Fun meter: Really (really) Great
Location: El Risco, Gran Canaria
Type: Barranco with Swimming Hole
Time: 2+ hour
Level of difficulty: medium
Good for what ages: 4+
El Charco Azul is an easy hike with a stunning waterfall and swimming hole. The trail was steep at times, but nearly anyone can enjoy it. Even if you don’t make it to the charco, its worth heading there for the drive and canyon. The valley was full of plants and flowers, and the mountain towered on both sides. This is nature at its best. The waterfall was incredibly cold in January. Dad says it’s snowmelt. That is why it was so cold it burned. The small river then wandered through warm rock, so that is where the littles swam. This is dad’s favorite hike on the whole island. I haven’t seen them all yet, so who knows. Maybe the next one will be even better.
How To Get There
Hit it Dad!
It’s worth the trip for the drive alone. It took just over an hour from Las Palmas to El Risco.
Once you get through Agaete, it changes from a multi-lane highway to a curvy cliffside road. Our speed went from 100kph to 40kph. Watch out for those blind turns as not everyone is being careful.
We had ginger candies, and were ready for emergency cleanup on aisle 2, but the view was so jaw dropping, no one got sick, as we were all busy looking out the windows.
There is no cell signal in El Risco. So if you are looking to coordinate with people or update your map once you get there, too late. Plan ahead.
The parking lot for the Charco Azul is right off the main highway. Just map Bar Perdomo, El Risco in your phone. About 100m before it, on your right, you will see a dirt parking lot. It was crowded and people were extremely creative when it came to spaces. The bar had a restroom, which is the only one on the whole hike, so take advantage.
From the parking lot, there are a handful of signs to el charco azul all pointing in different directions. This is super confusing. It took some explaining from a friendly policeman, who pointed us toward the main trail which turns out to be the road through El Risco. From the parking lot, if you are facing the main highway (the bar will be on your right), across the highway, there is a steep road a bit to your left with a sign that says only local cars are allowed. That is the main route and you will walk for about 15 minutes through the steep mountain town.
Can You Bring Littles and Grandma?
Our friends, who had two 6 year olds and a 2 year old chose to skip the tricky part right before the waterfall. They played in the smaller, “warmer” river about 300 meters downstream and we joined them following a quick dip. There is one hard part right before you get to the waterfall at the Charco Azul. It is a short but steep climb where you actually need to use your hands and feet. If you are ok with a touch of boulder climbing, it is done in 30 seconds. There is a tricky part on each side, so a small up and down each way.
Sojourn did it by himself just fine, but dad was helping him the whole time just in case. If you are an adventurous grandma or kid, you are probably going to make it. We saw a whole group of grandmas with canes take it on while helping each other out. But plenty of people also chose to enjoy other spots along the hike. Mom recorded the tricky part so you can decide for yourself.
The Climb through El Risco
The road through El Risco is pretty steep. You don’t need to hurry, and there are lots of places to stop. We kept waiting to let Carlos “el super burro” rest. He carried Carlitos, his two year old up the mountain in a backpack. I thought the backpack was awesome, but he said nope, never again. Next time, the little boy just has to walk. Take your time and bring lots of water. Only locals are allowed to drive, but you still need to watch out for cars. The houses were cute, all white mountain houses. Sadly, there were no signs to indicate you are going the right way, so you just have to go up, but trust me, just go up and you will get there.
Hiking Up the Canyon
It was easy to hike up the canyon except the section I mentioned above. Once you left El Risco and entered the valley, there was only one trail and it was pretty simple to follow. The path is well worn and mostly dirt, with a few rocky parts.
I was blown away by the beautiful green hills in the valley. Lots of people said it is normally brown and that the bright green is something special. It has been raining a lot this winter. So don’t expect it to be this green when you go.
We ended up crossing the small bit of river about 2 or 3 times, so be careful to not get your shoes or socks wet. The plant life is not as diverse as other hikes, but covers every centimeter. Big fluffy tall grasses surround the river. But no big trees and only a few cactuses.
Longer Lines than Pena La Vieja Ice Cream Shop
There were SOOOOO MANY people on the trail. It was raining in Las Palmas but super sunny on the west coast. Because of the level 3 restrictions for Covid in Gran Canaria, all sports, social activities, and indoor meeting places are closed. Since you cannot meet your friends inside, everyone is meeting their friends outside. There were points where I felt like we were in line at one of the best ice cream shops in Las Canteras.
People take the rules serious and wear masks! It is law here.
Swimming in el Charco Azul
to infinity and brrrrr
When i jumped in the river with dad, it actually hurt a lot, but as soon as we got out it felt good. I don’t think anyone younger than 8 can go into the big swimming hole when it’s this cold. The water was super clean, but I’ve heard that in summer it gets yucky. They should probably call it the charco verde. Sojourn put 1 finger in and he said oh no.
After we got out we went back to the other kids and we played in the small river more downstream. The kids really splashed around for a long time. We saw frogs and climbed rocks.
Ice Cream in Agaete
After we finished the hike and got back to the car, we decided to go to the Puerto de las Nieves in Agaete to get ice cream. I don’t know the name since it just says Heladeria on the door but here is how to get there. It is on the main square right above the port. There is a great playground on the square, so it’s a double win. I got chocolate and mango ice cream and it was delicious. Sojourn got orio and he really liked it. Dad had a frozen banana on a stick covered in dark chocolate. I’m mentioning it because it is worth the extra stop. And I hope they stay in business because Covid has been hard on my favorite shops.