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Diving in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's astounding visibility allows divers of all levels to take advantage of its pristine coral reefs, caves and untouched offshore islands.

Highlights

A Bioluminescent Bay

La Parguera in southwest Puerto Rico is famous for its bioluminescent bay where a resident dinoflagellate population puts on a nightly glow show.

The Galapagos of the Caribbean

Because of its biodiversity and endemic ground iguana, Mona Island is often compared to the Galapagos Islands and is worth the effort to reach it.

Surreal Visibility at Mona Island

In Puerto Rico, visibility sometimes reaches 165 feet (50 meters) around Mona Island, making it home to the clearest waters in the Caribbean Sea.

Diving in Puerto Rico

Quick facts

With over 360 miles of coastline and several offshore islands to explore, Puerto Rico offers Caribbean diving for most interests. The east coast features healthy sloping reefs and several small islands. Because of nearby deep waters, the south of the island boasts amazing walls, perfect for drift diving. Finally, the west coast is known for easy shore diving, but if you want to escape the crowds, the islands of Desecheo and Mona are a diver’s dream with untouched coral reefs.

Puerto Rico’s scuba diving caters to both beginners and advanced divers, with sites located just off the island’s shore or deeper into the blue. Cave divers can also get some practice at the caves of Desecheo Island.

Most diving in Puerto Rico is a combination of easy shore dives and boat dives from mid-sized speedboats. Most dive shops on the island can arrange for day trips to nearby islands, although Culebra and Vieques have their own operators. Finally, to reach far-off Mona Island, you’ll need to arrange a liveaboard. The surface waters here can be choppy, and the currents strong, so diving is only recommended for more experienced divers.

Please note that use of a speargun while in scuba diving gear is not permitted in Puerto Rico.

Recommended training

The AWARE Fish Identification course will help identify the local aquatic residents while the PADI Underwater Photographer course will help you bring images of your new friends home.

When to go

Diving in Puerto Rico is fantastic year-round. June to November feature uncrowded dive sites whereas December to May is the best time for Mona Island.

June to November

Puerto Rico enjoys a hot and humid climate year-round, although June to November is considered the rainy season. It usually rains once a day, every day but for only short periods of time.

June to November is also considered hurricane season. If you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico during these months, consider taking out travelers insurance on the off chance a hurricane forms during your vacation.

Air temperatures during the summer months range from 80-85°F (26-30°C) while water temperatures are 79-83°F (26-28°C).

If you enjoy getting the best deals and diving at uncrowded dive sites, book your trip from June to November. Besides topside conditions, diving in Puerto Rico changes little from month to month.

December to May

December to May is the dry season in Puerto Rico. During these summer months, you can expect sunny, hot and mildly humid conditions.

Air temperatures during the winter months range from 70-80°F (21-26°C) while water temperatures are 75-79°F (24-26°C).

In addition to great topside conditions, December to May is also the best time to dive at Mona Island. Humpback whales migrate past the island from November until May.

However, December to May also represents high season for tourism in the Caribbean. Therefore, you should book early to get a good deal on accommodation and flights.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Advanced divers should head to Mona Island or the walls of the south coast. Beginners will be most comfortable with the shore dives in the east.

    Snorkeling in Puerto Rico

    As with most Caribbean islands, snorkeling is an easy and fun excursion. Best enjoyed from a luxury catamaran, snorkeling is Puerto Rico’s clear waters can lead to amazing encounters. The best areas for topside spotting include Caja de Muertos, La Paguera and Fajardo. As a warning, do not let anyone mislead you to snorkel at Playa Escondida. The currents in the area are strong and dangerous.
    Desecheo Island This small, remote, island is about 45 minutes by boat from Rincon (a popular surfing destination) on the west end of Puerto Rico. Its relatively isolated location results in healthy, vibrant reefs. One dive site, Candyland, is particularly well named. Caves and swim-throughs are other popular features and visibility frequently exceeds 30 metres/100 feet. Mona Island Some 60 kilometres/40 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico, Mona Island boasts some of the clearest water in the region with visibility that can reach more than 50 metres/165 feet. Stunning coral reefs, caverns and vertical walls encircle the island. Large pelagics such as whales, dolphin and marlin are regularly sighted and share the space with the usual array of reef species. The island itself has been compared to the Galapagos, thanks to its unique ecosystem and the endemic ground iguana which can reach a length of one metre/three feet. Plan for a long boat trip through the Mona Passage, but rest assured that it’s worth every minute. Vieques Island About 11 kilometres/7 miles east of the big island, Vieques offers clear water, coral reefs and the possibility of meeting up with turtles, spotted eagle rays and bottlenose dolphin. A variety of dive sites mean that local PADI dive shops can always find a perfect sheltered spot. Vieques and nearby Culebra Islands are relatively laid-back locations and divers can choose to either stay locally or opt for a longer (couple of hours) boat trip from the big island. La Parguera Best known for its bioluminescent bay, La Parguera is a small village in southwest Puerto Rico with a reputation as a summertime water sports hotspot. A resident dinoflagellate population literally lights up the bay at night by putting on a bioluminescent show when disturbed. Other dive opportunities here include coral reefs and walls, considered by many to be the best in the region. There are also mangrove islands, which while relatively shallow, offer divers an opportunity to interact with a different and diverse cast of characters, headlined by the manatee. Escambron As the most popular local dive training site in San Juan, it’s a great place to introduce someone to Puerto Rican diving or refresh rusty dive skills before heading elsewhere. There’s plenty to see here, but visibility can be affected by rain and bad weather, so check with local dive shops.

    What to see

    Puerto Rico is rich with coral life and tropical fish. Keep your eyes out for the spotted eagle ray, gliding through the ocean with its distinctive polka dot pattern. Make sure you visit Bioluminescent Bay where the dinoflagellate residents illuminate the water like underwater lighting when disturbed.

    The reefs, mangroves and grass beds of Puerto Rico are home to 700 different species of fish, shark, whales and turtles, including oceanic white tip sharks, rays, grunt and snapper.

    Barracuda are often found searching for prey on the reefs, and if you look under reef ledges you may find a nurse shark lazily stalking its prey.

    Sea fans gracefully wave. As do colourful tube sponges, protruding like elasticated organ pipes from the sea’s bed.

    As you descend the vertical walls that surround the island, endangered sea turtles may gracefully pass you by, and during the winter months, humpback whales can be found around Mona Island with their young.

    There will be plenty to enter into your dive-log.

    Calendar

    For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Country

    Puerto Rico, located between the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, is a predominantly mountainous island with coastal regions in the north and south.

    The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and remained under Spanish rule for 4 centuries. In 1898, following the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Paris.

    Its capital, San Juan, is an energetic, modern city, and home to half of the country’s inhabitants. Although the island remains a territory of the United States, its official language is Spanish and its culture is distinctly Caribbean.

    Other attractions

    Back on land, there’s plenty to keep you busy if you don’t want to laze on a beach. If you’re after adrenaline, head to the Toro Verde Nature Park, and fly over the rainforest canopy at 65 mph (105 km/h), 850 feet (260 meters) high. You’ll feel like Clark Kent for over two minutes. Or you can enjoy some of the world’s best surfing at Rincón. If it’s relaxation that you’re after, hire a sea kayak or explore one of the world’s largest underground rivers at Camuy River Cave Park. Boredom isn’t an option in Puerto Rico.

    Getting there

    The island’s primary hub for international flights is Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, located in San Juan. It’s served by major cities in the US and Western European countries. US citizens don’t require a passport to enter.

    Independent travellers can take a fixed price taxi (up to 5 passengers) for $19 from the airport to old San Juan – adding $1 per luggage item.

    UTC-04:00

    Time zone

    USD

    Currency

    +87

    Calling code

    120 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    SJU

    Main airport
    Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.