Arecibo Observatory

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Adventures & tours

A few kilometres north of Rio Camuy Cave Park, back toward the city of Arecibo, is the Arecibo Observatory or Observatorio de Arecibo. Here you'll find the world's largest radar/radio telescope - a massive structure with a dish that spans 20 acres, located deep inside an ancient sinkhole amid northern Puerto Rico's forested foothills.

At 1,000 feet wide and 167 feet deep, the telescope is powerful enough to receive electromagnetic-wave emissions from other planets and galaxies. In fact, it is the largest single-aperture telescope ever built and has appeared in several Hollywood blockbusters such as Goldeneye and Contact. Operated by Cornell University in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, the telescope has also been used by the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).

Beneath the humongous metallic dish, wild orchids peek up from the ground and lizards and dragonflies can be seen scurrying about. There is also an observation deck where you can get a good look at the dish below. At the modern visitor centre located on site, you'll learn more about the planets and galaxies as well as meteors and other phenomena in the sky. The centre also plays a short film about the history and many uses of the telescope.

The observatory is open to visitors Wednesday to Sunday during the day. Plan to spend at least an hour or two here, taking in the uniqueness of this incredible place and possibly learning a thing or two about astronomy. There's even a souvenir shop on site where you can purchase unique items for any little (or big) astronomers back home.