Las Cabezas de San Juan is a nature reserve in Fajardo on the northeastern most tip of the island. Tours are available to explain the different ecosystems that make up the reserve. Here are some tips on what to do to get ready for this interesting exploration opportunity.
You must have reservations, drop-ins are not allowed. You need to be on the reservation list to get past the guard. For reservations, use their online booking system on their website Conservation Trust. The official name of the tour is “Meet Las Cabezas de San Juan”. You can also call 787-722-5882 for more information. You should arrive about 30 minutes early. There are rockers on a beautiful veranda along the water where you can enjoy the breeze while you wait.
There have been nearly 100 species of birds documented in Las Cabezas, including the Great Egret and the White-cheeked Pintail. As with the rest of the island, the only mammals found in the reserve are bats, mongoose and rats, the mongoose and rats not being endemic. The mongoose was introduced to take care of the rat problem in the sugarcane fields, but now the mongoose is the problem, feeding on ground-dwelling birds. Not unlike El Yunque, Las Cabezas is teeming with reptiles and amphibians.
According to a 1999 report by the US Forest Service, a number of whales have been seen near the reserve due to the influx of the waters of the Caribbean and probably drawn there by a food supply. The report indicates that sperm, humpback and pilot whales have been seen, as well as speckled dolphins, and manatees have been spotted in the open waters.
Sights to see
The ecosystems of Las Cabezas include bioluminescent lagoon, sandy and rocky beaches, coral reefs, mangroves and dry forests, and their proximity to each other is what makes this nature reserve so significant. A guide will explain the ecosystem along the way. After a 30-minute walk on a boardwalk, the first stop is in the mangrove forest, the second stop is a beautiful rocky beach called Los Lirios, which means “the lilies.” The last stop is the Fajardo Lighthouse which has displays, an aquarium, and iguanas and crabs in the wild. You can go to the top of the lighthouse for a magnificent view of northeastern Puerto Rico.
The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico now offers walking night tours to Laguna Grande, one of the brightest biolumimescent areas in Puerto Rico and worldwide. The tour is not solely the lagoon, you also get a nighttime tour of the rest of the reserve where you will, just as in a day trip, learn about the different habitats and the wildlife of Las Cabezas. This tour is not widely publicized, so if interested, make sure you ask for it.
El Faro de Fajardo was built by the Spanish in 1880. This is a great sight to visit, day or night. Make sure you check out the charts on the ground floor that illustrate the location and range of all of the lighthouses in Puerto Rico and the patterns of light and how those patterns are used by incoming vessels.
Types of tours
Not only are the sights and sounds diverse, even the tours are multiple and varied. You can take traditional, night, or thematic tours by bike, trolley, or kayak always accompanied by a history/nature specialist. They offer workshops, volunteer opportunities, citizen science opportunities, and special events.
Las Cabezas de San Juan is located at Carr. 987 km 5.9 Las Croabas, Fajardo PR. 00738. 787-722-5882 or 787-860-2562. Their normal hours are Wednesday-Sunday 9a-5pm. Admission fees are adults $12, Seniors and children $9. Tours are offered at 8:30, 10:30, 1:30, and 3:30. Only the 1:30 tour is in English. Tours are about 2 hours long. Food and drinks other than water are prohibited.