Puerto Rico coasts 7 & 9/14

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Getting away from San Juan - central and western coasts...

Central Puerto Rico - Arecibo Observatory dish

This page is a combination of photos from two brief trips I took to Puerto Rico in July and September of 2014. Having been to Puerto Rico many times before, I concentrated on exploring the island's central and western coasts, neither of which I had visited before. The experience was rich and despite traveling in the middle of the Caribbean's hurricane season, the weather was nearly perfect throughout both of my stays. Puerto Rico's recent elevation as a US capital gains tax haven has brought dramatic growth, a building boom and lots of traffic.

July, 2014 - Central Puerto Rico

Just a couple hours west of San Juan it seems like a different place altogether. I took in three sights in central Puerto Rico on this day trip; the Arecibo coast, the Arecibo observatory and the Camuy caves. Heading west from the Marriott on Condado Beach, the 22 toll road zipped me right into the city of Arecibo. From there I wound my way to the coast where a large waterpark fronts the Arecibo lighthouse (first and second pictures below). The lighthouse was worth the trek and a quick visit.

Southwest coast - Cabo Rojo lighthouse & limestone cliffs

Central coast Arecibo lighthouse

Central coast Arecibo park

Arecibo Observatory dish

Camuy rainforest

 

Heading inland (south) from Arecibo city, I traveled on smaller mountain roads to the Arecibo observatory (large picture top of page left and third picture above), which was an interesting place. The observatory was built in the early sixties and remains, at 1000 ft. diameter, the largest single dish radio telescope in the world. It was funded under the auspices of the department of defense, but it's real purpose has always been to study extraterrestrial life, energy and atmospheres. The newish visitor center has a lot of displays oriented toward science-minded kids and a theatre that plays an informational movie. Numerous Hollywood movies and television shows have used the dish for location shoots.

Heading back down the mountain and west, still in the island's interior, I arrived at the Camuy rainforest (fourth picture above). Nearby is the Camuy River Cave Park, covering 268 acres with a network of limestone caves and waterways carved out by the third largest underground river in the world. The tour was impressive and very worthwhile. I also got to test my photographic skills, as caves are an inherently difficult environment. The four shots below were taken handheld with no flash using my Nikon D800E with my 16-35mm f4 lens.

 

Camuy caves sinkhole

Camuy caves lightbox

Camuy caves opening

Camuy caves tour group

 

September, 2014 - Puerto Rico's west coast

Returning to Puerto Rico in mid-September I took on the west coast of the island. From San Juan I headed west past Arecibo where the fast toll road (route 22) ends and continued on the much slower route 2 to Aguadilla on the northwest corner of the island. Winding down an access road I came to the often photographed Crash Boat beach (first picture below). The name comes from past boat rescues of airplane crews from the nearby US air force base. Continuing south along the west coast of the island I went the town of Rincon, which is rapidly becoming a mainland tax haven community, to Domes Beach (second picture below), named for the decommissioned nuclear reactor dome at its northern end. Domes Beach is just below a nice new park built around the Rincon lighthouse (third picture below).

 

Playa Crash Boat

Domes Beach from Rincon park

Rincon park lighthouse

Boqueron crescent beach

 

Continuing south along the west coast through the historic town of Mayaguez, a storm passed through dumping a lot of rain in a short time. Some roads partially flooded making the drive slow. I arrived in Boqueron nearing the southwest corner of the island mid-afternoon. Boqueron has a huge park and large crescent shaped beach that is very popular on weekends. After the storm, the flat terrain of the park was filled with small pools of water. I walked over to the deserted beach (fourth picture above) as an army of mosquitoes descended. I snapped a few shots and beat a hasty retreat to my car.

 

Cabo Rojo salt flats

El Combate beach

Cabo Rojo lighthouse cliff

Room 2014 with a rainbow view

 

Continuing a short distance farther south toward the southwest corner of the island, I stopped and climbed the lookout tower above the Cabo Rojo salt flats (first picture above). From there I drove to the 1800 acre El Combate wildlife refuge and took the short hike to the beach (second picture above). It was late afternoon by then, so I headed south to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse to make sure I arrived before it closed. Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, known locally as El Faro is a much photographed spot with a colorful lighthouse built above limestone cliffs (third picture above). It's about a mile hike up a dirt road from the parking lot to get to the lighthouse itself. I had read that the best views were all from the water or the air, but I found by walking toward the cliff edge and away from the lighthouse that I could get a pretty good shot from the lighthouse grounds (large picture top of page right). Although the lighthouse was remote and hard to get to, in the end it was very worthwhile.

 

I returned to my hotel in the early evening by completing a full circle around the island, driving east along the southern coast of the island, then picking up the fast toll road (route 52) at Ponce into San Juan. On my last morning in Puerto Rico I relaxed on my balcony and caught a rainbow shot (fourth picture above) as a parting wave.

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