The Arecibo Observatory is a one-of-a-kind radio telescope in the middle of nowhere.
Scientifically there are probably a zillion features that make it unique. Lucky for you, I have no intention of turning this into a classroom lecture. Besides, you’ll get lots of great info when you visit the observatory yourself. Which you certainly should do. This is one of the most iconic locations in all of Puerto Rico. (And has been featured in the X-Files. Just wait until I write my Vancouver blog!)
Before you plan your visit to the observatory be sure to double-check their website, www.naic.edu/general. At the time of this post they were only open Wednesday – Sunday. We failed to check this ahead of time and ended up having to continue on to San Juan and backtrack to Arecibo on our last day in PR. Well worth it, but not very efficient.
The ride in and out of the observatory is deceptively long. The hills and winding roads all add up very quickly. It is a great scenic drive, assuming you’re not trying to make it back to the airport for a 4PM flight. Certainly check your GPS once in a while, and be sure to listen when it tells you to go a little out of your way to get back on the highway. I somehow managed to get right next to Hwy 22 without an onramp in sight.
Back to the Observatory…
You’ll probably feel a little like you’re on an elementary school field trip. After you pay the entrance fee you are left to wander a room full of scale models, hands-on experiments, and lots of informative posters. (Take a moment to play with the ferrofluid!) After a bit you will be told to head into the auditorium for a brief presentation and video, yet another flashback to school days. All very informative, and all very well made.
Finally you get to go outside, and there it is. A giant dish nestled in the middle of the forest. Impressive for sure, but maybe a little limited considering all the hoopla that lead up to this moment. The observation deck is not particularly large, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find more than a few different photo ops. I know it is a fully functioning piece of scientific equipment, but I really wanted to get up close with it, walk under it, maybe see if from more than one angle. After twenty minutes walking though dioramas and a thirty minute lecture, there was about ten minutes of face time with the dish before we felt compelled to move on. I think we spent more time in the gift shop looking at shot glasses…
The Arecibo Observatory is certainly with stopping to see, but plan it early enough in your day that you can get to your next destination before it gets dark.
Here’s my list of blog entries for Puerto Rico.
- Vieques: The Island We Couldn’t Leave
- El Yunque: Spanish for “The Yunque”
- Cabo Rojo: Southwestern Puerto Rico
- Lechon: You’ll have to be a stronger vegetarian than me…
- The Western Coast: Boqueron & Bacalaito, Mayagüez & Maize, and Rincón
- Bosque Estatal De Guajataca, y la cueva del viento: Guajataca State Forest, and the Cave of the Wind
- So, this guy has a waterfall in his backyard…
- Arecibo Observatory
- Old San Juan