By Mike – (Minnesota)
Do you or any of your readers know of any good snorkeling spots in Puerto Rico, including Culebra Island off the eastern coast? I am from the Midwest and about once a year, usually in the winter, I travel to Puerto Rico to visit an important customer.
If anybody does have experience with Puerto Rico snorkeling, how does it compare to the middle Florida Keys?
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JB – Jan 20, 2012 – Same Question
We have the same questions… we are wondering if anyone has snorkeled Culebra, Vieques or anywhere else in Puerto Rico? The Florida Keys were great, but you need a boat. We are looking for snorkeling from beaches or off the beaten path… Any advice?
Wendy – Jul 1, 2012 – Culebra Snorkeling Is INCREDIBLE!
I just returned from 10 days in Culebra, snorkeling to my heart’s content. I can’t begin to recommend it nearly enough! For such a tiny island (~4×7 miles), it has so many beautiful snorkeling areas (some with the most beautiful beaches, too).
From each one you can very easily snorkel straight from the shore into crystal clear, aqua blue, perfectly warm waters (since Culebra has no streams or rivers, no run-off occurs to cloud the water around the island). And, each one offers something a little bit different from the next.
Sea life abounds around this island – a couple of days I swam around turtles that feed and play in the sea grass, alongside the rays, at one beach named Tamarindo. Many of the locations are within a couple of miles from the little town of Dewey (the only town on the island).
The other great feature is the lack of tourism. This island is still relatively undiscovered. There is only one official resort – however guest houses abound which is really the way to go.
This special little place deserves a spot high up on a snorkeler’s bucket list! I will be going back!
Anonymous – Jul 1, 2012 – Blue Beach – Vieques
We have been to Vieques several times and love it! We really love Blue Beach. There is great snorkeling out around the small Chicken Island. Green Beach is great too! Mosquito Pier had really interesting snorkeling. Also you can do the Bio Bay tour at night which is lots of fun! Vieques is now on our short list of places we must go back to!
Steve – Dec 2, 2012 – Culebra Snorkeling Spots – May 2012
I am a diver and snorkeler, though now with two little kids I snorkel more than dive. I loved the snorkeling in Culebra! As Wendy said, you can flop in the water at many places around this tiny island and enjoy awesome snorkeling, with abundant fish life and often very healthy coral with lots of sea fans. We spent 10 days snorkeling every day, often two or three times. A few beaches stand out in my mind as having better and more interesting coral reefs and good fish life: Carlos Rosario, Tamarindo, and Melones.
Carlos Rosario requires about a 15 minute pretty easy hike to reach it. If you go to the right, you get deeper coral which reminds me of scuba diving, as there is a lot of terrain and very diverse coral. If you go left from the beach, it is more shallow (6-12 feet) with a lot to see. We didn’t get to the point on the left, and I wonder what it’s like around that point.
Tamarindo is known for turtles and rays, and has a lot of sea grass. We saw about 5-10 turtles each time we snorkeled there. If you go to the right, in shallower water you will find some nice coral with sea fans and lots of fish, and it gets better the farther you go, all the way up to the point. We didn’t go past that point, as it took us about and hour to reach it, meandering slowly as we do.
If you go left from the beach, you will come to a very shallow area as you approach the point on the left, and if you go past that, it remains shallow with interesting coral and some slight topography and very good fish life.
At Melones Beach we only went to the right and it has quite nice coral in the shallows, though you had to go some distance before the coral got very healthy.
We never saw more than two people at any of the snorkeling spots – pretty amazing!
The beaches are quite nice as well if you like to sit on them (I’m always in the water).
The island itself is sort of run down and definitely not touristy. Grocery stores are quite limited, such that we didn’t really eat at our house often. Many restaurants are closed in the off season, though there are some pretty good ones. Many serve deep fried food.
Culebra had some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done. It rivaled Glover’s Reef 35 miles off the coast of Belize and was more interesting than any I’ve done in Hawaii (have been to the Big Island and Kauai).
David – Aug 14, 2013 – Culebra and Rincon (on Puerto Rico)
I had great snorkeling on the island of Culebra. There were some beaches (Tamarindo, Carlos Rosario, Flamenco) where you can snorkel yourself. I was just getting started with my own snorkeling here so didn’t see as much as there is to actually see, but I definitely want to go back now to catch things I missed the first time around. There are also snorkel tours that you can do, leaving from Dewey (the only town).
Another great place I snorkeled was in a city called Rincon on the west coast of Puerto Rico. There are a few snorkeling beaches but I went to Steps Beach (very easy to find) that had shore snorkeling. I saw large schools of Blue Tangs, French Angelfish, Porkfish, chubs and grunts, as well as two sea turtles (one in the morning and then a different one when I went back after lunch). There are also a ton of sea fans and Elkhorn Coral here. You can see some of my pictures on flickr.
Steven – Feb 1, 2014 – Rincón, Puerto Rico
Rincón, Puerto Rico has a lot to offer! Tres Palmas Federal Marine Reserve at Steps Beach is easily accessible and offers instant access to incredible snorkeling from the shore. Elkhorn Coral, barracudas, sea turtles, French Angelfish, Spanish Hogfish, Rock Beauty Angelfish, and schools of Blue Tang are among just some of the species easily found here.
Nearby Rincón there are two islands (Desecheo and Mona) often called the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” because of their unique flora and fauna. These spots are excellent for snorkeling, however you will require a boat and some preparation. Several charter boats out of Rincón service these islands.
Another great spot in western Puerto Rico is Lajas (La Parguera area).
moleroja – Apr 10, 2014 – Culebra with Kids?
Thanks to Nicole drawing my attention to Steve’s comments, Culebra is on my short list for March of 2015. The main reason is that my 10 year old grandson will be coming, and this will be his first snorkeling experience. I want him to be able to swim to snorkel directly from a sandy beach.
Steve… did you rent a car while there? Thanks for any advice.
Steve – Apr 11, 2014 – About Culebra Car Rentals
Moleroja, I would definitely recommend Culebra for your 10 year old grandson for snorkeling. The island is run down and in the off season it’s a bit difficult to find decent restaurants and the grocery stores are extremely limited.
However, the snorkeling is excellent and incredibly accessible. Also, much of the snorkeling is in water that’s less than about eight feet deep, in case that matters for your grandson.
We researched rental cars quite extensively and decided to rent with Jerry’s Jeeps. Some people call it Jerry’s Heaps (!) since they’re not new or pretty, but he keeps them running well and we had no problems with them. He’s a great guy and if I go back I’ll rent his jeeps again.
moleroja – Jun 10, 2014 – Culebra Booked!
Well, I just sent off two deposits for houses on Culebra, for next March. Thanks for all the info!
Julie – Jun 30, 2014 – Culebra vs. Mona Snorkeling
Anyone know if the snorkeling is better in Culebra or on Mona Island?
Mike Peltier – Feb 17, 2015 – Culebra or Mona Island
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Rincon area, close to Mona. There’s a dive shop there, I think it is called Taino Divers. They take groups out for diving and snorkeling, mainly diving I think. The point is that if you go to Mona you can only access the snorkeling by rented boat or dive charter, which might be fun. Culebra, on the other hand, has many snorkeling spots you can access from shore, and you don’t need to use charters.
If you do go to Rincon, visit Steps Beach, just between Rincon and the lighthouse. Anytime I’ve been there the snorkeling has been good right off the beach, straight out, slightly left from the steps. I’ve been told that it is even better to go down the beach about an eighth of a mile and then go out, but whenever I’ve been there it’s been mid-winter and the waves have been a little too rough for me in that area. Check it out.
One of the things I really enjoy about snorkeling in Puerto Rico is not only is the water clear, it is very warm. Warmer than Hawaii, Florida, or the Bahamas. You don’t ever need anything but sunscreen and you just feel great.
Tuj – Nov 16, 2015 – Just Got Back
I just got back from Culebra, snorkeling every day.
Tamarindo is reachable by jeep or by trail from Flamenco. From Tamarindo you can get to Carlos Rosario. That said, this is a pretty hefty hike and the bugs can be very thick and biting.
Tamarindo is a good place to see turtles, although I didn’t see any. But sometimes it has jellyfish, which surrounded one set of snorkelers and stung me on the wrist. Not that bad of pain but kind of a scary moment.
Melones is said to be covered in cacti but this is not true. We went to the right and saw good sea life there, including a sting ray and many sea urchins.
The best snorkeling can be found by boat at Culebrita, the small island just off the coast. There are tons of great spots around that island.
Tuj – Nov 16, 2015 – Rincon
We snorkeled at Rincon last winter. *Not the time!* The surf was too strong and there was very little sea life we could see at Steps. I have heard it is better in the summer.
Tuj – Nov 17, 2015 – Snorkel in the City!
Some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Rico is available right in San Juan. Go to the Escambron Beach in Old San Juan and hang out on the left side of the protected waters. You will find TONS of fish. Very good spot for teaching people to snorkel as well.
Anonymous – Jan 4, 2016 – What Do I Really Need?
Hola! We are visiting Puerto Rico soon and want to snorkel, which we haven’t done in 25 years. I want to have a good experience and see as much sea life as we can, that is priority one.
My question is… do I really need to leave the big island of Puerto Rico to have a good snorkeling experience? I will have a car and can go where I want.
I see there are water taxis to other islands too. I have read terrible things about the ferry and don’t wish to do that. I don’t know if we need a guided catamaran snorkel trip or not.
Thanks for any advice.
Tuj – Jan 5, 2016 – Where to Go on Puerto Rico
There are several places on Puerto Rico, the big island, that you can snorkel.
I would go toward the east coast, Fajardo, and book an excursion to the Spanish Virgin Islands which are only about an hour by boat from Fajardo.
If you are in San Juan, go down Ponce de Leon into Old San Juan and up the hill. On your right will be Playa Escambron. In the center of the beach is a U shaped protective rocks with coral. Stay inside the U and go along the left side. You will find tons of fish in about four feet of water there and they are VERY friendly. If you continue along the left side inside the U, you can find some more things like octopus.
If you have fins, you can go outside the U and head to the left. After you pass some grass, you will find some awesome coral a little ways out.
Remember the winter months have more swells on the west side of the island, so I would NOT recommend Steps near Rincon. I have heard it has good snorkeling but we did not have the right conditions and it was very difficult.
Bridgett – Jan 18, 2016 – Sea Turtles
Can anyone suggest a good place to see sea turtles by snorkeling? Particularly Green Sea Turtles?
Tuj – Jan 18, 2016 – Turtles
If you want to see turtles, go to Culebra, Tamarindo Beach. Snorkel about 50-75 yards out from the beach. Look for the turtles over grassy areas, they do not hang around the corals.
George – Jul 5, 2017 – Shacks Beach?
We have heard that the snorkeling is excellent at Shacks Beach, Puerto Rico. Does anyone have any information on the reefs in this area? We are considering a visit to this site next February. What are the conditions at that time of the year? Thanks.
Tuj – Jul 6, 2017 – Timing
If you are going in January or February, avoid the beaches on the west side of the island. They will have too much surf to snorkel.
Michael – Aug 24, 2017 – RE: Shacks
@George – I haven’t heard anything about Shacks being a good snorkeling beach, but it’s possible. That beach does not have much protection from the open ocean, so definitely be careful of currents and rough seas. Summer would be the best time to go, as the seas get rougher there during winter months.
Joe Kendzulak – Jan 6, 2018 – Shacks Beach
Had a wonderful time at Shacks Beach. You can snorkel out to their blue hole which has a 30 foot drop-off. We saw a huge stingray on the sandy bottom. My wife and I and three kids went out three times a day over a four day span. We saw lots of coral and lots of sea life. There are lots of caves to explore.
I was there in July and the water was beautiful. I heard that in the winter it can be pretty rough.
Swim in just right of the point. It is a sandy walk in but watch for the sea urchins on the rocks.
I would totally recommend snorkeling here and so want to go back.
Kim – Dec 20, 2018 – March Snorkeling
Is the snorkeling good in March? How do Vieques and Culebra compare? Thanks!
Tom Adams – Jan 7, 2019 – Vieques and Culebra
We have been to Vieques four times and Culebra once. There are many good shore and pier snorkeling sites in Vieques. We did not find as much in Culebra, but our exploration was not as thorough.
We once took a boat excursion from Vieques up to Culebra and the snorkeling was very good on the south side. But we did not venture out too far on our shore snorkeling on Culebra.
We are going to Vieques from Jan 12-22, 2019. We will see how things look after the 2017 category five hurricane strike. Not sure if the gate to the wildlife refuge will be closed if the government is still shut down, but there are a good many other snorkeling sites.
Tom Adams – Apr 6, 2019 – Culebra
Just got back from Culebra.
Tamarindo is great for snorkeling. Go toward Flamingo (Rt 251) and turn left after you see Flamingo Lagoon on the right. We parked at the second parking area.
It has a somewhat rocky entrance. We swam to the left. There were always other snorkelers and if you don’t find a turtle then just go toward the snorkelers. We found turtles that seemed to be eating stubby grass in the sandy spots.
Farther left there is a good reef. We saw a beautiful eagle ray in three feet of water. We also saw large hermit crabs in nautilus shells in the flats that looked to be almost a foot wide along with other rays and many beautiful fish. All this involves about a 2000 feet round trip to the left from the parking area.
There are a good many snorkelers here, but the reef is pretty healthy because it is not too shallow so it does not get much damage from the people.
If you move more towards the center of the channel and keep going left then you can probably find more reefs that are not too shallow. A nautical chart indicates this and people say the reefs are good in that direction.
We also snorkeled near Punta Soldado, from the parking lot to the sea side, the bay side did not have much to see. We went in the direction of the point and saw fish, coral reef, and anemones.
We hiked to Carlos Rosario Beach. The trailhead is in the southeast corner of the Flamenco Beach parking lot. You have to slip through the locked gate of a chain link fence that has warnings about explosives. But the trail is on the tourist map and many take it. Stay left at the fork, going right takes you up a hill on a dead end dirt road.
It’s about a mile to the green and yellow sign on the beach with some fairly steep climbing. The high point seems to be more than 100 feet above sea level with a good view. The safest, least rocky entrance is at the green and yellow sign. Go out slightly to the right. There was a silted reef wall on the right but a fine deeper coral field as you go farther out.
Nicole & Galen – Nov 28, 2020 – More Puerto Rico Snorkeling Info
There are some more useful Puerto Rico posts on the site. This one is an overview of the snorkeling in Puerto Rico, this one has info about the snorkeling in Culebra and Vieques after the 2017 hurricanes, and this is a 2019 Culebra and Vieques Trip Report.