Snorkeling in Puerto Rico
Due to its location in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico combines the rain forests of Central America with the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, making it a wonderful vacation destination. It’s also home to a number of islands off the coast that are world-renowned. Many of these are known as fantastic snorkeling spots. Snorkel over reefs with beautiful fans, brain coral, and gorgonian coral forests. Swim along schools of angel fish, parrot fish, the beautiful hawksbill turtles, and much more.
Here are just some of the beautiful places you can snorkel & enjoy the wonderful experience they have to offer.
La Chiva Beach “Blue Beach” – Vieques, Puerto Rico
We’ll list it at the top of the list, here you can snorkel right off the beach along the length of the beach. The beach is shallow and it’s a great place for families to snorkel together. Even at some spots around the edge of the shore, small children can sit on the water and watch schools of fish swimming around. The best snorkeling spot is at the end of the road where you can get easy access to La Chiva, a small island with surrounding waters full of life and a long reef that extends across the beach. The waters are shallow, you can easily float and swim with the current depending on the wind conditions.
We have seen people make the mistake of walking on the shallow waters in order to get into the water without paying attention to where they’re stepping. What appears to just be seagrass, may actually be young coral growing underneath and around, which is easily destroyed when stepped on. You also risk stepping on sea urchins, please swim out, it’s an easy 7-10 minute swim to the reef and you’ll be protecting this delicate natural treasure.
Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island)
The popular snorkel spots in Puerto Rico are not always so kind to the young enthusiasts among us. With changing ocean conditions, sometimes they can be not quite so kind to even veteran snorkelers. However, for those snorkeling with kids, Cayo Aurora, otherwise known as Gilligan’s Island, provides a safe and beautiful place to learn the finer points of this sport.
What makes Cayo Aurora so spectacular is that the ocean waters are as clear as your hotel’s pool and surrounded by lush mangroves to keep the ocean swells to a minimum. With depths of only around two feet, everyone can get up close and personal with tropical fish that are born and live here before setting off into the open ocean with adulthood.
Located on the southwest coast of the main island, La Parguera is a nature reserve made up of a series of mangrove islands, coral reefs, and salt marshes. Due to such a varied ecosystem, La Parguera supports an array of marine life, the likes of which snorkelers will see nowhere else in the world. The landscape attracts everything from dolphins, turtles, barracudas, and manatees as well as an abundance of tropical fish. However, due to the presence of such exciting marine life, this area gets crowded during the summer and is popular for snorkeling tours rather than just solo groups.
However, La Parguera has another secret. It is also home to one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays. During the summer, La Parguera fills up with marine plankton known as dinoflagellate that glow at night, giving the water a speckled, night’s sky appearance. What’s more is that this bay is the only one of the three bioluminescent bays that allows for night-time snorkeling and swimming.
Mona Island is one of the more remote Puerto Rican islands on the west coast with pristine conditions for snorkeling. Often referred to as the “The Galapagos of the Caribbean,” Mona Island is an ecological reserve managed by the country’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, located about 30 miles from Desecheo Island. The concentration of reef life includes multicolored fish, sea turtles, puffers, eels and more. Coral varieties include brain, sea fan, finger and fleshy and stony corals. Charter boats are available from a few select companies, including Tour Marine PR (tourmarinepr.com) departing from Cabo Rojo. Trips are customized, with snorkel gear and life vest provided.
Caja de Muertos
This small island is located just off the coast of Ponce is also known by its English name- Coffin Island. Don’t let the name of this island scare you. The name was derived from an 18th century writer who was convinced the shape of the island looked like a body in a coffin. There is a lot of lore that surrounds the island due to the name. This means that you can have a day full of outings such as a hiking trail and a lighthouse while also enjoying snorkeling here. The island is remote so there is no equipment to rent here, though you will find healthy reefs full of fish and turtles. You can even follow the signs for the underwater trail to find the best views in this area.
This is located in Rincon, on the west coast of Puerto Rico. While this is a gorgeous beach, it is really only good for swimming in the summer months as this is when the surf is down, making the water calmer. This beach is also known as The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve. Here you will find the largest Elk Horn coral garden in the Carribbean. They also have beautiful live rocks and live reefs you can enjoy here. There are many fish you can spot here such as Angelfish, Blue Tang, barracudas, sea turtles, and much more. According to people who come here often the best month of the year to snorkel in this location is July.
When snorkeling in Vieques keep an eye out for interesting finds, such as the Navy remnants from the time when the island was a US Navy base, as well as fan coral, brain coral and a gorgonian coral forest. Swim with the angelfish and parrot fish and maybe you will even see one of the inspiring endangered hawksbill turtles. Vieques is a snorkeler’s paradise, so make sure you book plenty of time on this gem of an island.
Protecting nature’s beauty
Please help us protect our reefs by never stepping on, taking away, touching or leaving trash at the beach. We invite you to enjoy them, but we beg that you help us preserve it. Before you step into the water, please put on your mask, and look underwater to make sure you don’t step into any of the coral or sea life.
Some important Tips
- When you are out snorkeling it is important to keep safety in mind for both you and the local environment. Here are a few things you can do to help keep safe while snorkeling:
- Do not feed fish. They only need to eat the food they get from their natural habitat
- To not kneel or stand on any part of the reef. Not only will this injure you, it will also damage the reef which takes years to regrow.
- Never take a fish or reef out of its habitat. The purpose of snorkeling is to explore and see, not take. If you want a keepsake remember to bring an underwater camera so you can take pictures.
- If you are not confident with your swimming skills, then make sure you wear a floatation device.
- Before you start get your face into the water to determine where the sand path is so you do not accidentally step on a reef
- If you are near a reef be careful when kicking your feet that you do not hit a reef
- Make sure you are with someone or that someone knows where you are
These are just a few of the things to consider when looking for the best places to snorkel on your trip to Puerto Rico. If you want to make sure you find the best sites, then you should hire a guide to help you. There are several charter tours for snorkeling that you can find. These are sure to help you get the experience you are looking for.