Big Changes in the Arecibo District

We’ve had our noses to the grindstone for a quite awhile and decided on a recent holiday weekend we simply had to break the cycle. We headed along the northern coast through Vega Baja, Manati, and Barceloneta, finally ending up in Arecibo.

Near La Boca in Barceloneta we could already see major changes either completed or under way. The public space, El Malecon had been completely re-imagined with a busy new adjacent restaurant, El Bohio del Gran Pescador. Like all new restaurants in Puerto Rico, the line was at least 50 people deep. Further down, another well known restaurant was reaping the rewards of the area’s revitalization. What once was a near ghost town was now flush with hoards of patrons.

We had only driven a third of the distance to the “Birth of the New World Statue” and things were already drastically different. As we meandered in what was now stop and go traffic you could see modern road-side stands, re-opened businesses, the promise of pasteles off a side street, coco frio on every corner and 100’s of families enjoying the playa. It had only been three months since we were last here, with so much progress in such a short time, it was astounding.

stand

About a 1/2 mile before Cueva del Indio we spotted a new restaurant on the left, Camaleón Bar & Grill, busy but not insanely so. Directly across the street is the “Gasolina Beach Club“, a large lot with shade trees, a large clearing for helicopter tours* (we took the helicopter tour and had a blast) and a restaurant in the back. They frequently have concerts and various entertainment events as well. The restaurant is two storied with a wide veranda over-looking the playa. The views are gorgeous, it’s the perfect place to grab a plate of fried guilty pleasures and an ice cold beer.

sign

porch

I should mention at this point most of this progress is funded by Pan American Grain, for better or worse, depending of what side of the issue you are on. If you didn’t know, Pan American Grain’s products are ubiquitous throughout the island. Brands such as Rico rice, Gasolina and Mami cafe. They are the financial backer of “Terra Vista Parkland” and all that encompasses, including the previously mentioned restaurant, beach club and tours. “Terra Vista Parkland” will be a developed park surrounding the Columbus statue. To view the park’s future plans check out their video.

helicopter

view 3

view 4

While in the area, we noticed Cueva del Indio’s original paid parking lot was corded off (temporarily?) and a much larger adjacent lot was available. We aren’t entirely sure Pan American had anything to do with it, but it had their stamp on it with similar decor and landscaping.

I’m not sure how I feel about the project itself. On one hand it’s an obvious financial benefit to locals in the surrounding area. I can see traffic becoming a nightmare but there are also plans to widen the road. Widen it how is yet to be seen, PR’s back roads don’t leave much wiggle room. There are groups protesting the development and a petition going around. From what I have read they are keeping the environment in mind, but will they truly? It’s not like corporations haven’t broken promises in the past. If you have any further info on the subject or just want to share your perspective, let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

statue far viiew

*Helicopter tours are $35pp but you need 3 people for that price. If you are a couple or going solo you have the option of waiting for additional people to show up (who will also agree to ride with you) or you can pay for the empty seat(s). We opted to pay for the third empty seat. Bonus short video of our flight.

Playa Rosada, Lajas

After viewing the beautiful thru-ways of Lajas we determined that Playa Rosada was our next stop. I have to confess I am some what biased when it comes to the south side of the island, I prefer it much more than any other location.

This is probably attributed to our time in Northern California where the terrain is very similar, we kind of go through a little a deja-vu when visiting the area.  It’s very peaceful and allows many moments to organize those chaotic thoughts that infiltrate ones mind from time to time. You know the ones, existential crisis, money, family, could Trump really be the next President and how the freaking hell did we get here?

Anyhoo.

Playa Rosada is one of those places where you feel instantly at home and your cares kind of evaporate. A very family oriented beach with plenty of areas for grilling and tons of shaded picnic tables. The area is maintained by the DRNA and it shows. Every thing you would ever expect is all in reach and carefully maintained

Oh yeah, and it’s damned gorgeous, how did I not lead off with that?

P.S. See that Deck? That is fenced in to keep out all the biters…jellyfish, barracuda, aliens, etc. ;)

The Meseta Coastal Trail, Guanica Dry Forest

We needed a change in scenery so we headed to the Southwest corner of the island to experience the infamous Guanica Dry Forest.

Established as a reserve in 1919, the area encompasses nearly 10,000 acres. All species of animal and plant life are staunchly protected, including 48 endangered species and 16 endemic.

As usual our plans got side tracked and we ended up arriving two hours later than we hoped, at 11am. Those of you familiar with the area know this isn’t the ideal time to visit, especially for a really pale, sun-phobic person.

Right off the bat we saw 100’s of small butter-yellow butterflies going nuts over the tree near the trail entrance, not two moments later a black snake crossed our path.

The trail is easy to follow but as you get further down, the shade opportunities quickly dwindle. We almost ventured off the trail but thought that would be pretty dumb knowing how inexperienced we were and it was now high noon. It’s a good thing we didn’t, I checked out the area we would have been in via google terrain and it lead to an area with zero outlets.

In total we were on the trail for two hours so I guestimate we completed half of the trail. If we had gone earlier we could have finished the entire length, the sun is just that relentless this time of day. As much water as you think you need you can at least double it.

Needless to say we were rewarded with spectacular views and a very interesting terrain to traverse. Next time we will devote an entire day to the reserve when we have more time, we barely scratched the surface this outing.

Isabela mi bella.

I could stare at this all day. And I did.

Montones Beach, Isabela

One of my favorite beaches is Montones in Isabela. Lots of surfer-watching on one end and many tide-pools for languishing in on the other. The entire surrounding area and beach is pristinely clean. Lots of seashells, some sea glass and coral come up on the shore, just be careful what you take home, some of it is still living.

Rincon aka Gringo-land

This past fourth of July we had heard there was a small chance we could see some fireworks being set off at the beach in Rincon. More specifically on the summit of Calle Vista Linda we would have an optimal view of said fireworks. Let’s just get this out of the way, there was nada, nothing, zilch to be seen anywhere in the vicinity.

No problem, we go with the flow, in fact if there is one motto you should adhere to on the island, it is this. There are people who have to schedule every hour of their day or they literally cannot function. If you are one of these people, Puerto Rico is not the place for you. Puerto Rico laughs at your plans, maps and schedules.

I’m getting off track though, because as you can see from the photographs we also finally paid a visit to the lighthouse, one of our first stops before getting lost. The lighthouse grounds were exceptionally beautiful as well as the lighthouse itself. You have a few scenic overlooks to check out walking along the park as well. One view is of Dome’s beach, named for the now inactive nuclear reactor built in the 1960’s. Reactor reef, north of the beach is named for the same site as well. (see photo above)

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t find some kind of fauna crossing our path so Rincon of course isn’t an exception. We saw a couple of very large iguanas on our walk, a kitten (being fed and given water by some kind hooman) near the lighthouse and some magnificent cattle down the road.

If you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, we also took a photo of a small house on prime land situated in the same area. If you’re gonna dream, dream big, right? Personally, Rincon wouldn’t be on my list of places to live on the island but it’s nice to visit.

Puerto del Tortuguero, Manatí

Right near our home and it is stunningly beautiful.

Playa los Tubos, Manatí

Beautiful beach here just around the corner.