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Introducing Arecibo & Around

As you approach Arecibo in the crawl of traffic, it’s hard to imagine that this sprawling modern municipality of nearly 100,000 people is Puerto Rico’s third-oldest city, after San Juan and San Germán. Founded in 1556, the original town was named after an esteemed cacique (Taíno chief). Little of historical note remains in the present-day city, save a restored cathedral and Spanish-colonial lighthouse in a campy amusement park. Veer further inland and the view gets a lot more interesting.

Arecibo’s greatest claim to fame is the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, the Observatorio de Arecibo, several miles up into the hills to the south, in the heart of karst country. Harboring a fascinating museum and a view worthy of a futuristic James Bond film set, the observatory is open for public viewing and reigns as one of the island’s most rewarding must-sees.

Just west at Hatillo, the popular Hatillo Mask Festival, held on December 28, is one of Puerto Rico’s most symbolic ceremonies whose innovative masks and costumes adorn the front of numerous books, postcards and tourist literature.