Walls and Reefs in America's Caribbean
Sitting on the boundary of the Caribbean and Tropical Atlantic, the US Territory of Puerto Rico is all about choices. The south coast offers steep offshore slopes and walls in open water, while the east coast pampers with short boat rides to coral formations in shallow to medium depths. Farther offshore, the picturesque out islands of Culebra and Vieques are home to some of the region's best coral reefs and clearest waters. On Puerto Rico's southwestern corner, the Parguera wall drops to depths of 1,500 feet, and after dark the waters of Bio Bay light up in eerie glowing colors.
- Best for: All divers
- Best season to visit: Year-round
- Weather: Puerto Rico enjoys a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from the 70s in winter to summer highs in the upper 80s. Inland mountains remain cooler, and east coast sites enjoy trade winds. Winters are dry. Rain is more common from April through Nov
Puerto Rico Information
About Diving in Puerto Rico
There are a limited number of dive sites along the island's northern and western coasts, while the vast majority of underwater activity takes place along the island's eastern end and the southern coast. To the east, shallow to mid-depth coral reefs dominate, and water clarity is less affected by wind and waves. A massive wall parallels the southern shore, dropping abruptly from depths of 40 to 60 feet into deep water. Most all dives in these two areas are by boat, with sites located anywhere from 10 minutes to a half-hour from shore. The islands of Culebra and Vieques offer additional variety and a range of less-visited reefs. Water temperatures around Puerto Rico range from 79 to 83 degrees in summer and 75 to 79 degrees in winter.
Diving in Puerto Rico Tips
Divers who can't decide on which areas of the island they want to explore can mix and match by dividing their time between sites on the east and southwest coasts, and staging road trips from a central resort. They can also add in day trips or longer stays on the eastern islands. Visibility on wall sites is usually quite good, but a dive light will help bring out colors and details as depths increase.
Best Places to Dive in Puerto Rico
At Fallen Rock, a cleft in the reef leads to a pinnacle that holds clusters of chromis, grunts and schoolmasters, and often attracts pelagic visitors as well. Black Wall is covered in forests of black coral, enormous black and red gorgonians and elongated yellow and purple tube sponges. Cayo Raton has been described as one of the fishiest places in the Caribbean. The caverns and canyons of the Horseshoe hide lobster, green and spotted morays. Barracuda and eagle rays patrol the coral gardens of Cayo Diablo, while sites offshore of Humacao provide a maze of arches, swim-throughs, tunnels and canyons.
What to Pack for Diving in Puerto Rico
A skin suit for summer, or a 3mm full suit for winter. Add a soft mesh bag to transfer gear to dive boats, as it can be stowed easily under benches or in deck lockers. Remember sun protection in the form of a hat and cover up. You don't need to understand Spanish to get by, but adding a translation app to your phone is a fun way to pick up some new language skills.
Diving in Puerto Rico
Both weather and geography play a role in diving conditions around Puerto Rico. Atlantic swells roll onto the beaches of the north coast through much of the year, limiting access to sites. When conditions are favorable, divers will find gentle reef slopes sporting a healthy but unremarkable mix of hard and soft coral growth. The prevailing trade winds that sweep in from the east form rain clouds that build over Puerto Rico's mountainous interior. The resultant runoff reduces near-shore visibility in many areas west of San Juan, but does not affect sites farther offshore. By contrast, the eastern end of the island receives far less rain through much of the year. The town of Fajardo is a center of diving activity, with boats departing for reefs at depths of 20 to 60 feet. This is relaxed diving, but by no means boring, as these sites hold a wide range of Caribbean marine life, including numerous invertebrates. A favorite site is Palominito's Wall, where a sand chute cuts through a coral slope as it drops from 15 to 80 feet. The site is known for plentiful marine life, which includes plenty of reef regulars such as lobster, grouper, moray eels, turtles and eagle rays, plus a chance for sightings of dolphin and manatees. South of Fajardo, the Humacao Region adds another 20-plus dive sites within five miles of shore. This area sees less dive traffic than the Fajardo region and the underwater terrain is more varied, with numerous overhangs, tunnels and small canyons to explore. At the Cracks, a jigsaw-like seascape of caves and boulder fields hold an abundance of cleaning stations. Nearby, Red Hog provides a wall that drops from 80 feet to more than 1,000. A few miles to the east of Puerto Rico, additional dive sites are found around the smaller islands of Culebra and Vieques. Most sites around these islands have maximum depths of 60 feet or less, but will hold diver's interest with a rich assortment of marine life and interesting arrays of swim-throughs, crevices and caverns. Culebra's Cayo Raton features a semicircular reef famous for its abundant fish life, from queen angelfish and butterfly fish to parrotfish and horse-eye jacks. Vieques is home to one of Puerto Rico's three bioluminescent bays, where tiny marine organisms light nighttime waters in otherworldly blue glows. Puerto Rico's southern coast faces the Caribbean Sea, where the coastal shelf ends abruptly at an east-west wall located several miles from shore. Puerto Rico's best wall dives lie to the west, along a 20-mile section of coast between the port of Ponce and the small fishing village of La Parguera. Here, at depths of 40 to 60 feet the spur and groove reefs of the coastal shallows meet a drop-off that plunges to depths beyond a 1,500 feet. There are more than 50 named sites along the wall, which is riddled with coral canyons, sea mounts, pinnacles and swim-throughs, and covered in groves of elkhorn and staghorn corals, and gardens of deep-water gorgonians and tube sponges. Among the not-to-be-missed favorites are the Chimney, Black Wall and Fallen Rock, where a bus-sized boulder left a large notch in the wall when it fell away to create an outlying pinnacle. The rock is surrounded by swarming chromis, Caesar grunts, schoolmasters and Spanish hawkfish, and its exposed position creates a chance for sightings of open-water species such as ocean triggerfish, mackerels, jacks, barracuda and spotted eagle rays.
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
Entry Requirements: No passport necessary for U.S. citizens to enter Puerto Rico. No visa is required for U.S. Citizens.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Puerto Rico. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at cdc.gov.
Culture and Customs
When you arrive in Puerto Rico, you are still on US soil, but also very much in the Caribbean. No passport is needed, and English and Spanish are spoken in equal measure, but the culture is a blend of island styles and Latin-American traditions. San Juan is a cosmopolitan and thoroughly modern commercial center, but also a city with a long and storied history dating back to the days of Spanish treasure galleons and the real pirates of the Caribbean. The posh resorts and trendy boutiques of the Condado District are just a short stroll away from the narrow cobblestone streets and colonial-era buildings of Old San Juan. Drive into the mountains and as four-lane highways transition into cliff-hugging single lanes you step back into an era of village life, and then into settings where nature still takes center stage. El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US National Forest System, and surrounding mountains hide an eco- adventurer's dreamscape of canyons, caves and waterfalls. At Toro Verde, the mile-and-a-half-long Monster is the world's longest zip line, and the Camuy River Cave Park features the world's third longest underground river. Surfers flock to world-class breaks near the west-coast town of Rincon, paddlers explore the mangrove lagoons of Parguera, and big game fishermen depart San Juan Harbor to do battle with trophy sized blue marlin. Those who prefer luxury over adventure can relax at premier resorts, play tour-worth golf courses, indulge in five-star spa services and sample the island's vibrant culinary scene.
Electricity, Phone and Internet Access
Electricity in Puerto Rico is 110 volts, 60 cycles, so no adapter will be needed for US visitors. The country code/area code for Puerto Rico is 787. Some U.S. providers include calls and data usage from Puerto Rico so be sure to check with your provider to see if additional costs will apply. Many hotels offer WiFi.
The environmental standards that apply to water in the U.S. apply to Puerto Rico. The water is safe to drink and bottled water if preferred is available for purchase.
Language & Currency
Both English and Spanish are the official languages in Puerto Rico, however Spanish is more frequently spoken by the people of Puerto Rico. The currency in Puerto Rico is the US Dollar.
Puerto Rico is on Atlantic Standard Time (AST) and does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Puerto Rico is 4 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-4 GMT).
Location, Size and Population
Puerto Rico is an archipelago in the Caribbean and part of the Greater Antilles. The islands are located west of the Virgin Islands and east of the Dominican Republic. The Northern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean while the Southern coast faces the Caribbean Sea. Puerto Rico is 30 miles wide North to South and 90 miles long East to West, 3,515 square miles total and includes a number of small islands, Mona to the west, along with Culebra and Vieques to the east. The capital and most populated municipality is San Juan, located on the northeastern shore of the main island
The population of Puerto Rico is 3.68 million (2016).