The mountainous island of Puerto Rico has 360 miles of coast surrounded by deep ocean waters. This commonwealth of the United States offers divers thriving reefs, deep walls, wrecks, and plenty of marine life. Part of the Greater Antilles, the Puerto Rican archipelago includes the main island of Puerto Rico and several smaller islands including Vieques, Culebra, and Mona; all with great diving.
Visitors to Puerto Rico will find a variety of diving around the island. The east coast of the main island has sloping reefs with great coral and gorgonians. Off the eastern coast, several small islands have less divers and pristine reefs. The south is known for its amazing wall diving, thanks to the continental shelf dropping off just a few miles from the coast. The west has nice beach diving and the offshore islands of Desecheo and Mona offer beautiful and untouched diving.
Puerto Rico’s busy Luis Manoz Marin International Airport (SJU), near San Juan, receives flights from most major US cities, other Caribbean Islands, South American, and Europe. Many visitors arrive to Puerto Rico via cruise ships and ferries from the Dominican Republic. To get around the island visitors can rent cars (although the roads can be bad in some places) or there are taxis. Domestic flights fly throughout the country.
Many dive shops offer diving trips to the smaller islands in the archipelago. There are also ferries that go to Culebra and Vieques and dive operators on those islands. Getting to the more distant islands, such as Mona, can require some extra planning and good weather is necessary to make the trip. To dive all sides of the island, it will probably be best to spend a few days on each coast and dive with a dive shop nearby.
Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate and is hot and humid year round, although cooler in the mountains. There isn’t much seasonal variation, but winter does bring slightly drier and cooler conditions. Hurricane season is June through November and it usually rains at least once a day, every day during this time. Air temperatures are 80-85F in the summer and 70-80F in the winter. Water temperatures are 75-79F in winter and 79-83F in summer. Puerto Rico’s official languages are Spanish and English, and they use the US Dollar.
Puerto Rico has many dive sites and they’re best separated by their proximity to the main island. Most dives are easy reef dives or slight current drift dives and the water is warm year round (75F at its coldest in winter and up to 83F in the summer). Usually a shorty wetsuit or a 3mm is plenty.
Around the capital, San Juan, to Fajardo to the north east, the diving includes great reefs, caverns and shallow walls. Palominito’s Wall is a popular site with a sand slope from 15 to 80ft. This site has great coral cover, sea fans, and sponges and lucky divers may see green and hawksbill turtles, eagle rays, dolphin, and sometimes manatees.
The island of Culebra is east of Fajardo and is a great area for both beginner and advanced divers. With no river run-off, this area has near-perfect visibility and more than 50 dive sites. A diver could spend weeks exploring this area with its large staghorn corals, sponges, and plenty of pretty reef fish at dive sites like Patti’s Reef and Cayo Lobito.
South of Culebra, The Vieques Islands dive sites include Horseshoe, a great site with a shallow reef and a small ledge. The site has two sunken cannons covered in corals, and the site has nurse sharks and lobsters.
Continuing east, it is possible to dive Sail Rock (actually part of St. Thomas) from Puerto Rico. This pinnacle starts at 140ft, and offers great visibility, large schools of fish, turtles, eagle rays, and sharks. Weather conditions need to be calm for boats to go there. Also at St. Thomas is the WIT Shoal II/LST 467, a warship that played a role in WWII. After the war, she was turned into a freighter and sank during Tropical Storm Klaus in 1984.
The continental shelf runs parallel to Puerto Rico’s south coast just a few miles offshore. Around 20 miles of beautiful wall can be found here, ranging from 60-120ft and then eventually dropping off to 1500ft. Diving is great along the entire wall, and Failed Rock is a favorite, which has sharp drop offs with lots of chromis, grunts, hawkfish, triggerfish, and barracuda. This site includes a boulder that broke off of the wall, creating a pinnacle covered in marine life. Efra’s Wall is another deep wall with a canyon that has gorgonians, whip corals, and black coral bushes. Black Wall also has lots of black coral, black and red gorgonians, and rare purple tube sponges.
The Isles of Desecheo lie to the west of mainland Puerto Rico. Candyland is a colorful reef with lots of reef fish, huge sea fans, and sponges. Las Cuevas has a fantastic underwater terrain with canyons and arches to swim through.
Further offshore, some of Puerto Rico’s best diving is around Mona Island, sometimes referred to as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean.” Unfortunately it’s a 45 miles off the west side of the island, making trips to this island rare and difficult to arrange. The island itself has giant lizards, multiple species of birds including red-footed boobies, leatherback turtles, and humpback migrate through this area November through May. Underwater there are often strong currents bringing in pelagics. Rarely visited, the pristine corals have an abundance of fish life and interesting caverns and caves.
Puerto Rico is a popular tourist destination and has many dive shops. The highest concentration is around the San Juan and Fajardo area, and many of these shops offer boat trips to the eastern islands including Culebra and Vieques.
One of the highest rated dive shops in Puerto Rico is Caribe Aquatic Adventures, in San Juan, which offers PADI and Naui training, boat trips to the eastern islands, and also caters to cruise ships passengers. Also in San Juan is Aqua Adventure, offering PADI training, diving trips and other aquatic activities like scuba and snorkeling. Aqua Adventures operates and dives on the south shore as well.
In Fajardo, the highly rated Casa del Mar PADI Dive Center offers training and boat trips. They put together trips to St. Thomas dive sites like Sail Rock when the conditions permit. Sea Ventures Dive Centers is a 5 Star PADI member teaching discover scuba through instructor, and has two locations in Fajardo and Humacao. They offer boat trips for morning, afternoon, and night dives.
On the island of Vieques, Black Beard Sports is a 5 Star PADI Dive Center offering courses, diving tours for those already certified, gear sales and a repair shop. They also offer kayaking, snorkeling, biking, and hiking.
In Guanica, on the south coast, Island Scuba offers PADI courses and dive trips. They arrange dive trips all along the fantastic wall, found just a few miles off shore of Puerto Rico’s south coast. On the west coast, The Dive Shop dives the western coast and offers PADI courses and has a gear shop.
Daily flights from the United States, other Caribbean Islands, South America, and Europe fly into the Luis Manoz Marin International Airport (SJU). A hugely popular cruise ship port, many Caribbean cruises stop in Puerto Rico. Many dive shops cater boat trips and courses to those arriving for only a short time via cruise ship. There is also a ferryboat from the Dominican Republic that brings passengers to Puerto Rico. Once in Puerto Rico, getting around is fairly easy. Rental cars are available, although roads are not always well maintained and have large potholes and uneven pavement. Taxi services are good, although public transportation isn’t.
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