Waterfalls in a Garden of Eden

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By Neil Gerlowski, Owner/operator, Ajolote Adventures

Vast stretches of Puerto Vallarta’s mountains are cloaked in lush forests teeming with a captivating array of biodiversity. The abundant rains of our summers keep these forests miraculously flowing with life-giving water even through to the ends of prolonged dry seasons when temperatures climb.

Quite naturally, rivers are alluring features for hikers to follow, especially once our days grow longer and we seek refuge from the tropical heat. These veins of the earth course their way down mountain valleys in babbling descents among sculpted boulders and most spectacular of all, thunderous plunges from mighty falls.

Considering the vast array of mountain streams and rivers feeding into the Bay of Banderas, it can be hard to pick a favorite. But for the adventurous and intrepid, one particular gem stands out to me as not to be missed, the upper waterfalls of the Río Edén.

For those starting this journey at the trailhead at the end of the Peña Blanca dirt road of Las Juntas y Los Veranos, the hike to the first falls, La Niña, takes an average of just over two hours to reach so long as you keep up a good pace and aren’t deterred from the nine river crossings along the way. This first fall is a drop of about six meters into a deep pool just beckoning you for a swim.

From La Niña up to the second falls, La Pinta, the going gets much steeper, and, unless you have the balance and strength of a billy goat, climbing there requires the use of your hands in a few places. La Pinta is roughly thirty meters high and splashes its waters over a cluster of giant jagged boulders.

Continuing past La Pinta is not for the faint of heart. The ascent is up steep walls of rock and dirt gullies and the only aids climbers normally encounter are old abandoned ropes, several of questionable strength and condition. But for those who persevere, the reward is a breathtaking natural paradise. Santa María Falls drops over seventy feet off a sheer cliffside of impressive proportion. As you wade up to the base of it, gusts of wind push with increasing force until you feel as if fighting a hurricane, even on a still day.

If your stamina and courage allow you to continue past this spot, you may gain the top of the Santa María falls and the base of what most hikers to this area call their final fall, Cristóbal Colón. Thrusting forth from under an enormous perched boulder, this fall plunges about sixty meters into an enormous and deep natural pool. Just around the corner, you can swim right to the lip of the Santa María falls and stare down the canyon from a dizzying height. There’s also a pair of smaller falls nearby from a side stream that meets the Eden just before the Santa María.

For those who reach this point and still have the time and energy, it’s possible to ascend the next ridge and gain a vantage high in the pine trees with a view all the way to the ocean past Mismaloya. Following the river course upstream from there would allow you to discover still more falls and cascades, but I personally don’t recommend such an attempt with just a day hike. For me, exploring this area is not a matter of rushing by and marking off a checklist of falls, it’s about stopping long enough to truly enjoy them.

Ready for adventure? The Upper Eden Waterfalls is just one of many destinations Ajolote Adventures is ready to lead you to!

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