Puerto Rico – Arecibo Observatory

Seven days in Puerto Rico gave me lots of time to slow down the Puerto Rican way — a slower moving body. Perhaps it’s the warm weather or the laid back attitude of the people who live on the island that causes this effect. No matter. It is refreshing to slow down..

On this trip, we decided to head to the Arecibo Observatory. But first a side trip to the “house” of Juan Ponce de Leon. My Uncle, a natural tour guide, was always aware of the small amount of time we would be on the island and visiting him — a mere 3 of the 7 days — so he was also dashing around thinking of what he could show us. A perfect host.

Sign to the Ponce de Leon Ruins

Ponce de Leon was appointed the governor of Puerto Rico by the then Spanish Crown. There is not much to Ponce’s house. It’s truly in ruins.

House Ruins of Ponce de Leon

To the right of this picture is a busy road. According to my Uncle, Ponce’s house used to extend past this road to the other side but they destroyed part of the ruins to put the road in. I wonder why they didn’t build an overpass? Hmmm …

Ponce de Leon Sign

Well, it is what it is. We can’t go back and change things.

Back in the car, we passed an overlook so we stopped to take a look at some of the scenery.


Pretty plants in the area.

Puerto Rico Flower
Puerto Rico Tree with Pod

Our trip to the Arecibo Observatory was very interesting. It started with our GPS taking us through the “back roads.” Well, that’s what we thought but in actuality it was THE road. It was filled with large potholes that my husband tried to avoid. The area was mostly farmland and very hilly. A group of cows relaxed as we stopped to take their picture.

Puerto Rican Cow

What’s the difference between a U.S. mainland cow and a Puerto Rican cow? Easy! Puerto Rican cows speak Spanish. (chuckle chuckle)  Seriously, I think it’s true. My cousin has a dog and he won’t respond to anything I say in English.

My first thought going up the hill is that we were lost but signs clearly mark the way.

Welcome Sign

At the top of the hill, a person in a booth waved us through the gate to where the parking lot is. Then the climb up many many stairs began although they do have a shuttle for people with disabilities.

Stairs to the Observatory

On the other side of the visitor center we bought our ticket to get in.

Ticket to Observatory

Once inside the visitor center, there were many displays to read through. Some of them were hands-on so I could experience what they were talking about. These were my favorite since I learn best by sight and touch.


But I was distracted. I wanted to see the radio telescope. I’d been here before many years go but my memories weren’t very clear from that time so this would be a “new” experience.

Arecibo Observatory

A little history from Wikipedia

“The 1000 foot radio telescope is the largest single-aperture telescope and contains the largest curved focusing dish on earth, giving Arecibo the largest electromagnetic-wave-gathering capacity. The dish surface has 38,778 perforated aluminum panels.”

The reflector panels weigh 300 tons.  They are dirty and I wondered if that would have any negative impact but I was told by the tour guide that it did not.

Aluminum Panels
Aluminum Panels

A special shoe is required to walk on the reflectors. The shoe protects the panel by distributing the person’s weight and the person cannot weigh more than 150 pounds.

Close-up of Reflector Panel

In addition, there are three radio transmitter towers.

Radio Transmitter Towers

Cable cars were actually moving while I were there. A person can’t be afraid of heights to work here.

The hole below, which is almost in the middle of the collection dish, is probably where this cable car is headed.

Off if the distance I noticed a helicopter pad and a smaller satellite dish that belongs to the Observatory.

Helicopter Pad
Small satellite dish at Observatory

Heading back inside I went to the theatre-like room where a tour guide would be giving a presentation.

Theatre at Arecibo Observatory

I’m sure the information would have been valuable to my learning if 1) the woman wouldn’t have spoken so fast (the accent made it worse) and 2) she would have stopped to see if anyone had questions. As it happened, I held up my hand and her response was: “Questions will be taken at the end of the presentation.” My response to her was “I don’t understand what you’re saying. Can you clarify …?” I felt like adding “Or will you repeat the whole thing for me at the end?” But I held my tongue. (good for me!)

She stopped to give clarification although I believe she assumed we were all scientists as it was still not in layman’s terms.

To my credit, I later found out that other people had the same problem with understanding her and the content she was presenting.

The Arecibo Observatory is a place everyone should visit if they go to Puerto Rico. It is simply awesome looking!

Arecibo Observatory
Arecibo Observatory

It has also been used in at least two movies, Golden Eye ( with James Bond) and Contact (with Jodie Foster).

On my way out, I took a picture of this beautiful flowering bush.

Puerto Rican Flowers

Ahhh … Puerto Rico! Isla del encanta! (Island of enchantment)



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