Puerto Rico Wildlife Reserves

Puerto Rico Wildlife

Wildlife Reserves

Thanks to the huge diversity of Puerto Rico’s natural attractions and the island’s size, you can encounter the wildlife of the Caribbean during a day trip from San Juan. If you have a bit more time, don’t miss the exquisite beauty of the smaller islands.

MONA ISLAND ~ “The Galapagos of the Caribbean”

Hidden halfway between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic about 50 miles out in the deepest sea, Mona Island can only be reached by private airplane or by boat, but is well worth the considerable effort it takes to reach the island.

Mona is home to giant lizards that sun themselves along the 200-foot cliffs that rim much of the island. Endangered species, such as sea turtles and red-footed boobies, skitter along the beach. Wild boars and goats, remnants of ancient farming efforts, dash through the underbrush.

A lighthouse emerges from a cactus jungle on a high promontory. Beneath is a cave network that is said to rival Camuy’s. Trails and tracks can be found inside it, part of guano mining efforts many years ago. Scores of reef-protected beaches with dazzling white sands are a snorkeler’s paradise, so be sure to bring your equipment.

Nature rules this place: No one lives on the 25 square mile nature preserve and special permits are required to camp there.

Mona Island can be accessed from the town of Boquerón, about a three-hour drive from San Juan. From San Juan take Road 52 towards Ponce, where it connects to Road 2. Head towards Mayagüez. Take the exit onto Road 100, then take Road 101 into Boquerón, where you can charter a boat for the six-hour trip.

Adventures Tourmarine | 787-375-2625 Mona Aquatics | 787-851-2185 Oceans Unlimited | 787-823-2340 Learn more about Mona Island

CULEBRA WILDLIFE REFUGE ~ Exotic Species Reside on Charming Culebra

The Culebra Natural Wildlife Refuge encompasses 23 off shore islands and four tracts of land on the main island of Culebra, comprising a total of 1,480 acres. It is the home of more than 120 marine bird nesting colonies, including the largest sooty tern colony in Puerto Rico.

A lighthouse emerges from a cactus jungle on a high promontory. Beneath is a cave network that is said to rival Camuy’s. Trails and tracks can be found inside it, part of guano mining efforts many years ago. Scores of reef-protected beaches with dazzling white sands are a snorkeler’s paradise, so be sure to bring your equipment.

Visitors are only permitted on two of the islands: Cayo Luis Peña and Culebrita, and then only from dawn to dusk. Camping, littering, fires, firearms, and motor vehicles are prohibited.

Among the biggest attractions are communities of a dozen or so exotic birds that include the rare red-billed tropicbirds and brown boobies, laughing gulls and sandwich terns. It is also the home of endangered sea turtles and the Culebra giant anole lizard.

While the Natural Puerto Rico Wildlife Refuge has its own appeal, the main island with its 2,000 residents is also unique and picturesque. It’s one of the favorite destinations of Puerto Ricans, who hop on a ferry or private boat to spend weekends there.

Culebra is located about 20 miles east of Fajardo. It can be reached by plane from San Juan and Fajardo or by ferry from Fajardo. Small boats (with captain) can also be hired at Fajardo marinas. Learn more about Culebra Wildlife Refuge

FAJARDO LIGHTHOUSE ~ Breathtaking Vistas

Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Preserve (Las Cabezas means “the headlands”) consists of 3 promontories extending into the Atlantic Ocean north of Fajardo near Las Croabas. A nature-lover’s paradise, from the trails and boardwalks you can observe every major tropical habitat that exists on the island, except a rain forest. Trained guides, ample signs, demonstrations, and special programs and exhibits help visitors understand and appreciate this fragile ecology. To protect the sensitive eco-system, visitors are transported through the park and to the lighthouse on open trams.

The Fajardo Lighthouse, located within the reserve, is one of many lighthouses built by the Spanish in the 19th century around the perimeter of Puerto Rico. This one is a jewel, both for its setting and the care with which it was restored a few years ago by the Conservation Trust.

In addition to visiting the small nature center on the lower level of the Fajardo Lighthouse, be sure to climb the antique iron staircase to the observation deck. The view of the 316-acre preserve with El Yunque towering behind it is extraordinary. Even more breathtaking is the seeming endless expanse of sea, dotted with islets and far off islands.

The Fajardo Lighthouse is usually open to the public Friday through Sunday.

Take Highway 3 to Fajardo, turn left on Road 194 and go southeast for 2.1 miles. Turn left on Road 195 and make a quick left on Road 987, which leads to the entrance. Learn more about Fajardo Lighthouse

GILLIGAN’S ISLAND ~ A Secluded Paradise

Another great Puerto Rico wildlife spot is Gilligan’s Island (or Gilligan Island, as it is also known), you can be king or queen for a day and rule over white sand beaches, mazes of mangroves, and crystalline waters. There might be a handful of other royalty in residence, but you’ll be having such a wonderful time that you’ll hardly notice.

Think sun, think picnic, but especially think snorkeling. The shallow waters around the island and the fascinating series of mangrove-lined channels that crisscross it are amazingly clear and are brimming with marine life.

No one knows if the island is named after the 1960’s T.V. show, but it’s certainly more fun to visit this Gilligan’s Island than to watch the other one!

The island is about a mile off Copamarina Beach Resort in Guánica on the southwestern coast. You can catch a boat at the resort; the captain makes hourly runs to make sure your adventure is going as smoothly and happily as you have planned. How to Get There

Guánica is between Mayagüez and Ponce in the southwest. Take Highway 2 to Road 116 and Road 116 to Road 333.

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