Before and After Maria Aerial Views

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*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.

Garden Nurseries in Puerto Rico – Norte/Metro

First of all, hello and Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great Holiday season and are looking forward to a great year.

This post might not apply to a lot of you, (unless you’re a “plant person” and live on the North to Metro side of the island) but what the hell, I’m posting it anyway.  Maybe it will help someone. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s pretty damned difficult to find certain businesses here on the internet, en Español or not. After a couple of years of searching high and low for the perfect place to get my plant fix I finally narrowed it down to four nurseries. Granted most of these will have your typical ho-hum plants but they also carry a wide variety of unusual and stand outs on the regular. Basically, you’re getting the best of both worlds.

Byron Pikes Nursery in Arecibo – When we lived in Arecibo this was a convenient place to visit on weekends but even after moving 30 minutes away, I find myself visiting here first for the basics and then some. Byron Pikes simply has almost everything you could ever want or need in a nursery. Their inventory includes succulents, gorgeous cacti, orchids, (claro que si) carnivorous plants, landscape essentials, 1000’s of tropicals, trees, ground coverings, various potting mediums, pots galore and just about every stone under the sun. This place is always busy for good reason. Oh and the staff is great too of course. It gets hotter than hell here in the afternoon though, so bring water and a hat or just go first thing in the morning.

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Paisajes in Guaynabo – This is one of those nurseries that every gardener dreams of. Situated on the outskirts of Guaynabo this is a welcome sanctuary to linger and forget about the outside world. Some sections are so beautifully landscaped, it’s as if you were walking into a friends back yard. There are corners with aquatic plants, well established trees and tropicals. The staff are the most knowledgeable I have come across yet.  It’s one of those places you would miss if it were ever to disappear. I can’t really say that about anyone else here on the list. Just go.

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Gramaslindas in Dorado – This place is one of the fancier schmancier nurseries. They’ve been around for 50 years and the tentacles of their business reach far and wide throughout the island. From bags of soil at major retailers to landscaping all over the island and everything in between. Their main nursery is just a couple blocks down from the Doramar Plaza, you know, that place you get your Krispy Kreme doughnuts on. Down the road a ways from there is their sister nursery geared towards bulk purchases, plenty of graveled roadway to back up that truck and haul off a plethora of plants. Did I mention they make their own compost as well? As far as compost goes for Puerto Rico it’s above average. They sell topsoil and mulch in bulk as well.

What’s great about Gramas Lindas is that for the most part you are in a shaded sanctuary of sorts. There’s a place to buy cold drinks/snacks inside and plenty of beautiful rocking chairs for the “non-plant” people to sit and bask in the glow of their smart phones. The other notable aspect of Gramas Lindas is their actual storefront consists of a row of buildings replicating living conditions of a traditional historical Puerto Rican farm. Oh and I think there is a mascot walking around somewhere who wouldn’t mind keeping you company.

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Jardin Selecto (Garden & Bonsai store) in San Juan – Since I have a thing for Bonsai trees, I had to list this nursery. The nursery itself has a plenitude of other plants and the owners go out of their way to change up their displays on a regular basis. You don’t see much of that here, it’s nice to go in once in awhile to see what’s new and their latest creative endeavor. Of course, their Bonsai section is ridiculous, in a great way. If nothing else, it’s worth a visit on this merit alone. Sorry, somehow I lost my photos of the Bonsais so this cacti will have to do.

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Let me know in the comments if you have any favorite nurseries or resources you would like to share, I would love to hear about it!

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. ;)

👽 Looking to the Sky in Lajas

Lajas is renowned for their Bioluminescent Bay, Playa Rosada and purported extra-terrestrial sightings. The latter we didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing. Dammit.

Again, like so many places here, it was like stepping into another world. As we stopped along the way we approached many a gate with cattle and cow behind them. They all stopped and stared at us as if to say “Wth do you want?” I wanted to throw a big bouncy ball among them but Steve muttered something about lawsuits so I reluctantly put it out of my mind.

Later, we did see a white blimp hovering along our journey, camouflaging itself against the pale-blue cloudy sky. Would have rather seen an alien though, just sayin.

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.

Casa Vieja, Ciales

Definitely in my wheel house, Casa Vieja is a bar/restaurant with gorgeous views and surrounded by vintage-y stuffs.

Cabo Rojo

Traveling around the Southwest of the island, completely different terrain and energy over here, having a blast.

The Old Highway, Arecibo

We had read on another blog that Hwy 123 aka “the old highway” held some interesting views along it’s winding road so we decided to see for ourselves. I believe, but am not certain that this also used to be called Arecibo Road where “the cut” could be found. I’ll have to do some digging on that…

Our plan was to meander a bit, find the suspension bridge and then head over to Utuado to visit the Parque Ceremonial Indigena de Caguana. More about the ceremonial park coming up.

We head over to the newly built Hwy 10 (replaces hwy 123) going south and before long find the entrance to the old highway. There are staggeringly tall bamboo plants at almost every turn creating a much appreciated break from the sun. The road has been neglected for some time, not to mention narrow, both good excuses to take our time.

You’ll see above a graffiti design on a boulder that is ubiquitous in Puerto Rico. So much so, that I have been documenting every instance I spot the red, white and blue graphic. We call it “broken scissors” but I have yet to find out the meaning or attribution. When I feel like I can’t possibly find another, one pokes out from behind some weed encased building or remnant. Itś probably just some tagger with too much time on their hands but eventually I WILL find out.

Along the way we spotted what must have been a dozen or so piglets trotting down the road after its mother. Of course there were the obligatory chickens, dogs and turkeys as well.

We finally arrived at the suspension bridge, of course we had to cross and get our feet wet in the river. It was very….bouncy to say the least. With that out of the way, so to speak, we head over to the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park. To be continued..

 

Chasing Windmills

A few weeks ago, Steve and I went on a day trip observing locations for a “Don Quixote” animation he is working on. Naturally, this scouting trip consisted of visiting the few windmill farms on the island as well as one historical windmill site. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the historical windmill in Guayama since it was closed for restorations.

We had a great time meandering through Santa Isabel’s windmill farm with its various thriving crops such as corn, mangoes and papaya. The windmills are huge and incredibly intimidating when standing just within 100 yards but equally beautiful and alluring with their tapered blades powerfully whooshing overhead.

After Santa Isabel it was a long and winding road through many congested towns of people celebrating “Eugenio Maria de Hostos”. What we thought would take us 90 minutes, in fact took us almost twice as long to arrive in Punta Lima where the final modern windmill farm was located. It wasn’t nearly as accessible as the one prior and is situated within the landscape so awkwardly it was no longer a viable choice.

It was all worth it though to see a completely different side of the island, at various points we felt like we were in another world. It reminded us a lot of the Sonoma Valley in California, the landscape and the atmosphere were very pristine, serene and breath-taking at many points.