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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.