Living in Puerto Rico requires a good sense of humor and a large dose of flexibility! Case in point: A trip to the Arecibo Observatory on a Monday morning with guests from the artic regions of Wisconsin.
The website we found gave the visiting hours as 9:00 to 4:00 pm daily. Monday was the only day we had to go, so we played hooky from work and took our house guests to see the radio telescope. Or, that was the plan. We drove all the way out there only to discover that the visitors’ center is only open daily from 9:00-4:00 until January 15th. After that, it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
So, here we are, an hour and something from San Juan, our destination closed. The other attraction in the area, the Camuy Caves, is also closed on Mondays. What to do? Well … Eat for sure! We had a recommendation for lunch, so we just had to kill some time until noon.
We did that by going down to the harbor in Arecibo.
The harbor was very calm and inviting. The day was gorgeous and the water looked like the Mediterranean – an unbelievable blue – you couldn’t tear your eyes away. We walked down to the beach (naturally we wanted to capture it in our cameras) and happened upon a fisherman casting his net. (Just try to think up a more picturesque scenario for guests!) We watched the proceedings and talked to the fisherman. Here’s a short photo essay on how and why do shore fishing by throwing a net. I hope you find it interesting.
Our walk along the shore with the fisherman took us out to the end of a long structure that guided a river into the ocean. At the end we came upon a pair of women, fishing for blue crabs. Here was another learning experience, but sadly no photo essay for you on the joys of fishing for blue crabs – though I can offer you this picture of the targeted organism.
By this point, we were really hungry, having killed almost two hours, so off we go to “Picholo’s” for a delicious, bountiful, lunch. The place was very local, but we felt right at home – the waitress spoke excellent English for our guests.
After lunch, we set off to see the Arecibo lighthouse. It was scenic, viewed from the harbor, and scenic viewed from the beach, so we thought we would get up close and personal, as they say. That proved harder and more expensive than imagined, and we did afford ourselves the disappointment of doing so.
First however, we attempted to get to it from the beach (knowing from our trip to the harbor that there was an entrance there through some sort of theme park that we wanted to avoid. There is a fantastically beautifully beach right at the base of the lighthouse, on the opposite side from the harbor. Whereas the water in the harbor is calm, the water on this side is wild and crazy! The rock outcrop on which the lighthouse is built extends to the edge of this beach. It has been eroded and sculpted over the milenia into formations that that accentuate the ferocious advance of the waves and produce plumes of spray that soar yards into the sky.
The water has formed a series of pools behind the rocks in front of the beach. Though protected from the force of the waves, bathers were enjoying the spray and the foam in the relative calm of the pools. Part of the wall that protects the lighthouse from beach goers had collapsed, so we (and others) took the opportunity to climb up onto the rocks to try and get to the lighthouse which was just above us. We could not get to the lighthouse, because of the vegetation protecting it, but the views of the beach and the waves from the rocks above was thrilling and even a little scary!
Alas, it was back down and around to the harbor to gain access to the lighthouse.
I hate to be negative, especially about Puerto Rico, but in order to visit the lighthouse we had to pay $12 per person to access it through the very tacky “theme” (ie “history”) park. The park was clean and well taken care of, and I suppose if we had had a two, three or four year old in tow, if might actually have been entertaining for them. There was a little Taino village set up, a bunch of ships, a horrid little “zoo” with some pretty sorry looking animals, as well as some big tortoises and a couple of caimans. (These were neither clean nor particularly well-taken care of.)
And, most disappointing of all, the lighthouse was not very photogenic up close nor were the views from it very interesting. So, that’s a lot of words to say “Don’t visit the lighthouse. Admire it from below.” Just so you don’t worry that you might miss something, in the lighthouse itself is a display of articles found off the coast, presumably by a diver, whose name is provided and to whom the structure is dedicated. There is not enough information provided about this display however, to make it worth a visit. We also climbed the spiral staircase up to the roof of the lighthouse – but again – the views were not very good (lots of building in the way) and not worth the money, time or effort. Not even the architecture of the lighthouse itself is interesting. Really, don’t bother.
Though I do not recommend the lighthouse history park, I do recommend the beach in Arecibo. Take your swim suit and enjoy the beach and then treat yourself to a meal at Picholo’s (where we went) or Salitre, a more upscale restaurant reputed to be excellent. My next trip to Arecibo will be to the beach with a swim suit and to Salitre to eat. If you go, or have been, please leave me some comments!