and ended up with a couple bumps. Be cautious if there aren’t any kids there to show you what to do. Start farther down the slide and work your way up higher as you get more comfortable. The waterfall and lower slide are great for anyone.

Fitness Level: 2 Las Pailas is easy to reach by walking down a hill. Some rocks are slippery, but anyone in even decent shape should have no problem.

Do I need special gear?

You just need a bathing suit, towel, sunscreen and snacks if you want them. I wore an old bathing suit so that I didn’t worry about the bottoms getting a bit ragged from the rocks. You could wear shorts over your bathing suit if it’s a nice one. I wore flip flops to walk down to the river and then went barefoot to climb on the rocks and to slide. If you have water shoes and it would make you more comfortable, bring them. If you are going to be hanging around outside the water for any amount of time, you may want to bring bug spray. We didn’t see any mosquitoes, but better safe than sorry.

More info?

Las Pailas is technically free. However, to get there, you need to park somewhere. There is a house which has cleared room to create a parking lot. The owner charges $5 per car or .50 per person walking in from a car parked elsewhere (like on the street.) He has created a nice path down to the river. His name is Carlos, and he is very nice. He also sells limbers out of his kitchen when he has some made. Limbers are like Italian ice, made in tropical flavors, and served in plastic cups that you squeeze to push up to lick or bite the ice.

To reach Las Pailas, take Route 3 from San Juan to the Sabana exit, Road 992, in Luquillo. You will go past the kiosks at the public beach (balneario) and Playa Azul in Luquillo before you see the exit. Go right onto 992, then left onto 991. Continue for a bit on 991 until you see Road 983. Take a right on that and follow until you see Carlos’s house on the right. It’s only about a 10 minute drive. There is a sign that says “Las Paylas.” Park there. Carlos is usually around to collect the money. If not, you can pay him when you are returning. Go down the stairs (it looks like you are going into the private part of the house, but that’s okay,) and then onto the path. At the bottom, the large slide will be on your left upriver and the waterfall, smaller slide and pool with be on your right.

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