Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve
The Conservation Trust of PR owns this nature reserve in Fajardo, at the north eastern-most tip of the island. Encompassing hundreds of acres, the Conservation Trust offers tours to explain the different eco-systems that are in the reserve.
On our most recent visit (we have taken the tour a number of times with family and friends), we went with my in-laws. Here is a run down of our tour: We made our reservations ahead of time (this is a must – they don’t allow drop-ins), and arrived a little early. You need to tell the guard at the entrance your name, and if you made a reservation, he will let you in to park. Then you head up to the open-air visitor center to pay and wait for the tour to start. This is a beautiful veranda, with rockers to sit in while you wait. It also has a nice gazebo right at the waters edge, so you can enjoy the view while you wait. They tell you to get there 30 minutes early, which gives you time to relax and enjoy the breezes.
They call the names for the tour – usually they limit it to the number of people you can fit on their tour trams (about 25, I think). The guide explains the eco-systems as you drive by – the sea grass, coral reefs, mangrove forest, lagoons etc.
The guide will stop briefly so you can get a good look at, and maybe a good photo of, interesting things along the way – such as huge termite nests, crabs, and iguanas. We also stopped briefly at the lagoon that is bioluminescent (at night only!).
The first real stop (where you get off the tram) is at the mangrove forest. Here you walk around the mangrove swamp on a boardwalk. The guide explains the different types of mangrove bushes and other plants and animals that grow around in the mangrove and explains the importance of a mangrove forest. It is about a 30 minute walk, but much of it is in the sun, so be forewarned – it can get hot. They have a water fountain at the tram stop.
The next stop is to a rocky beach, that is just beautiful – with the waves crashing on the shore. Lots of neat rocks and coral are there to look at. The guide will explain and answer questions about this area and the things you find on the beach.
The last stop is to a nice lighthouse. It has been restored to its former glory and still works! It contains many exhibits – with iguanas and crabs in glass cages for easy viewing, and fish in aquariums. We also got to touch sea cucumbers. They have bones of manatees and whales and turtles and lots of shells to look at. It also has some displays on the history of the lighthouse.
A new exhibit is the bioluminescence room. (This part is not always available). They have you go into a little room (it is air-conditioned), They then explain about the dinoflagellates that live in the lagoon. They give you bags filled with these creatures and turn off the lights. Then you shake the bags and you can see the glow. It is very neat.
You then can go up to the lighthouse roof – the views are beautiful. You can see many of the out-islands, sometimes even St. Thomas and beyond. We all felt it was well worth going up the narrow spiral steps to get there and the whole tour was really nice.
Cost: Adults $10, Seniors and Children $7. Reservations are needed, use their website to make reservations for the next week or call for later reservations.
Hours: Tours are offered 8:30am, 10:30am, 1:30pm, 3:30pm in Spanish, from Wed – Sun only. Reservations are required.
Tours last about 2 hours each.
Note- only the 1:30pm tour is English.
Wear comfortable clothes & shoes. Food & drinks other than water are prohibited.
For reservations call 787-722-5882. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Directions: The Reserve is located in Fajardo on road 987 near Las Croabas.
It takes about 45 minutes to get to the Reserve from our house in Rio Grande.
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