Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
The Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve is located on the southwest coast of the South Region of Puerto Rico in the municipality of Cabo Rojo. It is one of the most extraordinary places on the island: a landscape of boulders in the middle of a lagoon, which could very well be taken as something out of this world.
The reserve is a wonderful paradise for wildlife in Puerto Rico. It has impressive limestone formations that emerge from the Guaniquilla Lagoon, along with spectacular headlands, constituting a landscape of unique aesthetic value in Puerto Rico.
These rock formations are part of the southern karst strip, and date back to geological processes of more than 11,000,000 years, when the Sierra Bermeja de Laja was just another island in the Puerto Rican archipelago.
From the moment one enters the main area, it allows us to leave behind the usual noise of human activities on the beaches, giving way to the delicate maritime-terrestrial ecosystems of this natural reserve.
Dry forests and grasslands predominate in this reserve, along with grasslands, mangroves and the imposing Guaniquilla Lagoon. The lagoon serves as an important refuge for migratory birds protected both locally and federally, visiting the area each winter from as far away as the Canadian Tundra.
Because of this, Punta Guaniquilla has also been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), a classification given by BirdLife International to those areas that are crucial for the survival of endemic, native and visiting species. In fact, fifteen of the seventeen endemic species of Puerto Rico are found here.
In addition, its ecosystems provide habitat for numerous species of flora and fauna that are rare or that are currently in a critical state of conservation or in danger of extinction. For all these reasons, Punta Guaniquilla represents a fragile natural treasure for all Puerto Ricans.
Three places along the Reserve share the same name as “Guaniquilla”: the highest hill in the area, Cerro Guaniquilla; the largest lagoon, Laguna Guaniquilla; and the southwest peninsula of the Reserve, Punta Guaniquilla.
The reserve protects a total of 450.39 acres of subtropical dry forest including wetland and upland wildlife habitats, limestone formations, two cave systems, and one of the most important examples of subtropical dry forest on limestone rock in all the island of Puerto Rico.
The area has two coastal lagoons of varying size that are considered key wildlife habitats for waterfowl species in Puerto Rico. The larger “Laguna Guaniquilla” covers an estimated 23.5 acres, while the smaller lagoon covers an estimated 11.4 acres. Both can experience long, dry periods throughout the year and also represent a critical wildlife area for both migratory bird species and numerous resident aquatic species, some of them threatened and endangered.
The reserve is ideal for exploration activities where the best experience is taking a kayak trip. You be able to have a better view from the water towards the volcanic stones. In addition to admiring the hazy route, it is also a sanctuary for lovers of migratory bird watching on the island.
For those who like to do internal tourism and hiking, the walk in this reserve is long and very attractive. You will be able to see ruins with small bricks and masonry of the last station of the old Puerto Rico steam train. You will also see the ruins of a 19th century hacienda which can be found near the top of Cerro Guaniquilla, from where you can also appreciate panoramic views of Desecheo Island, Boquerón State Forest and Mona Island on clear days. and clear.
Among other places that you can visit is the Hacienda la Romana; located near the entrance of the reserve. Perfect for taking photos and learning a bit about past history. Following that same path you will find the Cave of the pirate Cofresí. Although the entrance to this cave is small, inside it is huge and worth exploring.
The Reserve’s coastal strip connects Punta Guaniquilla and Punta Pitahaya with the Boquerón State Forest, the Boquerón Wildlife Refuge and the Rincón Lagoon (Caño Boquerón).
The Reserve is a special place and is one of the jewels of Puerto Rico like no other on the island. It is the perfect place for hiking, walking and getting away for a day and getting back in touch with the natural beauty of the world around us.
You can walk along the coast, mangrove forests, narrow trails, small beach coves, with the reward of being able to see, at the end of the road, the impressive beautiful views of Laguna Guaniquilla. Continue enjoying this good walk, walking along the path until you reach Buyé Beach, which will take about 30 minutes.
The Reserve is protected and maintained by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. Before visiting the reserve it is important that you manage the permits with said entity. The Trust sometimes offers “tours” to Laguana Guaniquilla.