Hidden amongst the dense vegetation through a maze of sugarcane fields, the large Salto Cristal waterfall is difficult to access but definitely worth the challenge. Salto Cristal’s waterfall is over a forty-two-meter high terraced stone cliff into a pool over thirty meters in diameter and ten meters deep. Running the perimeter of the pool is a rock ledge – usually submerged just deep enough to create a natural wading pool. The vegetation opens up around the pool’s edge where one can sit or sunbathe. Daredevils can swim across the pool and dive off the terraced walls. Swimming at the base of this impressive waterfall feels like you’ve found your own hidden tropical refuge.
Getting to Salto Cristal is part of the adventure. The trailhead is located about twenty kilometers from La Colmena (see instructions below on getting to the trail head). From here it is about 500 meters to the official entrance, manned by the property’s caretaker (Salto Cristal is on private property). About 500 meters past this is a small clearing that serves as a camp site. A short trail to the right, perpendicular to the main trail leads through the campsite to the top of the waterfall. The trail then T’s out into the stream about two meters wide which winds through the trees and tall grass before plummeting over the edge only a few meters away.
Continuing past the campsite, the main trail ends in a sheer vertical drop-broken by boulders, large rocks and tree roots; this is the hard part. The descent is about forty meters. Take your time going down. Those not wearing adequate shoes may prefer to go barefoot for better grip. If you’re in a large group step to the side when possible and let others pass if you need more time negotiating footholds -this is not a good place to fall. Once at the bottom you will see a small stream, runoff from the waterfall. Take a right and head upstream (consider leaving some sort of marking so you can tell where the trail entrance is). The trail along the stream is quite narrow and you may find it is easier in certain sections to simply walk in the water. As you approach the waterfall, the terrain gets rockier and the stream gets wider. Here you will have to climb over a few large boulders after which the vegetation opens up to reveal the Salto Cristal waterfall in all its glory.
It is best to visit Salto Cristal in the morning, allowing ample time for the trip to the trailhead and hike to the waterfall. Camping at the base of the waterfall is nearly impossible and not recommended. Those who plan to camp at the top of the waterfall should be sure to head back to the campsite before dusk as the way back up is only slightly easier than the trip down.
La Colmena has no dedicated taxis, however, those without a car can inquire at Hotel Fujimi or the Municipal office for a local with a truck willing to provide taxi service to and from Salto Cristal (this usually costs about Gs. 100,000). This may require advanced notice so plan to spend the night in La Colmena and head to Salto Cristal the next morning. If you want to camp at Salto Cristal you can arrange to be picked up at a later date. There is usually a Peace Corp Volunteer (voluntario de Cuerpo de Paz) in town who can be contacted if you are having trouble with the language barrier.
DTP tour operator (see Guided Tours) offers a tour which includes rappelling down Salto Cristal -this can be done as a standalone tour or in conjunction with other area attractions such as Parque Nacional Ybycui. Entry fee: Gs. 10,000-15,000, Camping: Gs.20,000 per person per day, transportation to Salto Cristal: Gs. 150,000 – 200,000. A small clearing at the top of the waterfall is used as a camp ground but there are no facilities – you will need to bring and pack out all supplies, food and trash. A first aid kit is essential and, in case of an emergency, travelers should note only Tigo cell phones will get a (weak) signal at the campsite.
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