Puerto Rico is full of hidden treasures, one of the greatest being Caja de Muertos/Box of the dead. Although tall tales of pirates and treasure surround you, this historical site is not a very large one, only a half mile wide, and a mile and a half long… but sometimes the best things come in the smallest cajas. Though the name means literally ‘box of the dead’, it is truly a place of beauty. It is drier than the rest of the main island; cacti replace palm trees, and smaller frond filled bushes are scattered in place of giant ferns.
This island is full of adventure for everyone, young and old alike. A beach with picnic pavilions is near the ferry drop off, and is perfect for a day of lounging. Hiking trails lead across the island leading to various sights. The pristine water off of the blue flag beaches, whose water quality is monitored, is crystal clear down to the sandy floor, is a great place for snorkelers to explore the coral reefs, and swim with vibrant schools of fish. Other native animals may frequently be seen on Caja de Muertos; iguanas, scorpions, colorful lizards, and giant hermit crabs roam the beaches around the perimeter of the island.
On the island as well sits a nearly two hundred year old light house. This light house rest on a cliff nearly three hundred feet above sea level, and, with a forty one foot high tower, is visible for eighteen miles from sea. Construction of the light house was began in 1882 by the Spanish, and finished in 1885. The white building and red, flat roof are a classic example of Spanish architecture, and resemble the other older buildings and fortresses on the main island of Puerto Rico.
The most intriguing aspect of the island is its name sake. According to legend, a pirate, Jose Almeida, traveled the Caribbean waters long ago. His adventures took him to the Basque country, where he met a young woman and fell in love. In Curacao, a town in the Basque country, they were married. She came with him to sea, however tragic awaited them. Almeida’s new wife was a stubborn young woman, and during their first raid as a new couple near the coast of Caja de Muertos, refused to stay under the main deck. During battle, she was killed in the cross fire.
Almeida docked his ship at the small island, and laid his love to rest in a cave located on the island. Each month, he returned and left his newly acquired treasure with his eternally young bride to show his undying love. Years later, Jose Almeida was put to death for his crusades. When explorers finally made it to the small unnamed island, Almeida’s wife’s coffin was found, however the treasure was nowhere to be seen. Caja de Muertos seemed to be the only fitting name for this legend filled island.
During you vacation in Puerto Rico, Caja de Muertos is a must see. Whether you spend the day lounging under picnic pavilions, touring the light house, or hunting for Almeida’s treasure, it is a sight like no other on the island of Puerto Rico. Make sure you wear your good shoes, and bring fresh water for everyone in your crew! The Blue Beach system that keeps Caja de Muertos also requires that all garbage be packed out that is packed in. This marvel of nature, and island of mystery may capture your wonderment on a day of exploring.