On the south-western corner of Puerto Rico sits the sleepy little fishing village of Guánica. It sits nestled on a natural harbor protected by rocky cliffs. Guánica boasts the beautiful beaches of Playa Santa, the protected Guánica Dry Forest Reserve (the arid counterpoint to Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rain Forest on the opposite side of the island), and even a nearby bioluminescent bay. It is this unique coastal landscape that sets a beautiful backdrop to some of the island’s best diving.
The underwater landscape matches the shore in that Guánica’s most famous sites are walls. The reef starts very close to the surface at the mouth of the natural harbor making navigation a bit tricky during low tide. The depth slowly increases until you hit the wall, where it drops off vertically down a few hundred feet. There is something surreal about wall diving, when the coral is next to and even above you rather than carpeting the floor.
While diving Guánica, take your underwater camera. We encountered several photo favorites, including several very large nurse sharks, many moray eels, a beautiful green turtle, lobsters, groupers and huge schools of snapper and grunt. There are also a healthy number of fancy reef fish, like angelfish, parrotfish, damsels, and butterfly fish. Depths range from shallow (20-30 ft) to medium (60 ft) on the coral reefs, and drop from 60 ft to 150 – 200 ft on the wall. The diving is all year long, but the in season is summer, from May to September. We went diving in October and the water was still in the 70’s. Winter diving brings clear water conditions and high visibility.
We stayed at the Copamarina Resort. Since they require only 2 divers to schedule a dive, bring your buddy on the off season and have the boat to yourself. That’s what we did. However, I could tell the operation was clearly able to handle larger groups with ease. Other options are to rent a room or apartment on Punta Gorda, a beautiful pennisula right next to the famous Playa Santa beach and just across from Gilligan’s Island.
There are other boarding options, including summer cottage rentals and the Puerto Rican hostels called Paradors. After the diving is done, spend some time on the Playa Santa beaches, or take a ferry out to the mangrove covered Gilligan’s Island to layout on the beach or swim in the small channels cutting through the mini islands. There are picnic tables and grills. Or hike one of the 12 trails in the Guánica Dry Forest Reserve, or “Bosque Seco” as known locally. After hiking, cool off with a jump in one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches.
Copamarina Beach Resort
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Mary Lee’s by the Sea
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