Trip Report - Snorkeling in Puerto Rico
This May we headed to Puerto Rico to relax, hit the beach and (most importantly) spend our days snorkeling the warm waters of the Caribbean on the east coast of Puerto Rico.
We stayed on the East Coast of Puerto Rico at the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo. The "El Con" is a huge casino resort (900+ rooms) with impressive grounds, a golf course and a number of pools and restaurants. Most importantly though, the resort has a private island (Palomino Island) about a mile off shore. This island has a nice beach, blue waters and some coral reefs featuring plenty of colorful and interesting fish. We really enjoyed the resort itself, the food was decent, the facilities were great and the private island was perfect for what we wanted. I will say that we were there during the off season so the resort was not crowded in the slightest. If we had been there in the middle of March we may have had a very different opinion.
Snorkeling on Palomino Island
Palomino Island is about a ten minute ride from the hotel on a private ferry. The 100 acre island has a restaurant and huge beach that stretches several hundred yards with hundreds of beach chairs.
The underwater scenery starts not far from shore on the Island. About 20 yards into the water - near the corner of the beach - are several coral formations in about 3 feet of water that hide large numbers of colorful fish. These areas are perfect for snorkeling with children since they aren't too far from shore.
Further out is a large reef that runs parallel to shore. Some of this reef is in better shape than the rest. It is unfortunate, but the sheer numbers of people who visit Palomino Island each year almost guarantee that large portions of the reef will be harmed by careless swimmers and snorkelers. (Note: It is much easier to get to the reef by starting from the corner of the beach and heading out. If you go from the middle of the beach you'll need to cross about 30 yards of rock / coral in about a foot of water.)
The reef holds a lot of fish - from the common blue tangs, grunts and parrotfish to more unique species like trumpetfish. Not far from the reef are some grassy areas where we saw several stingrays and even a flying gurnard. Palomino Island wasn't the best snorkeling we've ever done - but it was enough that we spent several hours in the water each day exploring and finding new things. It was especially nice to be able to walk right in from the beach and not have to schedule a charter or plan your day around a snorkeling excursion.
We also tried snorkeling on the west side of the island. One day the snorkeling was pretty good - there is a reef fairly far off shore near some buoys. We tried another day (with different winds) and the visibility was zero.
El Conquistador resort also lets you book an afternoon snorkeling trip that leaves from from the resort. The trip visits other nearby reefs and costs about $55 for 2.5 hours.
Word of Warning: In what might be one of the worst decisions in resort history, the resort not only rents snorkeling equipment but also jet skis on the same exact beach. This is beyond unsafe and is a huge danger and liability for the resort. Evidently the jet skis are supposed to stay in one area, but we watched an idiot on a jet ski run over a buoy in the exact spot we had been snorkeling 15 minutes earlier. If our schedule had been off by 15 minutes we very well could have been killed. Be aware of the surroundings, snorkel with other people and bring a dive flag if you have one. (the help at the rental desk though friendly is less than stellar, when I asked about a snorkeling vest i was told by one of the girls that didn't need one because i was tall...evidently tall people don't drown..)
Next Page - A Trip to Culebra and Photos