Puerto Rico is like a vacation fun house. You want culture, there's 400-years of it, including massive forts and ancient cities. You want primal nature, there's the entire center of the island and, of course, the World Heritage El Yunque Rainforest. You want tropical island escapes, bioluminescent waters, world-class surfing, music and dancing, and an event, parade or festival for almost every day of the year, Puerto Rico comes with that too. And, that's in addition to diving that too frequently gets passed over by dive travelers on their way through the hub of San Juan to other Caribbean Islands. Underwater, if you really want some bragging rights, find your way to Mona Island off the west coast. It has been called the Galapagos of the Caribbean and see so few divers that the marine life, which includes spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, and other passing pelagics, will probably want to check you out. Closer to shore on the west coast, Desecheo Island is a place that should be more well-known. And the wall off Parguera, on the southwest coast, stretches for about 43 kilometers/27 miles and features lush precipices that slip into the abyss. Culebra and Vieques Islands off the east coast are destinations in and of themselves.
When to go:
Year-round, although hurricane season lasts from June through November, with the worst storms usually hitting in August and September.
When to Get the Best Deals:
October and November and during spring.
What to Pack:
3/2 mm wetsuit, hiking shoes that can get wet if you're exploring the rainforest, sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and DAN Card.
Seasonal averages: 23°C/75°F in winter and 29°C/85°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 23C/75°F in winter and 31°C/88°F in summer.
US dollars and credit cards are widely accepted.
A valid passport for non-US citizens and check with your local immigration office for visa requirements.
A departure tax of $US14 is part of your airfare.
No immunizations necessary.
What to Eat:
The island is rife with great places to eat from local fare to expensive restaurants. With Caribbean and Spanish influences, local food is distinctive with the addition of aromatic and savory sauces, such as sofrito. You may start a meal with alcapurrias - fritters filled with things like fish, lobster, crab, conch, beef, yams and other vegetables. Then maybe try the classic asopao - a hearty gumbo made with chicken or shellfish. Look for mofongo on the menu (each restaurant is likely have its own version) made of mashed plantains in combination with seafood, meat, or vegetables.
What to Drink:
Puerto Rico is the rum capital of the world and the birthplace of the piña colada. Beyond rum, the island has thousands of coffee plantations, so you can get a good cup of local coffee to start your day. Medella Light is the best-known local beer and you can now find a few brew pubs in San Juan.
Some of the world's top surf occurs off Rincon; hike El Yunque Rainforest, take a sea kayak out to experience some of the world's most biolumenscent water off Vieques Island.
Customs and Culture:
Puerto Rico has a rich cultural heritage that reaches back more than 400 years.
Puerto Ricans know how to party and celebrate and there are dozens of festivals, celebrations and religious events throughout the year. Check before you go.
Electricity and Internet:
120 Volts and 60 Hz. Internet is widespread.
Drink the water?
The water is general ok to drink.
English is the official language, but the universal spoken language is Spanish.
Amazing Marine Life
With a rapier-shaped snout and a sail-like dorsal fin, this pelagic giant can grow up to 5 meters/15 feet long and swim at speeds up to 113 kilometers per hour/70 miles per hour.
Growing larger than its reef-bound cousins, this speckled open-water fish can be seen along outer edges of reefs.
These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot-like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.
These relatives to coral branch in intricate, sometimes lacy patterns, decorating the underwater landscape.
Spotted Eagle Ray:
Seen along the walls off Parguera, the sites off Desecheo and over the sand off Culebra.
True to its name, the tube sponge spouts clusters of tubes in vivid colors.
Silvery schooling fish with striking yellow tails.
Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on many reefs.
These predatory fish are often seen on the reefs.
Take a close look under ledges and around reef structures for nurse sharks, which tend to loaf around the reefs of the keys.
Top Dive Spots
Often referred to as the "Galápagos of the Caribbean," this site boasts nearly 300 species of fish, as well as hard and soft corals, sea turtles, and occasionally a humpback whale, dolphin, or marlin. Be cautious of currents.
Named for the funky features of the children's board game, this site features gigantic sea fans, lettuce corals, sponges, and a wide array of reef fish.
Las Cuevas, Desecheo:
This network of canyons, arches, and swim-throughs gives the site its name, which translates to mean "the caves."
Fallen Rock, La Parguera:
Dramatic topography of coral-colored boulders and notched walls form a backdrop for chromis, caesar grunts, schoolmasters and Spanish hawkfish, as well as pelagic visitors such as ocean triggerfish, mackerels, jacks, barracuda and spotted eagle rays.
Efra's Wall, La Parguera:
This wall dive, carved by a canyon, features sea fans, whip corals, finger sponges, pore sponges, black coral, slipper lobsters, and crabs, as well as schools of black durgeons, creole wrasse, and parrotfish.
Black Wall, La Parguera:
This steep wall plunges to 30 meters/100 feet, festooned with black coral, black and red sea fans, and multicolored tube sponges. Look for hogfish, black durgeons and triggerfish.
Cayo Raton, Culebra:
Teeming with fish, this curving reef hosts queen angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, horse-eye jacks, and peacock flounders.
Cayo Lobito, Culebra:
Nick-named "the hospital" due to the abundance of nurse sharks, this reef also attracts jacks and barracuda.
Patti's Reef, Vieques:
Remarkable formations of elkhorn and staghorn corals and are interspersed with a rainbow of sponges. Look for nurse sharks, mackerels and other visiting pelagic fish.
Angel Reef, Vieques:
This spur-and-groove formation hosts the gray angelfish from which it takes its name. Keep an eye out for old Spanish anchors.