Archive for January, 2017

Arecibo, Puerto Rico: The Caves of La Cueva del Indio

La Cueva del Indio Puerto Rico

La Cueva del Indio, Arecibo, PR

This article is the last in a three part series starting with a seven-day vacation in Rincon, Puerto Rico: Exloring the Area〈〈Click link. Exploring and touring the surfing town of Rincon, I enjoy uncovering the details of beaches, dining, and adventure. The second article called Click link〉〉Side trips from the Town of Rincon, Puerto Rico, shares information short drives to surrounding areas and attractions. It highlights the place I personally enjoyed the most.

La Cueva del Indio has caves and isolated beaches an hour and a half north of Rincon in the town of Arecibo. If you are a nature lover and like to do some intermediate hiking, this is the place for scenic picture taking and amusement. You know you are getting close when you catch a glimpse of the tallest sculpture in the US – the 360’ Christopher Columbus sculpture named “Birth of the New World”.

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Tallest Statue in the US, Arecibo, PR

Take your hiking sandals or sneakers and a couple bottles of water. Most attractions in Puerto Rico are no charge, but it is five dollars to park so have cash on hand and leave early if you like to enjoy a sense of privacy. You will get some vague directions that turn out to be accurate as you head through some ruined buildings and toward the limestone cliffs in search of caves. As you walk, you will see holes down into caves that vary in size. The craggy and volcanic- looking limestone rock is treacherous and children should be watched very closely. There is one much larger opening that is marked and leads to a wooden ladder. The ladder goes down into the cave where there is plenty of light from the other natural “skylights” above.

Inside you will see petroglyph cave drawings, a sand covered floor surrounding large rocks that lead into other areas with pools of water. Blue crabs scurry around and hide as soon as they see you. Climb up some of the interior rocks and you will notice a bat or two flying around near the cave ceiling. When waves hit the exterior cliffs, there is a spot that bubbles up from the floor and forms a small stream. The rocks are a beautiful purple near the base and in the water.

 

 

Once out of the cave, continue along the ridge and look out at the ocean and across the neighboring cliff formations that create arches and bridges of stone etched by the tides. One of the coves here is the scene of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie and you can imagine a cast and crew navigating the rocks and water to get a shot that captures the more eerie and dangerous qualities of the film.

Find an orange cone that marks a hidden trail and hike through the tropical plants to find yet another rocky cliff leading to a view of two crescent beaches. Navigate the rocks until you get to the sand and remove your shoes. This beach has grainy waterlogged sand that you will sink into at the water’s edge by about 4 inches. The softer dry sand further from the water is still hard to walk in after hiking the cliffs.

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You Should Be Here in Arecibo

Strip to a bathing suit and carry your clothes and shoes to continue comfortably. Enjoy the beach and tidal pools while noticing the tiny snail and hermit crab shells that cover everything. Watch the birds and listen to the waves hitting the rocks.

These beaches back up to another resort and picnic area accessed from the road and there is a private home on the end owned by the same individual as the La Cueva del Indio site. The land connects to a third beach that you can walk as well and you will see a few bulky beach tables and chairs cemented into the ground.

The trek back feels easier after enjoying the beach. Finish this day with a rum drink in hand and a view of the sunset!

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One of the isolated beaches found at La Cueva del Indio, Arecibo, PR

The hiking takes you to areas that less adventurous people might miss. Always have shoes with a good tread, a change of clothes to keep dry, and extra water bottles when in more remote areas. The safety and security are lax, so plan ahead when it comes to personal items. Keep them in a backpack on your person or in the trunk of your car out of site.

This was my favorite experience of the entire seven-day trip, but I thoroughly enjoyed Puerto Rico’s range of activities: beaches, restaurants, shopping, and historical sites. I challenge myself to find photo opportunities beyond the usual vacation images. I was not disappointed while hiking through caves, then standing high on the cliffs with views of rock bridges and arches, and enjoying beaches with incredible scenery.

As a reminder, this article is the third in a series about my vacation to Rincon, Puerto Rico in November and day trips from the Rincon area (links provided in the first paragraph above). The privacy I experienced at this beach is partly seasonal and because I visited the area from 9am until noon. More tourists were arriving as I left.

I am happy to explain how Dreamtrips Travel Club has encouraged me to explore my world and share the experience with others. My blue “You Should Be Here Sign” is a club gift for joining. For information, email me at scribesyndicate@gmail.com.

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Side Trips from the Town of Rincon, Puerto Rico

You may have missed the main article leading up to this one called Click link〉〉Rincon, Puerto Rico: Exploring the Area, this article is about day trips I took just outside of Rincon. After covering the best parts of town, I had to share the surrounding attractions in another travel piece. I will also remind anyone starting with this story that the trip was taken shortly after Thanksgiving, the peak season was over, and the weather hovering in the mid-80s…

Boating, Fishing, and Snorkeling in La Parguera

boat rentals, island, beach vacation, puerto rico

La Parguera, Gina @ Johnny’s Boat Rentals

We headed out to La Parguera, about an hour away, to Gina @ Johnny’s boat rentals, where we rented two small open skiffs to ride to a nearby cove and snorkel and fish with friends who had done the same.

On the way, we passed small painted cottages on stilts with covered boat slips and grabbed our cameras. We passed a dock where iguanas came to beg for food from tourists, providing another photo opportunity.

After spending the day in water so clear you could see the color of the sand at your feet and the fish swimming by, we reluctantly left, but detoured through the mangrove forest over the water, in and out of other secluded fishing spots, through tropical tunnels of bird inhabited greenery and twisted tree limbs. If you book a tour in the evening, you can visit one of the islands bioluminescent bays. The best time to go is when there is a new moon for greater visibility.

Jobos Beach in Isabela

Another day was spent about a half hour north of Rincon at Jobos Beach to see the crashing waves on the rocks of a popular surfing beach in Isabela. Once a beach primarily accessible to those living in the area, it is now under construction, with new hotels and restaurants making parking a bit of a struggle. Park along the main road or pay $5 in a local resident’s lot.

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Waves crashing into rocks at Jobos Beach in Isabela, PR

You can trek the volcanic and plutonic rock to the top of a cliff and watch the ocean waves make contact and spray seafoam in the air. You are safe in a pair of flip flops, but bare feet would be ill-advised and seriously slow you down. The beach is the typically soft sand found on most of the area beaches and the water is easily accessed for swimming.

There are Spanish style eateries to visit along the beachfront here serving local fare. The construction will likely end up commercializing the area and taking some of the native feel away. New hotels mean new restaurants and activities, but there is a cost. Puerto Rico’s economy is not the best and additional tourism dollars can help. Keep an eye on this transitioning area and see what unfolds.

Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo

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Playa Sucia Beach and Salt Flats in Cabo Rojo, PR

 

Puerto Rico has salt flats near the beach in an 1800-acre reserve in Playa Sucia – La Playuela – in Cabo Rojo. The name means “dirty beach” but it is anything but unkempt. Heading south, it takes a little over an hour to get there. Then you will drive on a white sand and salt road riddled with potholes and pools of water through indigenous trees and brush for about a mile to reach a secluded beach area perfect for picnicking. The low-lying trees create a canopy to find shade from the sun. The sand is soft and white and the water is clear blue for miles.

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This is where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. On one end of the beach are trails to take you along the ridgeline of limestone cliffs until you reach a jetty of rock and natural bridges for some excellent views of the entire area including the lighthouse and observatory. You will see lizards on the path and big blue crabs climbing the rock formations near the water; a spectacular site as waves crash into the cliffs are viewed from above. An unusual number of butterflies gather here that are attracted by the salt and natural plant life.

Los Morillos Lighthouse on the other side of the beach is accessible by walking up the long gravel drive to the top of the cliffs or by shuttle bus. There is a tourist center where you can get water, read about the history of the reserve, salt crystals, and the lighthouse, and purchase local crafts made as you watch; items like jewelry, hammocks, and artwork. Outside, get as close as you dare to the edge of the cliffs to capture this dramatic view. There are no safety barriers. You would not be the first person to fall, be wary.

Gozalandia Falls in San Sebastian

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Side view of Gozalandia Falls

With all the cliffs around the island of Puerto Rico, it makes sense to search for waterfalls like the Gozalandia Falls in San Sebastian about 45 minutes away. Be prepared, you will find steep dirt road access to the parking area and it gets even steeper when hiking on foot to the waterfall area. It used to be downright dangerous, but the park added cement steps with railings and walkways to viewing areas in 2010. Wear comfortable shoes and prepare to get wet. Hiking-style sandals with straps would be recommended for traction, to protect your feet, and dry quickly.

water falls Puerto Rico

Gozalandia Falls, San Sebastian, PR

 

The falls empty into a swimming hole before continuing down the rocky river bed. A recent rain will make the 50’ falls even more amazing. The water in November, after some pretty heavy rains, was still comfortable for swimming. Even though the weather was mid-80s, it was a little cooler in the shade of the trees. We spotted a drone or two taking photos above our heads to get some crazy angles.

 

Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla

We just had to see what the fuss was about at Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla. A half hour north of Rincon, local fishermen paint their boats in bright colors, load up their gear, push their boats off the beach and into the ocean to fish for the day. On their return, there is no dock to tie up to so they get a running start and head full tilt to crash onto the beach as far as they can go before dragging the boat onto rollers and hauling it up further to unload their catch.

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Crash Boats Beach Fishing Boats

There is a long cement pier on one end with a strange bright yellow metal doorway to nowhere. You can walk through it and continue down the pier. You may see a man surrounded by pelicans. Some train them for taking pictures with tourists and it is probably the closest look you can get to a wild pelican.

Look for a rock wall with the national flag painted on it near a path up the rock face that has crumbled from weather. A vendor style food stand is located just off the parking lot. This is a watersport beach and considered a great spot for Scuba diving. The beach is wide for sunbathing, but not for swimming.

Each of these sites is a personal experience I will treasure. Puerto Rico is loaded with other activities, beaches, restaurants, shopping, and historical sites. They provided countless opportunities for extreme picture taking.

I have one more location to share that had so many things to see and explore, I put a third article together titled, Aricebo, Puerto Rico: The Caves of La Cuerva del Indio.Click link.

La Cueva del Indio is a hiking excursion through caves to see views of rock bridges and arches and find isolated beaches with incredible scenery. The tallest statue in the US is visible as you approach the town of Arecibo.

Dreamtrips Travel Club has encouraged me to plan more travel. I am expanding my mind, experiences, and culture everywhere I go; I am determined to work on my bucket list of destinations now, while I’m healthy. I would be happy to share information about it with you. Leave your contact information on the site or contact me by email at scribesyndicate@gmail.com.

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Rincon, Puerto Rico: Exploring the Area

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Tropical rooftop rental paradise in Rincon

If you want to find the best opportunities for fun and adventure, take a look what I discovered in the west coast town of Rincon, Puerto Rico. Hiking, water sports, dining, and nature at places both on and off the beaten path, just out of peak tourist season.  This trip happened at the end of November.

The rates to fly to Puerto Rico are extremely reasonable this time of year. The San Juan airport is the main international airport on the island, it is small and easy to navigate, and a short walk to get to the car rental area. Take a carry-on and you will breeze right through your flight schedule.map-of-puerto-rico

There are typical car rental rates in November, but a bigger selection of newer cars to choose from with very low miles. My car had 128 miles on it and still had the plastic on the seatbelt connections and the new car smell. I had 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the surfing beach town of Rincon, Puerto Rico. I could have flown into the closer Aguadilla Airport, but San Juan had less expensive options and I wanted to explore anyway.

The Mental Adjustment

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Rooftop rental with seating, hammock, and pool

It’s my belief that traveling to my destination is part of the vacation. Snacks and drinks in the airport, reading a book I’ve been dying to crack open during a layover, a movie on the plane ride, and hopefully a window seat for take-off and landing, are part of the experience. It helps if you revert to child-like wonder from the moment you leave work and start packing. A perk of my trip is a membership to Dreamtrips travel club and having what is called “Rovia bucks” gained from sharing the club with friends who love to travel as well as I do. This club account paid for my airline ticket and sent me through expedited security lines. I didn’t start spending money until I picked up my rental car. I could have covered my accommodations by searching for a pre-packaged vacation or an available hideaway in the area but opted for a private rental option with friends who live in Puerto Rico instead.

There are many places to see between San Juan and Rincon driving along the west coast of Puerto Rico and I had researched a few ideas ahead of time. Waking in a comfortable bed on the first day in my Rincon rental, I felt the ceiling fan and open windows blow the humid 82-degree air over my body and was immediately psyched for morning coffee on the rooftop. I left the rain and chilly air of Charlotte, North Carolina, far behind to stay with people who spend six months of the year in Puerto Rico’s Rincon area who were going to be really helpful finding my kind of vacation entertainment. I walked upstairs to find myself in a tropical paradise of plants, outdoor cushioned furniture, a hammock, and a small pool. The sky was blue and I could see the ocean in the distance. I was already taking pictures to send home.

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The old church sign at my Rincon rental

The rental I was staying in used to be an old church. It was an open floorplan, light wood, tile floors, and brightly colored walls with beach themed decoration; totally my idea of an oceanside cottage. Three bedrooms and two baths with one outdoor shower made it perfect to share as everyone had their own privacy. Open windows allowed us to be serenaded by tree frogs at night and awakened by crowing roosters in the morning.

Caribbean Beaches

We all eased into the first day with a trip to local Rincon beaches. Getting from point A to point B means navigating roads that are only a lane and half wide with periodic hairpin blind turns. Take the extra car rental insurance and bravely explore. Eventually, you will be driving like the locals, in the middle of the road, relying on reflexes, and blowing through red lights late at night. You will note the cars parked outside their residences are marked by a series of fender benders with age.

Local Rincon Beaches

Local Rincon Beaches

Sandy Beach, like many beaches, is lined with palm trees on one side and turquoise ocean water on the other. Since the area is known for surfing, many of the beaches are rocky and it’s hard to walk into the water without tripping, but Sandy Beach is “swimming friendly” where you can walk easily in and out of the water, snorkel and float, then relax on a beach chair. A convenient boutique size hotel and bar called Tamboo is on the beach when you feel like getting some food and refreshment. Stay the day or hop over to Steps Beach – named for the mysterious cement stoop – sitting in the water near the shore. This beach is a little rocky, but good for snorkeling since there are places for fish to play hide and seek.

Beaches in Rincon

Dome Beach in Rincon

Dome beach was once an active military installation that officially shuttered its doors in 2012. Within the dome was a boiling nuclear superheater run by general electric from 1965-68. There is now a museum of atomic science, a local surfing beach with trails, rocky outcrops and a view of the mysterious looking dome over the tropical trees and vegetation. It is now a premier surfing beach for skilled locals and tourists.

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Rincon Lighthouse

Next to Dome Beach is the Rincon Lighthouse sitting atop a small hill. You may find a stand for handmade jewelry outside, a grassy courtyard is often used for weddings for its picturesque views of beaches from above, and there is a convenient restroom facility.

Beach Activities and Equipment Rental

Rincon paddle boards rental

Rincon Paddle Boards

If you like watersports, locate Rincon Paddleboard Rentals owned and operated by Damiano and Chicako who are Rincon locals. Find them on the main website or on Facebook and learn about how they can teach you to paddleboard, surf, kayak, and snorkel as well as take you on tours. They have all the necessary equipment for each activity

paddle boards Rincon Puerto Rico vacation

“Big Red” Paddle Board, Rincon Paddle Board Rental

available to rent. Tell them Jessica Headrick sent you for a surprise on your visit. They are located on the beach and can take you out as soon as you are ready. Keep in mind that Puerto Rico has 501km or 311 miles of coastline and this is just the western section.

Dining and Accommodations

Playa Maria Beach access is next to the Calypso Café which has a bar with live music in the evenings. There are a couple of beach shops that provide great reasons to get out of the sun for a bit, soothe your skin, and hydrate.

Rincon resort Puerto Rico

The Lazy Parrot Mini Resort, Rincon, PR

The Lazy Parrot Mini Resort in Rincon has an island atmosphere suitable for events and weddings. It has hotel rooms and suites, a gift shop, restaurant, and poolside bar in the courtyard. Stay there to take complete advantage of the amenities or just visit the bar and take in a game or two over a local Medalla beer.

Grab an authentic English style breakfast or tea at the English Rose Bed and Breakfast located up a winding road surrounded by lush foliage, ending on a hilltop with breathtaking views for miles. Have a relaxing brunch or reserve a guesthouse overlooking the pool and stay a while.

local curbside restaurant in Rincon, PR

Aloha Surf Curbside bar and restaurant

The Aloha Surf is an outdoor food stand and bar right in town beside other local restaurants. The owner, Crystal, may be your chef,  creating local favorites like fresh seafood, steak, chicken, and pork pinchos which are pieces of meat pierced with a stick like a kabob. Empanadillas are another Spanish dish of pastries filled with the same meats as the pinchos either chopped or ground. These finger foods are very popular fare found along every roadside throughout the island, but there are always those that come highly recommended over others.

Located right on the beach, La Copa Llena at the Black Eagle is the setting for spectacular sunsets, unique menu items and specials like Poke (a yellow fin tuna dish), tostones (mashed green plantains), butter-poached mackerel, and ribs that melt in your mouth.

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Sunset at Hotel Villa Cofresi

The Hotel Villa Cofresi is a beach resort. Upon entering you will see their gift shop, pass by an open-air game room with billiard tables on the right and a pool on the left, and then find a seat at the bar overlooking the pelicans and boats on the ocean. Their signature drink, The Pirate Special, is several types of rum mixed with coconut milk, sprinkled with cinnamon, and served inside a freshly opened coconut shell. The entire drink does not fit in the coconut so it comes with an overflow cup. It is the perfect drink at the end of a beach day.

Finding fresh seafood in Rincon is not hard to do, but if you are looking for an exceptional recipe and presentation, you need to visit Saltaire and the Casa Verde Hotel. The chef, Christopher, studied the culinary arts while living in New York City where he refined his skills in fine dining and opened a restaurant in Puerto Rico. He showcases the variety of fresh catches, such as red snapper, along with lamb chops, stuffed mushrooms, fresh gnocchi, and even coconut bread pudding. The outdoor bar on the ground floor is decorated with little white lights and potted plants for ambiance and there is plenty of room to dance in the evening.

Saltaire is only open during Puerto Rico’s winter season – November through April -and we were lucky not to miss them! Contact them at Saltaire.info@gmail.com to ask about specials and tell them Jessica Headrick sent you!

 Day Trips from Rincon

My separate article on Click link〉〉Side Trips from the Town of Rincon, Puerto Rico features details of visiting the following locations by car:

The best part of my trip: La Cueva del Indio with caves and isolated beaches an hour and a half north of Rincon in the town of Arecibo.

A third article titled Click link〉〉 Arecibo, Puerto Rico: The Caves of Cueva del Indio is dedicated to this location with many photos of the site and is certainly worth reading!

The end of this visit was filled with memories of things that can’t be seen or experienced elsewhere. Puerto Rico is loaded with other activities, beaches, restaurants, shopping, and historical sites. That will be the subject of another trip.

I would not have necessarily thought of taking a trip just after Thanksgiving, but Dreamtrips Rovia bucks eventually expire after a year and I wanted to take full advantage of my travel dollars. It’s hard to imagine needing the incentive to travel, but many of us put off plans more than we act on them. I joined the travel club to be sure I would see new places at least once a year if not several times each year. For more information, email me at scribesyndicate@gmail.com.

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