Central Puerto Rico is large mountain range of striking beauty and great visual interest. This area offers a striking change of pace from the beach areas. You’ll see large fresh water lakes, amazing caves, one of the worlds most famous scientific sites and dramatic changes in vegetation. If you enjoy visiting mountainous areas, you’ll appreciate the time you took on the ridges of Puerto Rico.
Day Trip 1: El Yunque Rainforest National Forest
More than 4000 feet high and just miles from the sea, El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System. It offers a wonderful drive with many exciting overlooks and photo spots to pull off. Once at the upper parking lots, short walks are possible to view waterfalls, diverse flora, and many picturesque settings and expansive vistas. Longer hikes may be taken to the summits of the El Yunque and other peaks. On longer treks, expect to spend several hours on the trail. Hiking boots or other dependable footwear are advised. There are no poisonous snakes or dangerous wild animals.
A new, very nice visitor center is located at the base of the park road. It is well worth the price of admission. It offers a video presentation on the park, access to helpful park employees, bathrooms and a nice gift shop.
A Great Park With Much to Learn, Do and See!
Drive Time: Expressway: 45 Minutes. Mountain roads 45 minutes.
Directions: Route 53 Expressway North to Fajardo, without exiting continue on west toward San Juan on Route 3. Look for Route 19l, an obscure turn left at Rio Grande, a sign in Spanish says: “El Bosque National.” Wind through town and start up the Mountain.
Day Trip 2: Meander Through the Mountains
Besides the nearby rain forest, Puerto Rico has a mountain range which divides the island in half as it stretches east to west for nearly 80 miles. Peaks just up over 4000 feet, views are amazing, and climates and vegetation change strikingly within short distances.
The government has designated a tourist route which follows the ridges beginning at Route 182 in Yabucoa and running nearly all the way to Mayaguez in the west. We have driven part of this route and found it fascinating. The route can be used as long trip, or (as we have done) traveled in shorter stretches..sometimes simply as a diversion between two points. The scenic route provides access to nature preserves, picnic areas and other stopping points. These include: the Carite Forest, Toro Negro Forest, Guilarte Forest Maricao Forest and Susua Forest. Hiking, swimming, bird watching and recreation spots are found in these areas.
Peaks Just Up Over 4000 Feet, Amazing Views
Drive Time: As You See Fit
Directions: Route 30 east to Humacao. Route 3 south to Yabucoa. Route 182 west to Carite Forest. Numerous other Routes westward, from expressway Route 52 consult a map.
Day Trip 3: Rio Camuy Cave Park
Some say that you take only one sightseeing trip, it should be to Rio Camuy Cave Park. This incredible 268-acre park is the site of the great subterranean caverns carved out by the Camuy River over one million years ago. The impeccably maintained trails gently descend 200 feet through a fern filled ravine to the yawning, cathedral-like caverns. The caves are home to a unique species of fish that is totally blind. To visit this pristine site is to be transported to another, hidden world. Rio Camuy Cave Park is the third-largest cave system in the world. Sixteen entrances have been found and 11 kilometers (7 miles) of passages explored so far. One special attraction is the Cuerva Clara, which measures 695 feet (210m) in length. The park is equipped with picnic areas, walking trails, food facilities, and exhibition hall and a souvenir shop, making it the perfect place to spend a day. Reservations are essential, as this place is understandably popular. Open Wednesdays through Sundays and all holidays, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information call: (787) 898-3100 or (787) 763-0568.
Seven Miles of Caverns
Drive Time: About 2 Hours
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 North to San Juan. Take Route 22 west to Arecibo. Then Route 129 South to Route 134.
Day Trip 4: Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is home to one of the world’s most powerful radar-radio telescopes, and the largest single-unit radio telescope in the world. It is powerful enough to receive signals transmitted by a comparable telescope located 1,000 light-years away. Those who see the Arecibo radio telescope for the first time are astounded by the enormousness of the reflecting surface, or radio mirror. The huge “dish” is 1000 feet in diameter, 167 feet deep, and covers an area of about twenty acres. The surface is made of almost 40,000 perforated aluminum panels, each measuring about 3 feet by 6 feet, supported by a network of steel cables strung across the underlying karst sinkhole. The antenna can be moved in any direction, making it possible to track a celestial object in different regions of the sky.
The observatory was developed by the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center and it is operated by Cornell University under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. The facility is open to the public Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. For information call: (787) 878-2612.
Is Anyone Out There?
Drive Time: About 2 hours
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 North to San Juan. Take Route 22 west to Arecibo. Then Route 651 to 635 to 625