Yarr, Matey, It's the Arecibo Lighthouse!

We were taken completely by surprise by the lighthouse that turned out to be a miniature theme park, complete with pirate ships to commandeer!


Part 1: The Attraction We Were Not Expecting

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stomps on June 10, 2007

After spending the morning and early afternoon visiting the planned attractions--namely, Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy and the Arecibo Observatory, we had a few more hours to kill before heading back to Humacao. Cristina's parents suggested the Arecibo Lighthouse, which we agreed to, expecting to see...well, a lighthouse, a perhaps some nice sea views. Having never visited it before, her parents thought the same thing.

We were all very wrong. The first indication that this might not be your average lighthouse came after we parked at the very east end of the Arecibo beach and walked to the entrance. Admittance, we were told, would cost us $7.50 each. In Puerto Rico, this was a decent price, as both the Arecibo Observatory and an hour-long tour through the El Yunque rainforest both cost $5. However, we had already made up our minds to go in, so we paid, got wristbands put on our wrists, and went in.

Immediately, we found ourselves in a large children's playground. To our right, where we waited until everyone was wristbanded, was a fairly typical playground with porch swings and a merry-go-round type spinner. Three of my friends jumped on this and spun themselves so fast that they were nearly sick, and they certainly looked drunk when they stumbled off! In the corner of this "Parque Pasivo," there was a helicopter, which apparently dated back to 1964. It seemed a bit odd to have a helicopter sitting in a playground, but we later found that it certainly wasn't the most odd attraction we found at the Lighthouse!

To the left was where the odd attractions started. First, we walked past a small Native American settlement, complete with plenty of plastic Native American characters. According to the website that I later looked up out of curiosity, this was a village known as "Arasibo Taíno Village, in honor of the great 'Cacique' (Indian chief) called Arasibo that used to live in this region. In honor of the "Cacique" this town was later called ARECIBO. This representation is formed by 6 'bohios' (huts), Caney, Conuco, an artificial river, a mural, female Indian and Cacique figures among other things.

Just behind this village was a fleet of ships. Okay, they weren't quite real; they were more along the line of very sturdy life-size playground equipment. They were fully equipped with masts, sails, and plenty of ropes to climb on, and we felt like little children as we sprinted, giggling, towards them.
Arecibo Lighthouse & Historical Park
Carr. #655 Bo. Islote Sector El Muelle
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 00614
(787) 880-7540

Part 2: Exploring Columbus' Fleet

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stomps on June 10, 2007

It was not until I reached the base of the stairs leading to a ship's deck that I realized three of the boats were actually the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. This was stated on a plaque, which informed us that "The ships the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria are one-third scale of its original size. Christopher Columbus Fontanarosa was born in Genova, Italy, in 1451. On August 3, 1492, he departed from Puerto de Palos, Spain, with the three ships the 'Niña,' 'Pinta,' and 'Santa Maria' and Queen Isabel's total support. Finally on October 12, 1492, they arrive at land erroneously thinking they had arrived at Oriental India. In March of 1493, he returned to Spain with the Niña and the Pinta and brought back plants, fruits, birds, gold, and Indians he had gathered in the new land. During Columbus' second voyage in 1493, this time with 17 ships, he discovered a few more islands including the island the Indians called 'Boriquen' (Puerto Rico). On November 19, 1493, they came ashore to collect water and fruits in the area known today as Aguada-Aguadilla. Christopher Columbus called the island 'San Juan Bautista.' He returned to Spain in 1495."

We spread out between the ships of Columbus' fleet, exploring the coolest playground we had ever seen. I stuck to the Santa Maria (at least I think--it was the first one in the fleet) with Emily, Tiffany, and my buddy Chris Columbus, who was a plasticized statue at the front of the ship. He was a good foot shorter than me and pointing, funnily enough, towards the sea rather than the land we were standing on, which was one of the first slices of "India" he saw. I had already taken pictures, from the ground, of Emily and Tiffany commandeering the ship, which they were thrilled about, since their one goal on arriving in Puerto Rico was to commandeer a pirate ship. Why? Because that is what you do in the Caribbean! Johnny Depp says so! I thought this was a great idea, and we had a riot hanging off of the various rope ladders and pretending to be pirates in general, even though the ship was clearly still under the Spanish colors. Besides the fact that none of us had a spare pirate flag, it was pretty much impossible to climb the ropes high enough to be able to reach the top of the mast. This was all before we realized that just across a large swathe of grass was an actual pirate ship.

Painted bright blue and flying the skull 'n' crossbones high above the crow's nest, it beckoned towards us. "Commandeer me! Commandeer me!" it begged us, and we happily obliged. After a little while, we had explored the nooks and crannies, hugged the fake Jack Sparrow, and determined that it was not feasible, nor in the least bit intelligent, to try to scale the rope ladders into the crow's nest, so we moved on.
Arecibo Lighthouse & Historical Park
Carr. #655 Bo. Islote Sector El Muelle
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 00614
(787) 880-7540

Part 3: La Guarida de Piratas (The Pirates' Cave)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stomps on June 10, 2007

Nearly underneath the stern of the ship was the pirates' cave. Not sure exactly what a "pirates' cave" entailed, we walked past the workman replastering the entrance (with some foul-smelling chemicals) into the dark depths beyond.

"Pirates of the Caribbean" music blared from the loudspeakers embedded in the cave ceiling as we stared at the strangely intriguing robotic pirates greeting us. Leaning forward in a rather precarious manner, they waited until someone stood in front of their corner before mechanically leaning back and spouting various pre-recorded pirateisms. We moved on past various stashes of loot until we found the main cavern of the cave. The "Pirates" music echoed around us, and all thoughts were crowded out of our heads by the incessant dum-dum da-da-dum-dum da-da-dum-dum da-da-dum. To our left, the ocean lapped at the entrance to the cave (meaning it was projected onto a screen, the dark blue of the ocean barely contrasted with a gloomy gray sky. The projection even rocked back and forth, so if you concentrated on it, you actually felt like you were on boat. I didn't do this for too long, preferring not to induce motion sickness!). Pirates paddled past us with rowboats laden with stolen loot. All of them looked strangely like Jack Sparrow.

Our raised walkway formed a convenient bridge over the shark-infested waters below (there were actually sharks there, of the small and non-man-eating variety, along with stingrays and other small marine life that could stand the shallow water). Gold was littered throughout the cave, although I did not see any chests of Aztec gold. We were tempted to grab some loot, but many eyes, patched and unpatched, glared at us, silently threatening us with the cutlass if we touched anything. Preferring not to get sliced in half, we hurried onward (essentially, there were piles of kiddy play treasure guarded by plastic pirates, but it was still pretty cool...and very random!).

The cave is described on the website as "a cave where different pirates came to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean used it as a hideout from Spaniards and to protect their treasures, in addition you will find alligators, sharks, turtles and...PIRATES. So be careful and take no gold!" We saw the sharks and a few stingrays, but alligators? Where were they hiding? I certainly hope that they were in their own corner that we happened to not walk past, because the sharks were pretty much roaming free in the water. If there were free-roaming alligators, we all would have had second thoughts about walking in!

The exit of La Guarida de Piratas conveniently went through a pirate gift shop. Initially, we laughed at the wares, but Emily had a brilliant idea. How better to commandeer a ship than with "real" pirate gear?

A few minutes later, Emily, Tiffany, Veena, and I were each a dollar poorer, but we were the proud owners of a plastic cutlass and eyepatch. We rushed back to the pirate ship, losing Veena somewhere along the way.
Arecibo Lighthouse & Historical Park
Carr. #655 Bo. Islote Sector El Muelle
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 00614
(787) 880-7540

Part 4: When We Really Commandeer a Ship

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stomps on June 10, 2007

The three of us had an absolute blast properly commandeering the ship. We took pictures with the Jack Sparrow impersonator, hanging from various ropes, standing in the cross timbers, saluting our fallen pirate forebears. We got closeups and shots from the ground showing the entire ship we were taking for our own. It was a rather large ship, but with three of us, we finally made ready and left port for Tortuga (meaning we had so much fun climbing and taking pictures that we were afraid everyone else had left us, so we left the ship--stil stuck in its grass anchorage--to go find them).

Later, on reading the Arecibo Lighthouse website, I saw that the pirate ship was described as "a replica of the 'Queen Anne Revenge' ship, once owned by the famous pirate Black Beard. This section represents different nationalities that left some kind of influence on the Island. Here you will learn about the pirate's life, classification, those that visited Puerto Rico, their food, and customs. You may climb aboard the ship." We learned about pirates' lives to the extent that they commandeer pirate ships, but I'm not sure about anything else there. I do remember a few signs here and there, but we were so preoccupied that we didn't look at them.

Neither Emily, Tiffany, nor I had gone anywhere near the Lighthouse, which purported to be the attraction we had paid for (although the official name of the Lighthouse and its grounds is the "Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park"). We could see it, standing tall and white on top of the hill, and knew that it was built in 1898, in the midst of the Spanish-American War, from the big sign at the bottom of the hill. We stood, staring at its whitewashed glory, for just a second too long; we had forgotten that we had just committed a cardinal sin against the British Empire and must now be punished for it. One by one, we were put in the pillory and mocked by all around us, but for some reason, the Empire decided to forgive our sins and let us go free.

There really were pillories there, as well as an awesome rack that I didn't actually see. You could actually put someone in it, strapping her hands to the top of the slightly tilted wood-and-rope contraption and strapping her feet to the beam of wood near the ground. Then, when the offender didn't answer your questions correctly, you could slowly crank the two beams apart and stretch the person to death or confession, whichever came first. I have a picture of Diane having a blast doing this to Miri, who was actually in pain by the end! Playing on these instruments of torture, funnily enough, made us enjoy the playground even more.

Arecibo Lighthouse & Historical Park
Carr. #655 Bo. Islote Sector El Muelle
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 00614
(787) 880-7540

Part 5: The Lighthouse, Its Patio, and the Minizoo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by stomps on June 10, 2007

Many of us never made it up to the lighthouse itself, which is also known as 'Morrillo's Lighthouse' because it is located on top of a rocky mountain known as 'Punta Morrillo.' In the interior of the lighthouse, you will be able to observe artifacts found at the bottom of the ocean, a 1910 diving suit, a replica of the US Constitution and on its wall literature relating to the history of the Arecibo Lighthouse and the Spanish-American War. Although I am not sure if visitors can climb to the top of the lighthouse, there are still panoramic views from its base, and if it is in season, it is supposedly a great place to have a nice picnic lunch and whale-watch at the same time!

Although it did offer this historical memorabilia and great views of both the town of Arecibo and the coastline, we were so preoccupied with the other parts of the "historical park" that we just didn't get around to it. A few people did go up the hill and enjoyed the lighthouse, but I think we had more fun commandeering!

Below the lighthouse was a large patio that jutted out above the rocky coast, nearly to the ocean. This had some great views and plenty of brightly-painted patio chairs to enjoy the sights and sounds in. The patio was decorated in much the same way as the rest of Puerto Rico in general. Everything was brightly colored--the boards below us were red, the railings white, and the chairs yellow. The coastline, as I have mentioned, was very rocky here, as opposed to the sandy stretches to either side of us. The turquoise waves crashed loudly into the rocks and turned into bubbling white foam. I could have stood there for hours and just listened, smelling the salt in the air, and in general just enjoying the warm day.

While Tiffany and I were staring out at the Atlantic, many of our other friends were playing with animals in the mini zoo, which was to the right of the entrance, just past the children's playground (although I suppose it could be argued that the entire grounds were a children's playground!). Here, there were parrots (although I don't know if they were trained to speak for people missing their tongues), hens with small flocks of chicks following them, donkeys, ponies, and much more.

Overall, we all had a great time at the lighthouse. We were taken completely by surprise by the historical park surrounding the lighthouse and we managed to spend a lot more time there than any of us would have thought beforehand. I certainly didn't expect to be in tears from laughing so hard when we went in! I think it is a great place to visit for people of all ages, and it will definitely entertain children for hours. Plus, they might even learn something about the history of Puerto Rico!
Arecibo Lighthouse & Historical Park
Carr. #655 Bo. Islote Sector El Muelle
Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 00614
(787) 880-7540

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