Puerto Rico is a Caribbean nation that consists of an archipelago that includes the main – and the largest - island of Puerto Rico and the smaller islands of Vieques, Culebra, Mona, as well as many islets. Its terrain is mostly mountainous, the mountains dropping precipitously to the sea in some regions, but there are still many sandy beaches along most of its coast. The islands are surrounded by deep ocean waters that offer opportunities for great scuba diving.
Puerto Rico’s warm and clear waters, abundant sea life, beautiful coral reefs, and numerous shipwrecks have ensured the nation’s place on many lists of best dive destinations in the Caribbean. Plus, big pelagics like humpback whales can be spotted here.
Corals of Culebra Island. Photo by Thomas Shahan
The best time to scuba dive in Puerto Rico is December through May, which is the dry season. During these months, divers can expect better diving conditions than the rest of the year and it’s also the best time to see the humpback whales at Mona Island.
The hurricane season runs from June to November. During these months, it usually rains every day, but only for short periods of time. It is still possible to dive during this season, but the unpredictable weather may prevent you from diving on specific days. However, the dive sites are typically less crowded and you should expect better deals on dive packages.
The water temperatures in the dry season (December to May) range from 24 to 26° C (75-79° F) while in the hurricane/rainy season, the temperatures are around 26-28° C (79-83°F).
Current is generally mild, but there are plenty of dive sites hit by strong – even dangerous – currents. While this creates some good opportunities for advanced divers to drift dive, it’s best to ask a local guide about the best spots for your level of experience.
The visibility around the main island of Puerto Rico is typically very good, and even better around the islands of Culebra and Desecheo. It typically ranges between 15 and 30 meters (50-100 feet) but it can exceed 40 meters (131 feet) on some dive sites.
The uninhabited Desecheo Island is located in the Mona Passage and together with the neighboring islands of Mona and Monito, it is known as the Galapagos of the Caribbean. Rare and endangered species of plants and animals are found in these protected ecosystems. Because of its rather isolated location, Desecheo also offers healthy and vibrant coral reefs. The area offers dive sites with colorful fauna and swim-throughs that are also suitable for novice divers.
Mona Island boasts some of the clearest waters in Puerto Rico, beautiful walls and pinnacles, huge corals, and big marine animals. Sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles frequently visit these waters, and it’s not uncommon to see humpback whales either. Nonetheless, the diving conditions here can be challenging, with unpredictable currents that can be dangerous for the inexperienced. For this reason, Mona Island is recommended for advanced divers.
Located close to the main island, Vieques offers a variety of dive sites with clear water, swim-throughs, healthy hard and soft corals, and marine life that includes bottlenose dolphins, eagle rays, large slipper lobsters, and green and Hawksbill turtles. The diving conditions here are excellent for both beginners and advanced divers.