Lying between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands in the heart of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is a scuba diving destination with a difference. There’s the hustle and bustle of San Juan, a vibrant city and home to half of the island’s four million inhabitants. Then, there are the world-renowned beaches. Luquillo, for example, is where sheltering coral reefs keep the waters of the coconut palm-lined bay clear and calm. Beautiful Boqueron in the southwest, has open-air eateries that sell fresh oysters and fried fish fritters. On top of that, there’s also El Yunque, a subtropical rain forest, where some of the longest zip lines in the world send explorers hurtling through the trees.
The diving’s pretty spectacular too. There are dive sites within minutes of the main population centers, putting Puerto Rican coral reefs within reach and with minimal effort. And, for those willing to put in the effort and reap the underwater rewards, there are some truly world-class locations. Puerto Rico surely has something for everyone.
- 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.
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Visibility – Up to 50 metres/160 feet.
Water Temperature – 26-28° C/79-83° F in summer and 24-26° C/75-79° F in winter.
Weather – With a tropical marine climate, Puerto Rico is hot and humid all year. While winter is drier and cooler, there is little seasonal variation. Summer air temperatures range from 27-29° C/80-85° F and from 21-29° C/70-80° F in winter. Hurricane season is June through November.
Featured Creatures – Nearly 700 fish species call Puerto Rico’s reefs, mangroves and seagrass environments home. Oceanic whitetip and silky sharks prowl the Mona Passage. A variety of grunt and snapper species, along with damselfish, parrotfish and wrasse are common on the reefs.
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.
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.
Language – Spanish and English
Currency – US Dollar (USD)
Major Airports – San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
Electricity and Internet – Electricity is 120V 60 Hz. Internet service is available.
Topside Attractions – Take zip lines through the forest, stroll the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan or peer from the battlements of Castillo San Felipe del Morro. You can also explore the Camuy River Cave Park, home of the third largest underground river in the world.
Puerto Rico Tourist Information
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