SCUBA or Snorkel on Culebra with Taz

SCUBA Diving on Culebra with Aquatic Adventures

If you are a SCUBA diver or avid snorkeler and you come to Puerto Rico, you will probably want to check out the underwater world during your visit.

If you are are staying in the San Juan area or the north-east of Puerto Rico, you can head to some of the eastern "out islands" like Culebra, Icacos or Vieques for the nearest and best underwater experience. Some wonderful reefs and marine life await you!

We recently took a day trip to Culebra to dive with Aquatic Adventures to just see, first hand, if this type of dive trip from the "big island" was reasonable for a visitor (with limited time) to do.

A Little Background

When we first moved to Puerto Rico, we used to go SCUBA diving off the north-east quite often. We used to go with a local dive shop that departed from a marina in Fajardo. We did a number of dives near Culebra and Vieques. In my opinion, it wasn’t the best diving in the world, but we always had nice dives and enjoyed ourselves.

Due to work and our rental schedule, we stopped diving for a few years. We recently started diving again and wanted to check out the diving at Culebra to see if it is still as nice as I remembered. Culebra is a small island located 17 miles of of north-east of Puerto Rico. The main island and its many cays are surrounded by lush coral reefs. Over the years, we have snorkeled around Culebra and thought that the snorkeling was pretty good and of course, the beaches and water are so beautiful, we keep going back.

Getting Started

SCUBA Diving on Culebra with Aquatic Adventures

From what I could find, there seem to be just a few dive operators on Culebra. After reading reviews and recommendations, we chose to go diving with Taz Hamrick from Aquatic Adventures. We originally contacted him via email and he was quick to respond. When called him to confirm it everything, Taz was very nice and laid back.

On the day of our trip, we took the first ferry from Fajardo to Culebra. Our non-SCUBA friends came with us to snorkel while we were diving. Taz met us right at the ferry dock in his boat as soon as the ferry arrived and away we went. Very easy! The boat was a nice size, with some shade and some sun areas. It had room for about 8 divers, but Taz limits the boat to 6 people. It was a short 10-minute ride to our first dive site.

The Diving

For the first dive, we moored off of Luis Peña Reserve. After the usual paperwork, Taz gave us a briefing about the dive site. The site is called Lana’s Reef and it was lovely. The day we went, the water was a bit turbid, but we visibility was still about 50 feet. It was a great, relaxed, shallow dive. Our maximum depth was about 50 feet. Really enjoyable — hard and soft corals of all shapes and sizes, fans and sponges and loads of brightly colored fish. We swam through a huge school of silver fish (sorry , I forget the name!). We saw some turtles on this dive.

SCUBA Diving on Culebra with Aquatic Adventures

One great thing about shallow, slow dives is that you can take your time and look at the small stuff, too — like little shrimps working at a cleaning station, brittle stars and other things that typically go unnoticed.

Our dive lasted about an hour, though we could have stayed down longer since we all still had plenty of air. But we decided to surface join our snorkeler friends on the boat to find out what they saw.

After our lunch (sandwiches, chips, and cookies — yum!) and surface interval snorkel stop, we got ready to dive a second site near Carlos Rosario Beach.

At this spot, Taz explained that we had 2 options to choose from — the inner reef or the outer reef. We discussed them both, and Taz pointed out that the outer reef is where you have a better chance to see more of the large sea life in this area, like turtles, sharks and stingrays. However, he warned us that the outer reef required a decent amount of effort due to a surface swim out to the reef and currents. We were sold on the outer reef, so we all jumped in and started swimming, then got underwater to explore. As Taz mentioned, it was a little bit of an effort, but it was worth it.

SCUBA Diving on Culebra with Aquatic Adventures

Besides the forest of healthy corals, fans and sponges, we saw 4 turtles, a stingray and even a lobster condo with about 7 lobsters all peeking out from their hiding spots. We also "met" a large, fat barracuda who seemed to like swimming with us. At one point, I looked over and noticed we were all swimming in a row — Taz, "Barry-cuda", Ray and me.

The shallow swim back to the boat served as our safety stop. We were underwater for a total of about 45 minutes at a maximum depth of about 40 feet.

The Snorkeling

Our non-SCUBA friends Keishya and Bob brought their own snorkel masks, and Taz supplied the fins. But there’s no need to worry if you don’t have your own gear — Taz has masks and fins of various sizes. Normally Taz’s wife, Ann, is on the boat also and will go snorkeling with you and/or give you some "lessons" if you’re a beginner. The day that we went, Ann wasn’t feeling well, so she didn’t join us. Luckily, our friends are experienced swimmers and snorkelers, so they happily went off on their own.

Of course, there are life vests on board you can use if you wanted to "be sure" to float, since as soon as you jump in you’ll be in water well over your head. Visibility in this area is generally very good, so there’s a lot for snorkelers to see, even in the deeper water.

SCUBA Diving on Culebra with Aquatic Adventures

Our first dive took about an hour, so our friends snorkeled around, headed to shore, enjoyed sunbathing on the beach and then snorkeled back to the boat. When we returned from our first dive, we swapped stories about what we saw. While were were telling fish tales, Taz moved the boat to our second dive site and hooked up to a mooring ball.

At this second site, we were free to hang out on the boat, swim or snorkel while Taz prepared our lunch. It was a neat spot- there were huge rocks right up toward shore. When lunch was ready, Taz called us in and as we were coming back, there were 2 stingrays right by the boat — a spotted stingray and a southern stingray. After lunch, while we did our second dive, Keishya and Bob did some more snorkeling and had some beach time. Bob and Keishya were our photographers that day, and they got some great pictures. They saw lots of sponges and corals, and many different types of fishes.

Wrapping Up the Day

We got back to the dock at about 2:30pm, so we had time to explore Culebra’s one small town, Dewey. We didn’t get too far once we hit Mamacita’s. We had a snack and a few drinks (the Bushwacker is yummy!) as we sat watching the boats go through the canal. Then we walked down to the ferry and enjoyed the sunset ride back to Fajardo. It’s hard to beat a day like that!

Details

The cost is $95 for a 2-tank dive per diver with a C-card (all gear included). The snorkel trip is $60 per person. Both include all necessary equipment, lunch and refreshments.

If you're happy, let them know it — Don't forget to tip your your bartender, tour guide or trip operator if you enjoyed yourself. Gratuities are appreciated and typically aren't included in the price they charge you.

Taz has the potential to run 2 SCUBA/snorkel trips every day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. He can also do other boat trips, beach BBQ trips and sunset cruises. Contact him for reservations.

The dive/snorkel sites are chosen depending on the weather/sea conditions, your skill level and overall safety considrations. For advanced/experienced divers, he goes with you, but leaves you mostly on your own. If you are less experienced, tell him that you’ll want a little more hand-holding and he will be a little more there for you!

Allow a half to a full day depending on the type of trip you book, if you’re staying on Culebra, if your day will include a ferry ride from/to Fajardo, etc.

You can call Taz at 787-209-3494 or 787-742-0605 for more information.

You can visit the Aquatic Adventures web site for more information.

If you’re looking to get certified or to do your check-out dives as a referral, Taz is also a PADI instructor.

They opened a dive shop/store just a few blocks from the ferry dock- on street level by the Dinghy Dock restaurant. Open 9:30am-4pm.

Culebra Divers is another dive operator that you can try contacting.

PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 4 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

AQUATIC ADVENTURES IS A DANGEROUS DIVE OPERATION - DO NOT DIVE WITH THEM In 31 years of diving, this is the first horrible experience I’ve had with the most unsafe and rude dive master I’ve ever met. I brought my son and daughter with me on this trip. My son is a new diver and this was the first time my daughter was going to dive so we signed her up for the resort course. When first meeting Taz on the boat, he didn’t say a word to us, not even a hello and didn’t even check to make sure that my son and I were certified. The resort course for my daughter consisted of a 5 minute rushed lesson on the boat and a 5 minute lesson in the open water. He didn’t even make sure she could clear the water out of her mask or fill or take air out of her bcd. She had 5 minutes in the water before we started to follow him on the dive. My daughter was behind him and my son and I were on either side of her as we were already seeing that he wasn’t even watching her. He was about 20-30 feet in front of her most of the time without ever looking back at her. There were times when he was so far ahead, we even lost sight of him. My son and I were so concerned and pissed after awhile that we each, at separate times, rushed to reach him to ask him to stay with my daughter as she was having continuous problems, which he completely disregarded and just stayed far ahead of her. One time, she even surfaced without him even knowing because she couldn’t clear the water out of her mask and started to panic. My son and I and another couple who were diving with us were there helping her. TAZ DIDN’T EVEN KNOW SHE HAD SURFACED AS HE WAS SO FAR OUT OF SIGHT AT THIS POINT. Even besides this horrendous and dangerous experience with my daughter, Taz pointed out nothing - showed us nothing - just kept swimming way ahead of us all without a look book. The entire time, we were the only ones who were checking my daughter’s gauge. Then, towards the end of the dive, Taz finally checked my daughters and he had to give her his octopus and share air with her for the last 15 minutes to get back to the boat. What kind of operation is this? This man should have his license taken away. And this was my son’s first dive as a certified diver and he acted more like the dive master than Taz did. Even my son only had 300lbs left in his tank, but Taz didn’t even know it because he didn’t ask him. So after we all got back on the boat, I told Taz how I felt and explained that we did not want to go on the second dive as I didn’t feel it was safe for my daughter to dive with him and at this point, she was shaking and scared. He was so unbelievably rude and said he was not giving us any of our money back until I told him that I would go to the police and then go after his license. He then said, good luck - I taught all the police. He finally conceded and said he would give us our money back, but was so angry. I actually at one point was afraid of what he was going to do. He then started driving the boat back way too fast in very choppy water and the boat was flying over the waves and jumping and hitting the water where our bodies were flying up and smashing back down on the seats over and over again. My daughter was shaking and started vomiting and he kept the boat going at that speed without caring in the least while I had my arms around her and holding the pale in front of her. This man has a screw lose and absolutely should not be in a position to do this. Maybe one day he was a good dive master, but that day has passed. His license should be taken away immediately. Please don’t risk diving with him.

Comment by Arleen W on 08 Aug 2017

My wife and I went to the island for something to do and were blown away. Very friendly people, and amazing scenery. Diving at tamarindo and Rosario beaches are a must! The walk to Rosario was about a mile, so I suggest going by boat, the reef in this area was well worth it! Snorkeling alone was a blast, but I wasn't carrying my tank that far. We ended up staying the night and wishing we didn't have to leave. Sunscreen is a must year round, and having a cooler would have been wise, although drink prices are not that bad. 10 ounce cans go quickly though ;) We had a blast, and are already planning our next visit.

Comment by billy on 30 Nov 2013

I just returned back to the states after traveling to puerto rico. My friend and I had a scuba trip planned w/ Aquatic Adventures but the fajardo ferry thwarted us. We were unable to get across to the island for the dive but Ann and Taz were extremely friendly throughout the entire process. For ex: while the ferry sold out several times they kept calling with advice / recommendations on how to make it over. After we realized that it wasn't going to work out (friend and I were extremely frustrated), Anne offered another location in puerto rico as well as waiving the cancellation fee. Didn't get to dive but I would definitely recommend diving with Aquatic Adventure, simply due to their customer service and friendly attitude! Thanks Ann.

Comment by Ryan on 27 Mar 2013

niceeeee.(:

Comment by ash on 15 Mar 2011

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