Last updated: June 28, 2017
Things to do in Arecibo
This is one of the oldest cities in Puerto Rico and it was named after the Taíno cacique (chief) Xamaica Arasibo. The town is also knowns as El Diamante Del Norte (The Diamond of the North) and La Ribera del Arecibo (The shore of Arecibo). The town is located about 50 miles west of San Juan and you can get there using the PR-22 Express road.
The Arecibo Observatory
If you think there is no science going on in Puerto Rico, you don’t know about the Arecibo Observatory. This radio telescope/research center is operated by SRI International, Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and Universidad Metropolitana (UMET), under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). The radio telescope was the largest single-aperture telescope from its completion in 1963 until July 2016 whet the Chinese built the Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). You may recognize the observatory form the James Bond movie, Golden Eye, or from early seasons of the X-Files. The most popular use for the telescope is hunting down giant asteroids, but many place their hopes on it for the search of extraterrestrial life.
Do not use your GPS to get there. It will send you to a very strange route. If you are coming from San Juan, take road 22 West and exit on road 10 for about 400m. Then turn right onto PR-652, left on PR-651, which then magically turns into PR-635. From there you want to find PR-625 which will take you there. Just follow the signs because it can get confusing. It’s also important to note that, like many active research institutions, the observatory may be closed on Mondays, and on certain days.
Cueva del Indio
Looking for a perfect Instagram picture? La Cueva del Indio (Cave of the Indian, named after the native petroglyphs inside) is what you are looking for. This nature reserve is said to have the largest number of Pre-Columbian petroglyphs found along the coastal zone of mainland Puerto Rico. Because the Department of Natural Resources manages the cave, there is no fee to get in, however, locals may charge you to park in their residences, as there is not an official parking lot. It’s usually a small fee, no greater than $10, which I would pay to keep the car in a safe place. It takes about 30 minutes to see everything and we highly recommend that you go either during the day, or at sunset. There used to be a ladder that would take you to the petroglyphs, but last I heard, it was removed for safety reasons. I got there using my GPS, but it’s located on Road 681 by Punta Las Tunas. Wear good shoes: walking on the volcanic rocks can be tough in sandals.
Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) used to be a hidden gem on the island, but its grand views have made it a highly visited tourist attraction. It operates from 10am to 6 pm Monday to Friday and 8:30am to 6:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, although it looks like they now offer night tours. It used to be free of charge but now you must get tickets at the Cueva Ventana website for $19 ($10 for Puerto Ricans with ID). From the San Juan area, take Route 22 West to Route 10 South (exit 75B). Take Route 10 to KM 75. There is a Puma gas station on the east side of the road, where we used to park, although since my last visit, there’s likely designated parking.
Camping or mountain biking at Bosque Cambalache
This recreation area is a 4 mile loop that serves both hikers and mountain bikers. The trail is shaded and in decent shape, with some rocky areas, and has a number of paths that cut through the middle of the loop. If you are biking you must bring your own bike: I’m not aware of any rental places close by. Both hiking and biking are free and there is a parking lot at the entrance. If you would like to camp here, you need to get a permit from the División de Uso de Terrenos y Permisos Forestales (call 787-999-2200 ext 5610 or X 5613, or 787-881-1004). The application is available online.
Lago Dos Bocas
First and foremost, I must start with an interesting fact about lakes in Puerto Rico: they are all man-made, and this one is no exception. That said, the “lake”—really a reservoir—is a perfect stop after visiting Cueva Ventana, given their proximity to each other. The ferry ride is FREE, just show up at the pier and walk to the boat ramp to wait for an available ferry. When I go, I usually visit one of the restaurants by the lake. Below on “What to eat” you will see a couple of options.
(Arecibo and Utuado) – Photos coming soon
I have to say that this has been one of the most unforgettable adventures I’ve had in Puerto Rico, even after we got lost getting there using the GPS (again, I never learn) and after my husband dropped his cellphone on a 80-feet-deep water pool… inside a cave full of bats. Since I didn’t know the area well, we booked a tour with Tanama River Adventures, who are located close to the entrance of the river. Please note: this tour outfit, unlike others, showed a high degree of respect for the surroundings, by limiting the number of visitors per tour group, and making sure we follow good eco-stewardship and don’t disturb the flora and fauna. Other tour groups we saw on our visit, didn’t follow these same principles—there were groups of 50-plus, who didn’t stay quiet in the karst-formation river caves, potentially disturbing the bats and stalactites overhead. After venturing through a bamboo forest, our tour guide took us cave-tubing, and after some more hiking, cave exploring, and river crossing, we got to what I believe is the biggest karst (limestone formation) arch in the Caribbean. At the end of our trip, we climbed a waterfall that guarded a small geode alcove. . When we got back to their office, they fed us the best rice and beans ever (don’t tell my mom I said that).
Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park
The Arecibo lighthouse “Los Morillos”, was the last one built by the Spanish government in 1898. Adjacent to it is now a historical park meant to educate kids about different phases of Puerto Rican cultural heritage, starting with the Tainos, or native Indians of the island. They do have a pirate cave, which sounds fun but a bit scary for smaller children. The entrance fee is $12 for adults and $10 for children and seniors ( plus the $3 parking fee). You can find more information on their website. Afterwards, if you want to take a dip at the beach, you can visit the nearby beach pool called Poza del Obispo.
Public Plaza and the Catedral San Felipe Apostol
I honestly think that if you want to get to know a town and its people, your first stop should be the public plaza. Back in the day, during Spanish colonization, two of the requirements to found a town were building a church and a public plaza. The church would be built adjacent to the plaza, elevated, and with the altar facing east. The plaza would be used for military parades and drills, bartering with merchants, and socializing. The San Felipe Apostle Cathedral is the second largest on the island, after San Juan Cathedral (in old San Juan, naturally).
Where to eat
Gustitos Criollos: Right by the highway, cafeteria style, long lines but great food.
Good Times Restaurant: I would eat mofongo here day and night. This is close to the highway and the beach.
Truck-Stop Bar-Grill: They have this gigantic paella of meat for $60. It’s obviously meant to share.
Playa Brava: Beachfront restaurant with great seafood.
La Buena Vida: Located in downtown Arecibo, this restaurant offers you Italian food, tapas, and vegetarian meals with a Puerto Rican twist. They also have artisanal beers.
Lenel: A bit more upscale than the other restaurants, but reasonably priced. They also have a good selection of wines.
MANDI’OKA-Tapiocas Brasil: A Latin/Brazilian fusion food stand that specializes on tapioca dishes, aka yucca crepes.
The following restaurants you get to from a ferry that departs from the Embarcadero Dos Bocas, but they are technically in Utuado:
Con Leña: They specialize on lamb stew, mofongo, and lobster. Great view of the lake and looks like they have live music sometimes.
Rancho Marina: My personal favorite in the area. Food and view are exquisite! Prices are in the higher end, but the quality of the food is worth it. Although, I’ve seen people complain about the food. This has never been my experience, but I imagine it could happen.
Where to Stay
This one-of-a-kind Bed and Breakfast
TJ Ranch is a unique place for people who are into the outdoors and are laid back. It’s basically three little houses that you can rent from $100 to $135 a night depending how many people come. Please note that this place has no air conditioning, and you might hear the neighbors if they are being loud. However, that’s the only negative review I’ve read. The price includes a full breakfast. To get there, I highly recommend you NOT to use the GPS, as it will take you to strange places. They are located on the south of Arecibo, closer to Utuado. When you book, they will send you instructions on how to get there, but I can tell you it’s close to Lago Dos Bocas and Cueva Ventana.
Top AirBnB Hosts
If you are new to AirBnB, you can use this link to sign up and get a $40 credit: LINK MISSING
Vibrant Gated-Community House: Close to the highway, Bosque Cambalache, the outlets, and the beach. Average rating is 5 starsand costs around $50 per night, depending arrangements. Pets are not allowed.
Your Room at the Center of Paradise: In case you want to open the door and see the beach. Average rating is 5 stars from 98 reviews, and it costs around $65 per night.
Tiny House: This one is right by the highway and I love it because it looks just like a traditional Puerto Rican house. The name says it all, the place is tiny, but super chic and from 206 reviews the average rate is 5 stars. You can rent the entire home for $65 per night.
Casa Pepa by the Reef @ Cueva del Indio Beach: This is a beach house located at one of the most beautiful views on the island, Cueva del Indio. The description says that they have a fogón available for use in the place, but I am not sure if they actually provide food. It would be pretty cool if they teach you how to use it, as it was the traditional way to cook in Puerto Rico. They have 5 star reviews, but only form 14 people. The average rate per night is $92.
Vacations Rentals by Salitre: This one is actually a house with 8 rooms available. Perfect for a family trip or event, and it looks like it works for small weddings (we have some experience in getting hitched in PR, in case you need advice). Beachfront with pool and many other amenities, located close to Cueva del Indio and the Arecibo Light House. Average $100 per night and top rated on Aibnb.
Araxibo Beachfront private house: Beautiful home for about $195 per night. The terrace has an amazing view of the beach. Need I say more?
Señora Casa: For $400 a night you can rent an entire beachfront house, designed by local artists. This is the best-looking one from all the rentals I found. The house has 4 bedrooms and can accommodate up to 8 people. It looks like they have also held weddings and special events here.