Dive or Snorkel at Desecheo Island
A few years ago, Puerto Rico won a Readers Choice Award from Scuba Diving Magazine for being one of the Top 20 Overall Dive Destinations in the Caribbean region. I have done a number of dives around the island over the past few years and I was looking to encounter another Top 20-type of dive (the wall dive at La Parguera was one).
We were heading "out west" for a couple days and I was hoping to find this WOW diving experience off of the west coast. Desecheo Island is one of the "must do" dive locations out west, so we "did" it and had some great, memorable dives.
Desecheo (pronounced day-say-chAy-oh) is a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Puerto Rico — about 12 miles west from Rincon. It’s a small island, only about 0.6 square miles of total land mass.
Currently, the island is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and is now a wildlife refuge. It was used as a bombing practice site by the US military in the past, so you are not permitted to go onto the island because there may be unexploded military ordnances present. Due to its isolated location, not too many people get to visit the area, and the reefs around the island remain in excellent shape — full of life and color.
How Do I Get There?
I was only able to find one company, Taino Divers, that offered dive trips to Desecheo Island. I guess there are probably other ways to get there — maybe you could charter a private boat or something. Taino Divers was very quick to respond to emails and phone calls.
We went during low season, so they needed at least 2 other divers for them to make the trip. Lucky for us, 3 other divers had reserved for the same day.
The morning of the dive, we met at their dive shop, got gear and paperwork taken care of, and then we walked to the beach. Our Captain and dive master that day was Frank. Another of their dive masters, Izzy, had off that day but wanted to dive so he went with us. One of the divers was working on his Advanced Diver certification, so he had his own dive master, Emily. All of the staff seemed very nice, friendly, and really seemed to enjoy their jobs.
Since the Rincon marina is out of service (actually, non-existent at this time), there is no dock use while loading the boat. They have to load the boat from the beach, so we all got into a line and helped load our tanks and gear onto the boat. Once on-board, we got the boat safety breafing and we settled in for the 45-minute ride to the island.
The boat was nice — it had a sun cover and we all enjoyed the ride. The water was calm, so it was an easy trip. I’m told that’s not often the case, epecially the way back! Once we got to our first dive site, we got our gear set-up, listened to the dive briefing and jumped in.
The water was warm and visibility was about 80 feet. Our first dive site was called Candy Land, which is reminiscent of the colorful children’s board game. It was full of rocks & boulders, mounds of coral, loads of colorful sea fans, and a nice variety of fish. The site was alive, colorful and interesting.
It was a nice easy dive, with almost no current at all. Our maximum depth on this dive was about 80 feet. Frank was able to find a number of small sea creatures (like spider starfish and cleaner shrimps). We had one great encounter with a turtle — he was not afraid of us at all. He came almost face to face with each of us individually. Nice!
Izzy found a 50mm shell casing, left over from the military target practice, that he brought up to show us. From where our boat was moored, you could still see the targets the military "added" to the landscape of the island.
During our surface interval, we had a delicious lunch (local sandwiches and pastries) and sodas as we talked about the dive. Water and soda is provided and available throughout the entire trip. After lunch we moved to the second site, just a short distance away.
For this dive, we did parts of two reefs — Ladder Reef and the Caves. Ladder Reef was colorful and full of life. The Caves is a great site for lovers of swim-throughs. Both reefs were really shallow — the swim-throughs were at times only 10 feet in some spots!
The ride back to the "big island" surprised us all by being pretty smooth. After helping unload the boat, we went back to the shop and rinsed our gear. Since we were going to be doing more dives with them, we were able to leave our wet equipment at the shop instead of lugging it home and back. They also have showers at the shop to rinse off after the dive. That is a nice touch.
Though we went as all SCUBA divers, Taino Divers also offers the trip for snorkelers. With the very clear waters and shallow areas just off the coast of Desecheo Island, snorkelers can really have a super experience.
They go to Desecheo Island daily, weather permitting. If the seas are not cooperating, they can do local, off-shore dive/snorkel trips instead.
The cost to dive is $129/person for 2-tanks. There is an extra charge to rent dive gear. The cost for snorkelers is $95/person, which includes snorkel gear. Obviously, you must present your C-card to dive.
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.
Taino Divers makes daily trips to Desecheo Island (weather permitting), for snorkeling, SCUBA diving and discover SCUBA diving. They meet at the shop at 7:30am and return to the shop around 2:00pm. Reservations are suggested, but if you are a last-minute type of person, you can try to go to the shop in the morning to see if they have room on the boat.
Their maximum capacity is 12 guests.
You can call 787-823-6429 for more information or to make a reservation.
You can visit the Taino Divers web site for more information.
Restrooms are available at the shop and there is a small marine head on the boat.
The Taino Divers shop is located in the Black Eagle Marina in Rincon.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.