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

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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.

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.

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!

Towns of Puerto Rico, An Adult Coloring Book

Beautiful coloring book featuring 26 municipalities in Puerto Rico. The title says “Adult” but I think some kids might have a hard time letting you have all the fun. Very talented group of PR illustrators here, well done!

From the publisher:

In terms of the book, this is part of Puerto Rico Presenta’s publishing company where we try to create books and media related to the Puerto Rican culture. This project started when I began participating in adult coloring at a library in the states and decided it would be a great idea to have one representing the towns.

It consist of 30 illustrations, every artist created 5 different towns and one of San Juan. The art was commissioned and they were allowed to choose what they thought the best representations were. I worked with each artist independently until we thought each piece was a good fit for the book.

If you are a bookstore or interested in reselling it you can email us here and we can provide reseller codes for the book. -Alfredo

Illustrators: Rafael Pagan, Victoria Cano, Xavier Ocasio, Alexander Damiani, Carlos Fernandez

coloring book

Convenient drive-thru horse petting in Arecibo.

Farm in Caño Tiburones

This trip found us meandering through the back roads of Arecibo looking for another access point to Caño Tiburones. After passing a few homes in what seemed like the middle of nowhere we decided to ask for help.

We spotted a lady in front of a farm house and explained our quest. Sure enough she had an access point right on her property and kindly let us use her private trail to get there. Some days we are so incredibly lucky to find such accommodating people.

We had a blast looking at all the farm animals including many few week-old calves and goats. Lots of dogs, horses, chickens, pigs and cats as well. As per usual, we didn’t see many birds, in fact, we only saw one egret and another that flew away too quickly to id. Oh well, it all evens out, right?

Caño Tiburones

We wanted to access the wetlands in Caño Tiburones, somehow I had it in my mind (oh how we lie to ourselves!) I could see a few flamingos that visit the area occasionally. We ended up seeing one egret, two stray dogs and one very fast mongoose. I have probably seen more egrets in a home depot parking lot.

It was still beautiful and at least we figured out how to access the area via car and a short walk. It was strange to see the old roads previously driven on covered in a few feet of water, like an old ghost town. Woooooo….

Lago Dos Bocas, Arecibo/Utuado

I remember the first time we traveled around this lake, I was 21 and Puerto Rico was brand new to me. That particular day was especially magical. We had visited several caves before hand and on the way to the lake we stopped at a waterfall with these gorgeous peach Brugmansias blooming. We crawled down into the bottom where several kids were splashing about, the whole world seemed inviting and joyous. That day will forever be etched into my memory and I bet you just might come away with your own unique moment or two.

For further information I am going to refer to Puerto Day Trips for all the important info.

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..

 

An Orchard microcosm, birds dig it.

 

Tony’s Pizza

Too tired to cook, tried & true pizza to the rescue.