Much of the focus for scuba diving in Puerto Rico is on the eastern part of the island including towns such as Fajardo and islands such as Vieques, while the southern coast of the island is known as a wall diving destination. Often overlooked is Puerto Rico’s west coast, which is all the better for divers who do venture west, because some of the top diving areas in Puerto Rico are found there. Divers in western Puerto Rico enjoy a winning combination of a lack of crowds and world-class underwater adventure.
Dive centers such as Taino Divers (tainodivers.com) and West Divers PR (westdiverspr.com) operate two-tank boat dive trips to local west coast reefs and wall dives. However, farther offshore are a pair of small islands, collectively known as “the Galapagos of the Caribbean” for their rich and diverse sea life. Desecheo Island is about 13 miles from the west coast of Puerto Rico, while Mona Island is about 40 miles away. Taino Divers sends out daily trips from the town of Rincon to Descecheo, but diving Mona Island usually means embarking on a live-aboard cruise or chartering a private trip.
Live-Aboards and Charters
Nekton Cruises was the main live-aboard cruise operator for Mona Island, but it closed in 2010. While some dive operators, such as Diversified Divers (diversifieddivers.com), organize occasional cruises to Mona Island, as of mid-2011 no live-aboard companies were offering regularly scheduled cruises to the island. Short of joining one of the occasional cruises, the only other option for diving on Mona Island is chartering a private trip. The boat, equipment and one or more dive masters familiar with Mona Island can all be hired in Rincon.
Surface water temperatures in western Puerto Rico are in the lower 80s (Fahrenheit) during the summer months, and rarely colder than the upper 70s in winter. Visibility at the inshore dive sites is usually in the 50- to 60-foot range, while it can exceed 100 feet at the offshore sites around Mona and Desecheo Island. However, the seas off western Puerto Rico are noted for their rough conditions when the weather turns bad. On a less-than-favorable day, visibility might plunge and sometimes diving operations are suspended altogether.
Whether the dive site is a reef, submerged rocks or a sea wall descending down into an inky blue abyss, almost everything in western Puerto Rico is covered with brightly colored hard and soft corals, sea fans and sponges. The waters teem with the typical residents of a Caribbean coral reef, such as slithering moray eels, cruising barracuda and the invasive, spiny lionfish. However, western Puerto Rico also draws in bigger creatures from the open ocean, including sharks and even humpback whales.
(Source: USA Today)