Friday, January 17, 2020

Punta Tuna Wetlands Nature Reserve

Sometimes we just turn down a road we've never driven before.  Always it takes us to a new and awesome discovery.  We found this place a few days ago, but didn't have time to adequately explore, so today, we invited another couple to come along for a hike in the Punta Tuna Wetlands Nature Reserve.

We drove on to the gate and arrived just after opening time.  The drive in is over grassy, rocky terrain, but our AWD vehicle did fine.  We parked beneath a tree and suited up with our sun protective clothing, camelback packs and hiking boots.  This might be a bit of overkill for a stroll along a sun-dappled forest path, but we're trying to break in the shoes for vacation this summer.

There is a little bridge off to the left as you walk toward the beach. This is the beginning of the path to the observation tower, so off we went.  This is supposed to be exercise for me, but I take so many photos, I'm not sure that I ever work up a legitimate sweat, but hey, it beats laying on my backside putting out blog posts!!!

Lichen growing on a fallen log
There are so many tiny treasures everywhere you look.  It was like a candy store out there!  The scented air, the sound of the crashing waves, the cool shade of the palm trees, and just being out enjoying nature with the blood pumping through my veins just makes me feel so alive!  How lucky are we to have such places within short driving distance to enjoy at will???

We walked along the soft, sandy pathway, littered with little white flowers.  I felt a little bit like I was in a scene from the Wizard of OZ!

There was a high thicket of growth between the path and the beach, but every so often there was an outlet that led onto the beach.  Suddenly it was there, and it seemed impossible to resist walking toward the light...

We could see a sailboat offshore.  These people were at our Happy Hour last night!

Bitter Melon
Every time we found a path that led off the main trail, we took it.  Some led to the wetland area inland, and others led to another segment of beach where we would  take a look around to see how far we had come. Then we would just stand there, drinking in the astounding beauty of this pristine and private paradise.  Eager to see what was next, we ducked back into the shadows and continued on our way...

Eventually we came to the observation tower that brought us here.  While driving along a few days ago, we could see it from the road, and turned to come find it.  That's how we found this place!  So of course it was the object of our hike today.  As we climbed the steps, I couldn't help but look closely at the support structure.  We've had over 2,000 earthquakes, including the strongest in more than 100 years!!!, in the past two weeks.  But the tower looked like it was well built, and in surprisingly good condition.  So, up we went to enjoy the view and get a lay of the land!

The tower stands in the center of the wetlands, or in Spanish, Humedal

Looking back to the right you can see the dead branches where there is a swamp.
Looking left, we found that we had quite a bit of pathway to go!  
We enjoyed the view and the breeze while we rested for a bit, then climbed back down and continued on the pathway until we reached the end.
More beach... and more beach... 
Very LARGE Palm leaf!
I think this spider has been affected by the earthquakes!

Bruce is very patient while I take a thousand photos!  How convenient that there is a nice bench here for him to enjoy while he watches the birds in the swamp!

When we reached the end of the pathway, we walked out onto the beach again, and spoke to a gentleman who was walking with his little dog.  He told us that you can actually walk on this beach, uninterrupted, until you reach Punta Tuna Lighthouse.  The spot where we are parked also has a pathway leading through the palms that ends at the Lighthouse, so if we wanted, we could do the full loop.  Henry (the man) said that it takes about an hour and a half to do the whole thing.  I would imagine that is IF you don't stop to take a photo of every flower and bug along the way!

Back at the parking area, we popped out onto the beach to get our bearings, and found that we were very close to the Punta Tuna Lighthouse!

A tree, wrapping its roots around another tree!

Norte, sur, este y oeste
Feeling pleasantly grimy from our hike, we changed out of the hiking boots and loaded back into the car for the short hop over to the lighthouse.  The couple we had with us have never seen the lighthouse, and they brought their drone to fly around.  COOL!

The views from Punta Tuna are always stunning!
I have MANY photos of these doors...
If you look hard, you can see Vieques today! And that beach is where we were standing just a while ago!
Getting ready for takeoff!
The kids flew their drone all around the area.  I can't wait to see some of the shots!  I would LOVE to have one, but just can't justify it...  We enjoyed the fresh breeze, and watching the drone fly around for about 20 minutes.  Evidently that's about all the battery could handle with the breezy conditions we're having today.

I LOVE Puerto Ricans!!
We left the lighthouse and made one more stop.  The kids had  noticed the black sand beach just a short distance up the coast, and since Playa Los Bohios is a favorite of ours, we were happy to stop by for a quick look.  The recent high winds have caused a lot of beach erosion and this beach is very much affected.  But I'm confident that when conditions change, we'll see more sand come back for our next visit.

So after a full morning of exploring new places and old, and just generally enjoying our beautiful island, we drove the 30 minutes back to our place after dropping the kids off.  For sure, the Punta Tuna Wetland Reserve has made it onto our hiking-for-exercise list!

Playa Los Bohios with Punta Tuna Lighthouse in the distance.

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