Ever since I saw “GoldenEye” I had wondered where that amazing structure was – it turns out it is the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. So….when I was in Aguadilla on business, I made it a point to take one of my free days to go visit it and while I was out in that area, I stopped by Cueva Ventana also.
This is my third article about Puerto Rico with a couple more yet to come. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a beautiful country (or commonwealth – depends on who you ask) and I love exploring it. You always hear that it’s great because you can travel there from the US without a passport (as you can to the US Virgin Islands), the currency is the same (again, same as in the US Virgin Islands), and they speak English fluently (again….see the pattern). Bottom line, it is like being in the US – good and bad I suppose! The only thing I found a bit weird is the road signage – speed limits are in miles per hour but distances are listed in kilometers. Again, the good thing is you get good at the conversion!
So, back to the Arecibo Observatory. It is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope and it is quite an impressive structure. The drive there is along some narrow country roads but it is a fun drive. Once there, you have to turn off all your electronic devices to avoid any potential interference with the telescope (sorry, no real time Facebook updates!) Putting your cell phone in Airplane Mode is sufficient. There is a visitor center with some educational displays and they offer short tours.
I did not do the tour – I walked through the visitor center, read some of the information, and headed out back to take a look. Wow! Pretty impressive for a structure dating back to the early 1960s! Along the observation deck area you’ll find placards with some information about the observatory and its construction, including a sample of the “shoes” that must be worn in order to actually walk on it. Turns out it is very fragile and these shoes help distribute a person’s weight so it doesn’t cause damage. It also made me smile at the special effects used to destroy it in the movie – glad it was just special effects!
For more information about the observatory, check out their website.
Cueva Ventana is nearby so I stopped by and took the tour – a bit pricey but I though worth it just for the view at the end. You go through some paths in the mountain with a guide in a group. I was with a rather large group of about 45 but it didn’t interfere with the experience. There are some climbs (and descends) that were a bit tough for some of the elder in the group, but we all managed to help them along the way.
The cave itself is OK – not out of this world, just OK – but the view at the end is really impressive. That’s why it’s called “ventana” (Spanish for “window”) and it is just that – a window over the valley below. On my next visit, I want to find my way to that valley and look up so I can see what it looks like from the other vantage point. That’s all part of my wandering!
For more information, check out their website.
If you want to read about other experiences in Puerto Rico, check out these other articles.
Coming up next is a visit to Cabo Rojo, Rincon!