Puerto Rico - Top 10 Dive Sites | Scuba Diving

Puerto Rico - Top 10 Dive Sites

Photography by Steve Simonsen

This self-ruling United States commonwealth offers much more to divers than just its centerpiece island, Puerto Rico. While sites off the southern coastal town of La Parguera are splendid, the isles of Desecheo and elusive Mona to the west and Culebra and Vieques to the east feature a constellation of stellar dive sites. Go west for caves and walls and east for reefs teeming with marine life. You and your dive buddy can debate which side wins.

Top 10 Dive Sites

Mona Island
It's a 50-mile ride to reach this remote spot, where the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea unite. Outside of live-aboard boats, land-based operators make only rare, special trips to dive sites here, but it's well worth it. With the variety of caves, hard and soft corals, the plethora of big animals, from sharks to humpback whales and high-voltage currents, it's like diving the Galapagos Islands, but in warmer waters.
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate to Advanced

Candyland (Desecheo)
Remember that old-school board game from your childhood? We dare you to tell us the huge, funky-shaped coral mounds don't look like the ones you remember from the Candyland game. There are a kaleidoscope of colors on this must-see reef, embodied in gigantic sea fans, lettuce corals and sponges . There are also crazy amounts of tropical fish, adding to the already surrealist vibe here. The maximum depth is about 80 feet.
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Las Cuevas (Desecheo)
Swim-through junkies, this is your spot. Welcome to a water wonderland of canyons and arches, where as many as 20 of you can explore at once, to your heart's content. Check out the triangular-looking windows that resemble Darth Vader's mask.
Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

Fallen Rock (La Parguera)
Although it's about a 45-minute trip out of La Parguera, it's one of the area's most sought after dive sites. There's a V-shaped notch in a wall, with a bus-shaped, coral-covered boulder that broke off and formed a pinnacle, with sharp drop-offs and a dramatic descent. It's a deep dive, with the top of the reef at 65 feet, and dropping well past 100. Clusters of chromis abound, with Caesar grunts, schoolmasters and Spanish hawkfish. This is also a spot with great chances to see open-water animals, such as ocean triggerfish, and pelagics, like mackerels, jacks, barracuda and spotted eagle rays.
Recommended minimum skill level: Advanced

Efra's Wall (La Parguera)
Lots of life and color exist at this site, where a canyon is carved out of the wall. Gorgonians rule at this deep dive--the reef begins at 55 feet and descends down to well over 100--but there are also whip corals, large golden zoanthids, green finger sponges and rope pore sponges. Check out a veritable forest of black coral and look for slipper lobsters, crabs, schooling black durgeons and creole wrasse and striped parrotfish.
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Black Wall (La Parguera)
On this deep wall dive, ranging from 60 feet to recreational limits, there are forests of black coral, enormous black and red gorgonians and elongated yellow and purple tube sponges, creating a rainbow of colors. Hogfish, black durgons and triggerfish are the most common creatures here.
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Cayo Raton (Culebra)
Arguably the fishiest dive in Puerto Rico and one of the fishiest in the entire Caribbean, this semicircular reef, starts flat and then plunges down to 60 feet. Swarms of little to medium-size life here abound, from queen angelfish and butterflyfish to parrotfish and horse-eye jacks. Check the sand for camouflaged peacock flounders. And did we mention visibility can sometimes top 100 feet here?
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Cayo Lobito (Culebra)
Maybe they should've named this site "the Hospital" because nurses are everywhere--as in nurse sharks. On this dive, done at a 75-foot maximum depth, jacks and barracuda keep the sharks company.
Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Patti's Reef (Vieques) (Culebra)
This one's an easy, shallow dive in 20 to 40 feet, exceptionally close to shore, with huge elkhorn and staghorn corals and sponges galore. Lots of cuts and chasms to peer in and explore here, with a good number of nurse sharks, mackerels and other pelagics swimming by.
Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

Angel Reef (Vieques)
If you're looking for wilderness diving, this rarely dived site truly fits the bill. It's a shallow dive, at 40 to 60 feet, in a spur-and-groove reef, with corals in near-pristine condition. Have your dive guide show you the old Spanish anchors wedged into the reef and watch for groups of gray angelfish.
Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

Pre-Dive Check

Country: U.S.A.
Primary Languages: Spanish, English
Currency: U.S. dollar
Cultural Influences: Spanish, African, Taino Indian
Signature Dishes: Albondigas (spicy meatballs) and mofongo--mashed, twice-fried plantains seasoned with garlic and olive oil and stuffed with crumbled bacon or shrimp
Signature Marine Life: Black durgons, longsnout butterflyfish, French angelfish
Topside Sporting Pastime: Baseball
Topside Trinkets: Mini Old San Juan painted home wall hangings or fridge magnets
Travel Savvy Tip: Spend an off-gassing day taking the tour of the Bacardi Rum Distillery

Taking the Plunge

Weather: Tropical, hot and humid, with temperatures averaging 83 in winter and 85 in summer, with cooler conditions in mountainous regions.
Dive Conditions: Water temps range from 75 in winter to 85 in summer, with visibility averaging 60 to 80 feet around the main island, and in excess of 100 feet around Desecheo and Culebra.