There’s two ways to vacation, you either follow your travel guide or you venture into the wild and let your senses guide you. Puerto Rico has enough sites and adventures to satisfy both crowds. This month’s outside the guide trip takes us to the northern part of Puerto Rico, to a town called Arecibo.
Arecibo is Puerto Rico’s third oldest city, settled in 1556 and officially founded in 1616 by Spanish captain Felipe de Beaumont y Navarra. Arecibo takes its name from the Taíno Cacique Xamaica Arasibo of Abacoa, Arecibo’s original name. Arecibo is known as La Villa del Capitán Correa (Captain Correa’s Villa). Captain Correa was a Puerto Rican member of the Spanish Army who defeated British Admiral William Whetstone and his two British Navy ships in 1702.
Arecibo is home to many natural and technological wonders, making it a great stop for sightseeing, outdoor activities and nonpareil adventure. Arecibo’s most famous sight is the Arecibo Observatory, a radio telescope operated by Cornell University in conjunction with the National Science Foundation. It is the largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed and has been featured in films such as Goldeneye, Contact and Species. A tour facility, which includes a short film on its history and achievements, is just $6 for adults and $4 for children and seniors, a trifle for such a marvel. For more information, visit the Arecibo Observatory Site.
For the history buffs out there, Arecibo has its share of noteworthy sites. Located in the town square, the Cathedral of Saint Phillipe Apostle was built in the mid 17th century and is the center of an unusual story. The cathedral has been either completely or partially destroyed by not one, but three earthquakes. After being hit by the earthquake of 1918, its vaulted roofs were replaced by flat roofs. Still, the Cathedral of Saint Phillipe Apostle is a wonderful Neoclassical-designed church with Rennaisance-styled windows, a rare feature in Puerto Rico’s churches. Click the link to learn how to get there.
If you want to go even further back in history, la Cueva del Indio (Cave of the Indian) will take you there, right at the edge of the sea. The Cueva del Indio is a limestone cave located right on the ocean, and contains a large amount of Taíno indian petroglyphs. These ancient drawings have withstood the test of time and rough seas and tell the story of Puerto Rico’s first inhabitants. Click here to discover it on your own.
Now for the hidden gem, that once-in-a-lifetime, can’t-believe-your-eyes place you can only experience by getting outside your travel guide. The Cueva Ventana, Spanish for window cave, is the embodiment of natural beauty. Just a mere 15-to-20-minute hike through a rugged trail will get you to an astounding opening on a mountain with a 360-degree view of the Río Grande de Arecibo Valley. It’s one of those instances where words, pictures and video fall all too short of the real thing. Although it’s an off-the-beaten-path spot, it’s not impossible to get there. The trail entrance is contiguous to a Texaco gas station and the trail itself is clearly marked. As with any other outdoor, tropical adventure, some caution and preparation is needed. Here are some tips and suggestions for your trip to the cave:
- Wear comfortable shoes, preferably with a durable rubber sole.
- Bring water and sunscreen; it gets pretty hot during the hike.
- Bring a flashlight for the cave portion of the hike; it gets kind of dark in caves.
- Even though it won’t make it justice, bring your camera.
All in all, Arecibo is a quiet town that may not appear to offer much, but the spellbinding view at Cueva Ventana’s Monet-like landscape is enough to change anyone’s mind.
Click here to get driving directions to the most dramatic view you’ll ever see.