Puerto Rico diving

Scuba tanks - Puerto Rico divingConstantly warm water makes Puerto Rico diving a pleasure at any time of the year and suitable for all levels of experience, Puerto Rico can make an ideal location to learn how to scuba dive. In fact the water is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) in February and March, a temperature that many locals consider cold.

If you’re used to diving in a full wetsuit or a dry suit, you’ll be happy to find that even a shorty isn’t necessary in Puerto Rico.

 

 

Dive sites on the North Coast

My first dive in Puerto Rico was the Figure 8 reef in San Juan. Although visibility was poor, the dive is undemanding and gives divers an easy introduction to some of the marine life to be found in Puerto Rico. The maximum depth is 30 feet (9 meters) and so suitable for novices.

The dive was arranged through Caribe Aquatic Adventures, who we met in the parking lot at the back of the Normandy Hotel. The dive site is reached from the beach located just behind the hotel.

At a cost of $55 for tank of air, the dive is a little expensive, but a single diver is guaranteed to get a dive – you won’t get that with a charter boat. Caribe Aquatic Adventures dive each day at midday and 4.00 pm and can be reached on 724-1882.

 

East of Puerto Rico – Humacao, Fajardo and the islands

After San Juan, my first real experience of Puerto Rico diving was from the Palmas del Mar resort near Humacao.

Diving with a group of sailors from the US Navy whose ship was in port for a few days, I dived twice. The water was exceptionally clear and the captain told us that it is only that clear maybe twice per year.

With huge coral formations both dives were spectacular, but the first dive had the benefit of a pair of huge barracudas, hanging in the water and watching us suspiciously from a distance.

A barracuda shows its teeth

I also dived several times from Fajardo’s Puerto del Rey marina.

The Humacao and Fajardo dives were arranged through Akuasport on a charter boat run by Sea Ventures. As well as arranging dive excursions, Akuasport run dive courses and sell equipment from a store in Rio Piedras Heights in San Juan – you can become a PADI qualified diver in a week.

I missed on the diving in Culebra and Vieques, although the snorkeling at the former was impressive enough to suggest that it makes a great dive site too. One beach we visited consisted of a barrier reef with a sand bottomed basin that was just accessible for anchoring boats.

From the beach we were able to see several dive boats, perhaps 200 yards from shore. We also saw a school of dolphins one morning in the distance, leaping out of the water as they made their way across our line of vision.

Although a dive had been planned for Vieques, its one and only dive center had closed and dive boats now depart from Culebra.

 

The Southwest

Some five miles off the south coast of Puerto Rico is a wall stretching 20 miles east and west. The result is that La Parguera is a popular dive destination.

The first dive was along the wall to 100 feet (33 meters). According to the crew, sharks are sometimes seen at this dive site, but on this occasion they did not appear.

However, that did not mean we had nothing to look at – on the contrary, we found huge coral formations and a multitude of colored fish, including beautifully colored and quite tame French Angelfish. With the fish following us on the dive and the completely white corals looking like pine trees in a snow covered forest, the impression was of viewing a surreally alien world, very weird, very strange, very beautiful.

The boat moved to the second dive location, during which time we were each fed a sandwich and a drink. After a one-hour surface interval we re-entered the water, diving to 55 feet (18 meters). The dive site featured a sand covered bottom with rock and coral formations forming channels. With similar fish to the first dive it made another magical dive. We dived with Parguera Divers (899-4171).

 

Rincon

Staying in the popular surfer destination of Rincon, I arranged to dive to Isla Desecheo, an island lying 14 miles west of Puerto Rico.

With equipment and divers aboard, two dive boats headed off towards the island. The dive master started telling us about the dive – how we should see several types of whale on the trip and may hear their calls while in the water. All in all it promised to be an exceptional couple of dives.

Ten minutes into the trip though, one of the engines stopped working. Although the captain attempted to fix the engine, after 40 minutes he told us that we’d have to go back to Rincon, where we could dive if we wanted.

We did a fairly straightforward dive to a depth of about 75 feet (25 meters) and were able to see the encrusted anchor belonging to a Spanish galleon of old. The problem with the dive was that expectations had been built up so high, that only a dive with whales could be acceptable – we do, however, accept that mechanical failures can occur, even on the best maintained vessels.

However – we arranged to go whale watching with the dive center on the same evening. Although we arrived at the center on time, another group failed to show up, and so the whale watching trip was canceled – two disappointments from the same dive center in one day meant that the whole day was a write off and as a result it is hard to recommend Taíno Divers (823-6429).