As there are so many amazing dive locations to choose from, I have narrowed down some of the best spots to go scuba diving in Puerto Rico.
The beauty comes from the 360 miles of coastline surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. These waters are rich with marine life and coral reefs which is perfect as the water temperature is comfortable all year. Visibility around the main island is typically 60 to 80 feet, which makes spotting all the marine life really easy.
As the continental shelf surrounds three sides of the island, it creates great wall diving and has caves and trenches for divers to explore. Add in the eastern offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques and protected preservations like Desecheo and Mona Islands off the west and you quickly start to see the diversity of potential dive locations Puerto Rico offers.
Once you enter these waters and start your dive you can expect to see reefs abound with different types of coral-like brain or elkhorn and a staggering array of brilliantly colored tropical fish and sponges. You may spot nurse sharks, barracuda, flounder, grouper, trumpetfish, and others. The crevices and caves can provide shelter to moray eels and lobsters. You might even see dolphins in their natural habitat!
To get a taste of what you can experience, check out this video on underwater diving.
Scuba Diving in Puerto Rico
With such a rich diversity of dive sites, I wanted to find out where the best Puerto Rico Diving destinations are. I learned that the dive locations off the eastern, southern, and western coasts are best. The visibility is not as good on the north coast around the capital of San Juan, due to rivers emptying into the Caribbean on this side of the island.
There are diving companies strategically located on the coasts that can offer equipment and great tour options to the best nearby sites. So get your gear ready, as here are my suggestions for where to scuba dive in Puerto Rico, broken down by region of the island!
Fajardo is a good base for snorkeling trips from the east coast. The dive sites are not far offshore and the reefs are in shallow to medium depth waters. Further east are the islands of Culebra and Vieques which have terrific reefs and fantastic dive visibility.
This dive has a sandy slope that descends from 15 feet all the way to 80 feet. It forms a half wall with a large variety of coral, sea fans, and sponges. There are also hawksbill turtles and eagle rays. The diverse marine life on display includes dolphins, barracudas, groupers, lobsters, moray eels, blowfish, and perhaps manatees.
Calm and clear waters (no freshwater runoff leads to great visibility) make this small island (located about 17 miles north-east of the main island) an excellent beginner’s dive spot.
Cayo Raton is a semicircular reef with a dense fish population. It begins at a shallow depth and descends all the way to 60 feet, so can be very interesting for intermediate-level divers. What really sets this reef apart is that the visibility can frequently be over 100 feet!
This reef has a rich biodiversity of coral along with resident fish. This coral reef is home to plenty of queen angelfish and butterflyfish. You will also find Schools of Parrotfish and Horse-eye Jacks that swim around the divers.
A coral garden dials around the island. A regular controlled current tends to lead schools of barracuda and eagle ray from time to time, and visibility is often the best in the area. The dive area depths range from 5 to 45 feet deep, and the recommended skill level is for beginners to intermediate divers.
This dive site is most well-known for the large number of nurse sharks living in the area. The depth is around 75 feet and features plenty of opportunities for intermediate-level divers to explore this beautiful reef.
Along with the more typical coral reef fish, other common residents here include nurse sharks! Expect to see the occasional barracuda, jacks, and other fish in the deep blue. There is also plenty of healthy coral growth and fantastic visibility.
Here’s an interesting video to watch on diving with sharks off Culebra!
Vieques: Offers Some of the Best Scuba Diving in Puerto Rico!
Three Rocks Horseshoe
This dive site is in the shape of a horseshoe and features a narrow ledge, for beginner divers along with deeper sections for more experienced divers.
You will discover a lot of healthy shallow reefs where Lobsters, reef fish, nurse sharks, and moray eels call home. The location also has two sunken cannons and communication cables that have been completely covered in coral growth.
The continental shelf drops off for several miles producing a wall 20 miles long that houses an abundance of marine life. The wall runs along the coast from the seaside village of La Parguera to the city of Ponce. It descends in slopes and sheer drops from 60 to 120 feet before completely submerging into 1,500 feet of sea. Visibility can exceed 100 feet.
La Parguera Wall
For experienced divers, this famed dive site sits five miles offshore from La Parguera. You can see triggerfish, turtles, and other reef fish as well as occasional reef sharks. You may also see pelagic species (those that live in the central body of water rather than the shore or bottom) like barracuda, dolphins, and manta rays.
Paradise Scuba & Snorkeling Center offers two-tank dives to La Parguera Wall with all gear included for $135 per person.
This uniquely shaped dive site is a 45-minute trip from La Parguera. It’s a V-shaped notch in the wall where a large coral-covered boulder broke off and formed a pinnacle. The dive site starts at depths of 75 feet and has steep drops descending past 100 feet. The pinnacle itself lays on a ledge at 120 feet.
The wall where you begin your dive is covered with coral with many marine animals. Crabs hide among the coral while reef fish such as Chromis, schoolmasters, and Spanish Hawkfish are abundant. Once you are in the deeper waters you’re also more likely to spot ocean triggerfish, mackerels, barracuda, jacks, and spotted eagle rays.
This dive site is a feast of coral and marine life. You’ll find a canyon carved out of a wall where gorgonian corals have run rampant. This is a much deeper dive starting at 55 feet in depth and drops all the way down to 100 feet. As you dive down, you will notice whip coral and a variety of sponges. This spot is perfect for intermediate and advanced divers.
The wall offers plenty of spots for reef fish to swim and hide. There are colorful crabs, shrimp, and starfish. You’ll also discover large black coral forests where lobsters and striped parrotfish live.
The black wall dive is one of the most well-known for scuba diving in Puerto Rico, on an impressive 22-mile long wall of thriving coral reefs. This wall dive descends from 60 feet to 130 feet. It is therefore well suited for intermediate and advanced divers. The wall is covered with astonishing coral growth including black coral, black and red gorgonian corals, and large purple tube sponges.
Some of the most common species of fish you may see include hogfish, triggerfish, trumpetfish, and rays. You may also see some turtles or occasional deeper sea-dwelling pelagic fish.
Scuba Diving Puerto Rico’s West Coast
This small, uninhabited island located off the coast of Rincon contains some of the most beautiful coral reefs in Puerto Rico. A 45-minute boat ride will take you to this National Wildlife Refuge that has more than 20 dive sites to choose from.
Most popular with intermediate divers is the aptly named Candyland—a multi-colored reef in 40-80 feet of water filled with tropical fish and giant sea fans, colorful sponges, turtles, rays, and more.
This is also where you’ll find Las Cuevas (The Caves). With a maximum depth of 30 feet, this is a great location for swimming through caverns and can be enjoyed even by beginner divers. There is even a triangular-looking window that looks like Darth Vader’s Mask!
Taino Divers offers guided two-tank scuba diving charters to Desecheo Island. The cost is $140 for divers. Rental gear costs $35 and there’s a $20 per person charge for the marine park fee.
This underwater paradise is located a 50-mile ride from the coast of Puerto Rico and is one of the best dive locations you can visit. The trip is not easy given that the Mona Passage can sometimes be rough. And it makes the most sense to visit on a live-aboard boat given the distances involved. The currents can be strong, so this trip is best suited for more advanced divers. But the clear water is spectacular with almost 165 feet of visibility.
This incredible dive destination offers visitors a variety of caves with abundant marine life at depths ranging from 20-130 feet. The strong currents attract sharks, humpback whales, and turtles. Mona has been compared to the Galapagos Islands for its rich biodiversity. There is amazing coral including hard and soft varieties. These waters are among the cleanest in Puerto Rico, with horizontal visibility sometimes over 200 feet!
North Coast (San Juan)
If you are wanting to try out a Scuba in Puerto Rico adventure, you may want to test the waters right off San Juan!
Escambron Marine Park
Shore diving from the Caribe Hilton beach lets anyone from beginners to more advanced divers explore coral reefs right in the heart of San Juan. The maximum depth is only 30 feet, and visibility is about 10 to 20 feet. A unique feature that I thought added a fun touch is the statues and Roman columns in the area called “Atlantis” for the lost city.
There are schools of tropical fish like blue tangs, damselfish, and sergeant majors. There are also green and hawksbill turtles that live in the protected bay.
Scuba Puerto Rico with these Dive Shops and Tours
Dive shops can help you coordinate your scuba diving adventure in Puerto Rico. They’ll outfit you with oxygen tanks and other equipment such as wet suits, plus provide boat transportation to get you out to the reefs or diving sites. In addition, they will usually provide lunch or snacks while onboard. They can provide scuba diving certification for novice divers.
Here are a few more really good articles about Suba diving in Puerto Rico, from the Diving Organization Padi, to travel publications Afar and Frommers to cruise line Royal Caribbean to the official Discover Puerto Rico web site.
The island of Puerto Rico is one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. It has great dive choices nearly anywhere around the island’s coastlines or near one of its offshore islands. Puerto Rico provides a rich marine habitat that makes me want to jump in and explore! It also has all the support you’ll need in terms of dive shops. So get your equipment and onto their boats to reach the best reefs and diving spots.
Other Great Scuba Diving Destinations
Now you’ve sampled the best of Puerto Rico Diving. Why not explore some other beautiful destinations around the world you can dive in.
Australia, with its spectacular Great Barrier reef, offers some great choices for diving adventures. Three possibilities include Hook Island in the Whitsundays, Mission Beach ( less than 2 hours south of Cairns), and Trinity Beach, a coastal suburb of Cairns.
We would love to hear from you!
Have you ever been scuba diving in Puerto Rico? What was your experience like? Do you have any tips for anyone looking to go diving? Comment below and let us know. Thank you for reading!