Hidden Gem: Islote, Arecibo -Puerto Rico
Part 1 of a 4 part series on Things To Do in Puerto Rico. Over the next few weeks, I’ll update the blog with a continuation to the series. Enjoy!
Until the age of 6, Barrio Islote in Arecibo is the backdrop to all of Argenis’ stories growing up in Puerto Rico. From riding a horse for the first time to picking up crabs that would come off shore right to his doorstep, it all took place in this little hidden gem. When we decided to go to Puerto Rico, first time for me and the kids, it was a no-brainer that Islote would be home for the first two days of our 2-week vacation in the Enchanted Island as Argenis proudly showed us some of what his island has to offer.
We arrived at a cozy little white and blue house right across from the ocean. Hammock on the porch, surrounded all around by crisp green grass. Less than a 5 minute walk from Argenis’ childhood home. Perfection. This is our first experience with Airbnb and we are sold! Even if only for part of your vacation, Airbnb gives you the chance to actually live where you are vacationing and to us that’s where the real fun in seeing new places is.
Everything in Islote is less than a 10 minute drive so after a quick supermarket run we went to El Alcazar de Colón for lunch. The view was breathtaking as we sat right over the water. I’m telling you, any closer and we would’ve been in the water! I was finally able to get my first taste at mofongo in Puerto Rico and it was delicious. So good that I am not ashamed to admit that I had mofongo almost every day that I was in Puerto Rico!
Back at the house we strolled down to Argenis’ childhood home which coincidentally was also painted the same rich blue as the house we were staying in. To finally be standing right where all of Argenis’ sweetest childhood memories and stories come from was such a surreal experience and certainly the peak of the day for me.
Less than a 2 minute walk behind the house, we got to La Poza which is a hidden beach that with its limestone rocks forms a tide pool and is home to the most spectacular ocean view I have ever witnessed. One of those views that pictures do no justice for and which you can happily admire for hours.
La Cueva del Indio (The Indian Cave) is an attraction overlooking this poza from about 25 feet high and which you can walk through in about 30 minutes. Since most people say it’s not safe for kids, we opted to instead walk through a less known path and were still able to climb, with the kids, and enjoy the view from atop.
Back home we enjoyed some empanadas and exhausted from no sleep in about 38 hours went to bed at about 9p.m. Ocean waves that sounded like they were right at our door… best sleep ever!
After a quick homemade breakfast on the porch, we went off to venture. With their tagline, Donde la Historia es una Adventura (Where History Is An Adventure) Arecibo’s Lighthouse and Historical Park was a fun day trip with the babies. An enormous walk through cave with my favorite part being the sea salt aquarium with all kind of species from clown fish to sharks and a replica of a ship wreck which once you exit leads you right to a life size replica of the "Queen Anne Revenge" ship, once owned by the famous pirate Black Beard. What to little ones might seem like a never ending splash pool with slides and animal water fountains, an adult pool (not accessible since Hurricane Maria) and a jacuzzi, Arecibo’s Lighthouse has a little bit of everything for a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.
On our quest to see as much of Islote as possible, we headed over to the Birth of the New World. Roughly 50 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, this art piece is ironically still standing after Hurricane Maria hit over a year ago. 360-foot tall Christopher Columbus has mixed reviews with some seeing it as a symbol of the wicked treatment of Indians in Puerto Rico and others as an important part of tourism in the area. Regardless of how you feel about the statue, truth is, it is a piece to be seen. Although you still can’t walk up directly to it, we were able to get close enough to see how intricately detailed it is.
One stop that wouldn’t be on your tourist map is the now abandoned local elementary school that Argenis attended midway through First Grade. I would not have even thought of stopping to see this school if it wasn’t for Argenis’ memories there (first fight & first girlfriend) but I would recommend you take a few minutes to see part of the reality that Puerto Rico is facing. Desks and chairs thrown around, textbooks, student notebooks and exams, pretty wall paintings and quotes surrounded by chaos. It was such a sad awakening to the reality behind all of Puerto Rico’s beauty and just one of the many schools that the government has closed down due to a lack of funds. Achilles found a little toy while we walked around in the rubble and today it sits on his room drawer.
Our last night in our little home was so relaxing. Swinging in the hammock, enjoying a glass of wine as we just talked and the babies slept, and the roar of the ocean waves right in front of us was just perfection.
A gem for surfers, nature lovers and adventurers alike, Islote is a must-see hidden gem for your next vacation to Puerto Rico.