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Your Guide to the Islands Near Puerto Rico

a pool next to a body of water

There’s so much to enjoy on the main island of Puerto Rico, but this archipelago is full of cays and islets that hold wonders of their own. Your visit to the Enchanted Isle wouldn’t be complete without venturing out to the smaller islands around Puerto Rico, where you can find stunning bioluminescent bays, idyllic beaches, unique wildlife, and so much more. From the popular Culebra and Vieques to the well-kept secrets of Caja de Muertos and La Parguera, this guide has everything you need to know about visiting the smaller islands.

Culebra

One of the most popular islands in the archipelago, Culebra is well-known for its pristine white sand beaches and beautiful coral reef, which attract snorkelers and nature lovers from all over the world. Located just off the coast of Fajardo, the island is surrounded by small cays, and its waters are home to a variety of marine life, including turtles.

Things to Do on Culebra

Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving spots are located around Culebra, including the barrier reefs off Playa Carlos Rosario and Playa Tamarindo. Also in the area are the Luis Peña Channel Natural Reserve and Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.

Culebra is also home to Flamenco Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, where you can snorkel, swim, or just take in the stunning views. Just a short boat trip away, you can find Isla Culebrita, with its popular Playa Tortuga and iconic lighthouse.

A guided tour is a great way to take in everything Culebra has to offer. With all the transportation and logistics taken care of, you can spend the day snorkeling, beach hopping, and enjoying this little paradise.

Where to Eat

Many tours to the island include a meal or a visit to a local restaurant, but if you’re looking for a spot to eat on Culebra, check out the popular Dinghy Dock for Caribbean and American dishes, Zaco’s Tacos for delicious Mexican food, Heather’s for comforting Italian food, or El Eden for fresh seafood.

Vieques

Located just 6 miles off the east coast of the main island, Vieques is world-renowned for its breathtaking bioluminescent bay, pristine beaches, and vibrant wildlife refuge. With its pleasant tropical climate and plenty of natural wonders to discover, Vieques invites travelers to spend a relaxing day exploring everything it has to offer. You can reach the island by boat or on a small plane.

Things to Do on Vieques

Vieques is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. The island’s number one attraction is the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, which holds the Guinness World Record, located on Mosquito Bay. The large concentration of dinoflagellates in the water and the island’s lack of light pollution allow visitors to experience an unforgettable spectacle of lights at night.

Most of the island is part of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, which features beautiful beaches, mangrove forests, and salt flats. You can explore the area on a hike on the island’s trails, on a paddle along its beautiful waters, on a diving trip, or even on a horseback ride. If you prefer to spend the day on the beach, Sun Bay and Playa Negra offer stunning views and plenty of sunshine.

Where to Eat

Vieques may be a small island, but it has an abundance of great spots to eat. Head to Coqui Fire Cafe for Mexican cuisine, El Quenepo for Caribbean fusion, Bigotes Restaurant for delicious seafood, Bili for Latin flavors, or Arena Mar Sunbays Cafe for beachside Puerto Rican cuisine.

a body of water

Caja de Muertos

Located just off the coast of Ponce on the southern side of the island, Coffin Island or Caja de Muertos owes its name to its coffin-like shape. However, the island is full of life! At this nature reserve, you can often spot a variety of turtles — including leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles — as well as other fauna and flora. This island can be reached on a private boat or charter.

Things to Do on Caja de Muertos

San Juan residents often head to the uninhabited Caja de Muertos in the summer to enjoy the less crowded beaches. If you’re looking to relax on a breathtaking beach, this is the place to be. The most popular beach is Playa Pelicano, a Blue Flag beach with clear waters that are perfect for swimming. Other beaches include Playa Blanca and Playa Ensenadita. A scuba diving charter can take you to Playa Larga and its submarine trail, which is full of exciting sites for divers to enjoy.

For a little more action, you can enjoy a hike to the lighthouse. Birdwatchers flock to this protected bird nesting area to spot a variety of species, including boba prieta, boba pardo, zorzal pardo, and chirre de pico colorado. Playa Pelicano is so named due to the pelicans that hang around the beach.

Caja de Muertos is an uninhabited island, so if you’re planning to spend a day here, be sure to pack a picnic, snacks, and plenty of water.

Cayo Aurora/Gilligan’s Island

You might know Gilligan’s Island from the 1960s TV show, although to the locals it’s known as Cayo Aurora. Only a short boat ride from Guanica on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, this island is a popular choice for families looking to spend the day relaxing on the beach. The island can be reached by ferry, making it accessible to anyone for a weekend getaway.

Things to Do on Cayo Aurora/Gilligan’s Island

The shallow waters of this small island’s beaches are perfect for swimming, especially for families with kids looking for a safe spot to enjoy. The clear waters are also ideal for snorkeling, and the mangrove trees are always interesting to explore. The island also has a comfortable picnic area where you can have lunch together as you bask in the peace and quiet. If you visit during the low season, you might just have the island to yourself!

Cayo Aurora only has a few facilities and no shops, so be sure to pack all your provisions for the day and bring a picnic. You can also order food from the ferry.

La Parguera Nature Reserve

This beautiful nature reserve located near Lajas on the west coast of Puerto Rico is comprised of 30 cays and islets that offer unforgettable adventures on the water. The clear waters are full of wildlife, perfect for diving, and you can also find a bioluminescent bay here. If you’re looking for an action-packed trip, you can’t miss a visit to La Parguera.

Things to Do in La Parguera Nature Reserve

This is one of the best spots for snorkeling and scuba diving, with plenty of tropical fish and coral reefs to explore. You can also see dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles in the area. One of the most popular diving spots is Parguera Wall. Water sports also abound here, with operators offering kayaking, kite surfing, wakeboarding, and more.

This nature reserve is home to one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays. While it’s not as bright as Mosquito Bay, due to a lower concentration of dinoflagellates, it’s still exciting to explore by boat. Some operators offer swimming or snorkeling in the bio bay, which is an unforgettable experience.

Where to Eat

Back in La Parguera, the small fishing village on the main island, you can enjoy a delicious meal after your adventure. Check out Moons Bar & Tapas for Caribbean bites, Isla Cueva Burger & Beer Bar for drinks and sliders, Restaurante El Turrumote for Latin flavors, or La Jamaca Restaurant for Puerto Rican fare.

Cayo Icacos

When you think of a deserted island, you probably imagine something that looks a lot like Cayo Icacos. This small cay off the coast of Fajardo has white sand beaches and the clearest waters off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful and scenic getaway!

Things to Do on Cayo Icacos

You can opt for a relaxing day of sunbathing, or if you’re in the mood for excitement, you can enjoy some snorkeling in the clear waters of the cay. Here you can spot tropical fish, manta rays, and coral reefs. The water is usually the perfect temperature to enjoy a swim.

This is a truly deserted island, so be sure to pack everything you’ll need for the day, including snacks and water. A boat charter with a tour operator is the best way to enjoy Icacos, and they usually include meals and beverages to enjoy on board.

To truly discover everything Puerto Rico has to offer, you need to spend some time exploring the small islets and cays that make up this unique archipelago. Whether you’re looking for the perfect beach, the best family spot, or the most exciting water adventures, you’ll find your ideal getaway on one of the islands. Start planning your visit now! This is sure to be an experience that you’ll never forget.