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Tiny Island, Giant Pleasures on Gilligan’s Island

Posted on Oct 4th, 2009 by • Updated on Dec 6th, 2013

While doing research for a recent trip to the south-west of Puerto Rico, I found that a day trip to Gilligan’s Island was on everyone’s "must-do" list. Gilligan’s Island (the official name is Cayo Aurora) is a little speck of land about a mile off the coast of Guánica. It’s popular with locals and tourists who want to "get away" from civilization for a few hours.

The Island

Gilligan’s Island (sometimes referred to as Guilligan Island by locals) is a small island managed by the Departmento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales (DRNA) — that’s Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources. The island is part of the Biosphere Reserve of Guánica.

It has a few SMALL, sandy beaches, but it is mostly covered with mangrove trees. There is a small beach on the north-west side of the island that has a roped-off swimming area that is marked with buoys to protect swimmers and snorkelers from watercraft. Note: there are no life guards, so you swim at your own risk. This area has some nice coral formations and we found it good for snorkeling. The water around the island is crystal clear and warm. The bottom is sandy and people can swim all around and through the mangrove channels.

There are a number of picnic pavilions (all pretty close to one another) on the north side of the island, some with BBQ pits, changing huts, a composting bathroom and trash cans. There is a pier for boats to tie onto when loading/unloading passengers. And there are millions of hungry mosquitoes — bring bug spray and apply generously!

Our Trip

We decided to kayak over, so we rented kayaks in Guanica, and started off. It took us about 20 minutes to kayak to the island. The day we went, kayaking was not difficult as there are not large waves or anything between the mainland and the little out-islands. When we got to Gilligan’s island, there were some DRNA employees there, but no one else. We had the island to ourselves. We left our kayaks right at the pier and began exploring.

Our exploration lasted about 5 minutes — there are only a couple trails through the trees and very few open areas where you could set up your beach camp. After applying copious amounts of bug spray, we spread out our beach blanket on the small beach to the right of the pier (the north west corner of the island).

We went snorkeling off that corner of the island and along the western side. It was really nice — the sea floor was covered with underwater hills of finger coral. Tons of it! All alive and healthy. There were a decent number of fish here, also — puffer fish, barracuda, and those big red starfish. We snorkeled up and down this side a few times, just enjoying the experience.

We did notice a few fishermen in boats, conch hunters and spear fishermen right in the reef areas where we were snorkeling. It was a little sad to see they were not conserving the waters around this natural spot.

While we were there, the ferry brought another couple over, but they chose to stay in the mangrove channel area. We saw them later in the day as we set off in our kayaks to see the other side of the island. We kayaked through the channels to explore the southern side of the island and found more sea grass on that side. There was a reef on the south side, but the Caribbean sea crashing on it and it didn’t look like an ideal spot to try snorkeling.

After checking out the south side, we kayaked over to see the other little islands out there (Isla Ballena and another smaller one) and then kayaked back home. All in all, we spent about 4 hours on this excursion.

Logistics

We rented kayaks at MaryLee’s by the Sea. They have both double and single kayaks available. They also have a motor boat that will take you over to Gilligan’s Island. They charge $15/hour or $35/day for double kayaks, and $10/hour or $25/day for single kayaks. They also have a motor boat that you can hire for $8-10 per person to take you over/back. The house next door to MaryLee’s also has kayak rentals and a boat available to make the trip back and forth. It is nice because you can come and go when you want, no need to wait for a scheduled trip.

There is an hourly ferry that departs from San Jacinto Restaurant (located just after turn) for $8/person(additional $$ for cooler/chairs etc). This restaurant will deliver a lunch to you on the island if you want. Their phone number is 787-821-4941. There are also a few other places in that area that offer boat trips during busier periods — just look for their signs.

Other Info & Some Thoughts

It was a bit unnerving to be snorkeling with the fishing boats and spear-fishermen hunting right there. But they were aware of us and moved through the area slowly. I would like to see the DRNA section this area off to protect the snorkelers and conserve the fish & coral formations.

We went on a Tuesday morning during low season and the island was basically empty. But on weekends, and especially in the summer and on holidays, it must be a ZOO! The island has limited space.

There are mooring buoys for boats to tie onto right at the island.

The island was clean. Please help keep it that way by using the trash cans and/or taking all your trash home with you at the end of the day.

Some people we talked to snorkeled in the mangrove channels and saw just a few fish. They have placed artificial reefs in the channels to encourage more fish/marine life.

You have to bring everything you want to eat/drink/use while you are there as there are not shops nor restaurants. Glass containers are not permitted on the island. There are no lifeguards.

Bottom Line

Though Gilligan’s Island was nice, personally, I don’t see what the attraction would be for non-snorkelers or non-kayakers. There are many more beautiful beaches and even better snorkeling areas, in the south-west. We had a nice quiet day, but I would avoid it like the plague during busy times (like weekends in July)!

Details

Gilligan’s Island is open daily from 9am – 5pm. It’s closed Mondays (except holiday Mondays, when it is open).

Take Route 333. Go past Cana Gorda and make the right turn after passing CopaMarina resort. Just a bit down on the right is San Jacinto ferry launch. Go further and follow the signs for MaryLee’s by the Sea if you want to rent kayaks or get their motorboat ride over.

Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.

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17 comments
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  1. We went to this little island while visiting Puerto Rico during Jan when its less crowded.We wound up staying all day! What a nice little quiet place to snorkel. We really enjoyed the southern part of the island much more than San Juan area.

  2. What about the barracudas? Aren’t they dangerous???

  3. Barracudas, though they can be dangerous, are not really a problem. They are curious fish who generally keep their distance.

  4. We go at least twice a year and love this place for exactly the reasons you describe. If you have children, even small children, the placid waters are perfect for a day of frolicing in the water. You couldn’t be more right about the weekends and holidays. Take it from someone who has seen the “zoo” stay away on the busy days, if you can only go on a holiday or weekend then go early. I mean early, I’ve seen people already there waiting 4 hours before the first ferry, which gives you an idea of how many people go. Ideally this is best for a mid week day trip.

  5. I was shocked at how much litter was strewn about. There were plenty of trash cans, but apparently people don’t use them. Cleveland beaches on Lake Erie are much cleaner. I know, sounds strange, but it’s true. Very sad.

  6. Trash is often a problem at beaches and forests here. Yes, it is sad. When we went, it was off-season, and I don’t remember seeing a lot of trash. I’d guess that you just went this past Easter week, which would mean more people … and more garbage.

  7. I love this little place, and so do the kids which is what really sells it for our family. The trash thing is unfortunately true, and Ray is correct about it being everywhere. Whenever our family goes to the beach I pass a bag to each of the kids and we all spend just 10 min picking up trash, it makes a difference and really it’s so little time when compared to the rest of the day the kids don’t even mind. My 5 year old loves this place, and help the person who throws trash in front of her!

  8. Eliminate the trash, and the beauty of Puerto Rico is magnified. When I go to a beautiful spot and see it littered with trash, it just breaks my heart. I travel with a garbage bag, and don’t hesitate to pick things up. The litter issue is better now, than it was in past decades, but still an issue. I just wish everybody took more pride in their little island.

    When I visited Gilligan’s Island about 5 years back it was clean, and pretty litter free. So I got lucky.

  9. Be carefull with the jelliefish, was everwhere!

  10. thank you so much for all your helpfull information! I plan on going in a couple of weeks! you metioned that ” There are many more beautiful beaches and even better snorkeling areas, in the south-west”. can you please tell me their names? thanks

  11. Better/bigger beaches- Guanica has a balneario and Playa Santa, there is Playuela and Boqueron beach in Cabo Rojo.
    There is some snorkeling around the cays off Parguera. Guanica had some, around part of Caja los Muertos, Isla Ratones in Cabo Rojo and in Rincon, there is Steps Beach and taking a boat to Desecheo.

  12. cayo aurora como se llama originalmente guilligan island es precioso de muchas areas de aguas cristalinas bastante limpio para toda la gente que va ahi pero empezando por el ferry que da lastima y lo incomodo que es. aparte no vi ni un solo salvavida de ninos por si una emergencia. y lo peor un rest con unas empleadas que ni saben tratar publico super repugnantes y con caras de pocos amigos los banos ? asco y verguenza me dio estar alli . inodoros rotos, sucios y con cables de electricidad expuestos que fasilmente alguien pudiera quedar electrocutado. nunca hay papel si no tienes a la mano ya sabes como vas a quedar unos vestidores en madera horribles sucios y con mal olor . una sola ducha para todo el mundo. y para colmo el estacionamiento en la luna hay menos hoyos que alli cuidado con los moflers se pueden quedar en un hoyo de esos. a guilligan le doy un 8 de 10 pero al rest san jacinto y ferry le doy un O

  13. Great island, horrible…almost everything else. The people that administer the ferry and restaurant are rude and impolite. They never give you straight answers as to when the ferry departs or when they will start selling tickets. They also have this double verification system where you HAVE to have the wristband AND the pink slip they give you when you purchase the tickets. If you don’t have both when you board the ferry, they won’t let you get in. I understand this may be useful for crowded days, but, it’s a little ridiculous to be so strict when there are like four people waiting for the ferry.

    The food, however, is good, cheap and they deliver it to the island. Once you’re there, you can enjoy the crystal clear waters, mangrove channels, and just relax.

    During spring break and summer, expect tickets to sell out FAST and for the island to get super crowded. When it’s like this, people can mess with the tranquil vibe of the island. Oftentimes, they’re loud, drunk, and boisterous. Plus, it’s usually these crowds that leave tons of garbage behind. Ugh! Also, when the ferry people decide Gilligan’s is too full, they start taking people to an adjacent island called Isla Ballena. I’ve never been there but I’ve been told that waters are a little rougher and there have been drownings. But, I also hear it’s very beautiful. At least they give you the option of going to another island instead of sending you home because Gilligan’s is too full.

    So, all in all, I recommend it but be aware that there may be annoying things to deal with along the way. If you don’t encounter any of these “problems”, consider yourself lucky and ENJOY! :)

  14. I went there during a holiday and it was just awful — completely filled with drunk people. There was nowhere to find peace and quiet, no where to lay down and get some sun. And I was very wary about snorkeling with the boats around and probably a bunch of drunk boat drivers, so I didn’t really get to snorkel and where I did snorkel, I didn’t see much.

    It was nice that the ferry we took over also delivered us our food an hour later, when the next ferry ran, since we didn’t want to wait another hour for the ferry.

  15. quisiera comentar respecto a esta hermosa islita de guilligan donde se puede disfrutar alli a plenitud y lo cual es una de nuestros lugares mas bonitos para visitar en este pueblo. pero es triste que para llegar a ella tenga que ser a traves del no se si llamarlo rest San Jacinto o pocilga de San Jacinto por que verdaderamente el lugar es una pocilga y lo que que da es verguenza que haiga que llegar a esa islita tan bella a traves de esa letrina y algunos empleados del lugar que tengan mas tacto y verguenza al tratar con las personas. no por que trabajen en una letrina tiene que comportarse como el escremento que ahi dentro de ellas. alli el servicio se paga y caro . aprendan a tratar el turista. y al dueño del local que no sea tan arrogante y come mierda.

  16. A group of 10 of us went there, renting kayaks from Gilligan View for $20/day with 1-, 2-, and 3-man kayaks. The water traveling there was fierce and waves were strong. Once there at 9am, we discovered that 90% of the island was already taken by visitors for the day, their tents, grills, and floating devices. We could barely walk without stepping on or over someone’s belongings. Enjoying time in the water in the channels (between the two small islands, was limited as there were about 40+ children in line to jump off the mangroves into the water, so you are limited with snorkeling or even hanging out. As the day progressed, the ferry continued to pack dozens and dozens more of travelers onto this island. It was smaller than expected and I would honestly say Costco is twice the size of these island chains, so having hundreds of people on the island was a bit concerning. The sun was hot, the horseflies gnawed at us. Despite the number of people, things were cleaner than expected. ZBut disappointed that we could not kayak through the channels, due to it being roped off and the many children.

  17. Summer is crazy here at all beaches and little islands as everyone is trying to beat the heat. Try it mid week in the Fall/Winter and it is a whole different story!

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