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Isla Mata la Gata – A Tiny Island Paradise

10/2020- Open for your enjoyment!

Mata la Gata

The mangrove cayos (keys or cays in English) in La Parguera are really something to see. They are tiny specks of green in middle of the blue ocean. Most are nothing more than clumps of mangroves and broken coral. However, there is one in particular — Mata de Gata — that has the facilities that you need to make a perfect setting for a picnic.

Being an island, you will need a kayak, boat or another type of watercraft out to it. But once there, you may never want to leave!

Kill the Cat?

The name of the cayo, Mata la Gata translates literally to Kill the Cat. However, loosely translated in local vernacular it means Nurse Shark Grove.

Isla Mata la Gata is situated between Cayo Enrique and Cayo Caracoles, which are all part of La Parguera Nature Reserve. If you are trying to find these on a map, they are located 1 to 2 nautical miles south of La Parguera, which is in the town of Lajas, which is in the south-west part of Puerto Rico.

Isla Mata la Gata is a small island, measuring only about 1500 feet long and 1200 feet wide. It was formed by coral fragments that got caught in the red mangrove roots.

Mata la Gata

The island is under the control of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA), and they have constructed a boat dock for dropping-off passengers, picnic tables (both covered and uncovered), BBQ area (bring charcoal, aluminum foil, and all cooking implements), restroom (with composting toilets), changing rooms, and showers. It has a SMALL beach area with white sand.

They also enclosed an area of the calm ocean, making a natural ocean pool that is protected from surges and currents. And the fencing around this natural pool helps keep the jellyfish and other sea critters out.

You need to bring any food and beverages, because nothing is for sale on the island. There is a small boardwalk trail through the mangroves that leads from one side of the pool to the other.

Mata la Gata

There is a decently healthy coral reef all along the south side of the island, but you need to be careful of the waves and currents. This reef also runs along toward a deep boat channel on the east side of the island. If you snorkel in this area, make sure you have a marker so that you are visible to boaters.

We visited Mata de Gata during a great kayak trip on the Sunday of Veterans Day weekend (in November), and the place was empty. I have read it is very well-used, but I am guessing that is only during weekends in the summer months. It seems like all the local boat crowd anchor and hang out by the small cays.


There are a couple different ways to get to Mata la Gata. You can hire a boat to take you, you can rent a small motor boat and drive yourself, you can go on a guided kayak tour. If you want to take one of the tours, I’d recommend contacting them ahead of time to make a reservation.

The first step is to get yourself to La Parguera in Lajas. Once you get there and park (see map below), there will be a number of different tour operators hovering around the parking lot hawking their tours. You can talk to one of them about getting to Mata la Gata. They will typically drop you off and return to pick you up at a pre-determined time.

Mata la Gata

The island is "open" Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5pm. Closed on Mondays.

Boat rides usually cost about $10 per person, round trip. Price will depend on time of year, size of your group, and where you want them to take you. Typically, cash only.

Boat rides from La Parguera take 10 to 15 minutes to reach Mata la Gata.

Some operators that offer kayaking in La Parguera include

  • Parguera Water Sports Adventures — offering kayak tours
    phone 787-899-6086 or 787-390-6086
  • Kayaking Parguera Tours — offering kayak tours and/or hourly kayak rentals
    phone 787-899-6086 or 787-390-6086
  • Some operators that offer boat rentals and/or boat taxi service in La Parguera include

    No pets allowed. No jet skis.

    Bring towels, sunblock, food/drinks, bathing suits &meash; everything you need for a beach day. There is nothing for sale on the island.

    We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ... 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 »

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    The direct translation of mara is bush. It’s not vernacular, just the definition of the word in spanish. And just, that place is amazing. ????????

    Comment by Gabby M on 29 Sep 2018

    My high school friends and me spent many happy days there, over 40 tears ago. At that time, it was mostly undeveloped- only the dock, some wooden lean-to's, some wood and canvas cots to sleep in, and an outhouse with a septic tank. The place was mostly unknown throughout Puerto Rico, so there were never any crowds, even on weekends. Many days, we were the only people on the island, and even on weekends most people would go back to shore before sunset. Not us- we were the adventurous type. We would pack up our snorkeling and fishing gear, a first aid kit, spices and cooking gear, and enough water and sodas to last us a few days. No food, we had a basic rule- if you don't catch anything, you don't eat anything (needless to say, we ate like kings- more on that later). Don Vicente would take us to the island early in the morning, and we would spend the next 2 or 3 days camping, diving and fishing. The evenings were beautiful, we would make a campfire under the stars and cook the catch of the day (as I stated before, we ate like kings- fish, octopus, lobster, crab, cuttlefish, a couple of my friends even liked to eat sea urchin eggs), after that we would light up a couple of kerosene lamps for campsite illumination, grab our flashlights and go watch all the little creatures that come out at night, among the mangroves, the canals and the dock. Later on we would open up the cots and set them up inside the lean-to (usually we would set up inside the first one on the left) and go to sleep watching the stars, feeling the sea breeze, and listening to the sounds of the sea. At the first hint of dawn we would get up and watch the sunrise, like we had watched the sunset the day before. Good times, and good memories... Years later, life forced me to make a decision, and I left Puerto Rico. I traveled the world, from Tortola in the Caribbean to Hokkaido in Japan, ended up settling down in Jacksonville, Florida. But I still carry my memories and my island in my heart. I still go to PR as frequently as I can (which sadly, is not as frequently as I would like to). Don Vicente Cotte crossed over to the other side in 1987, ten years after I left. Good man, may god rest his soul. Mata la Gata is now part of a preserve under DNR control, which means you cannot do 90% of what you could do before- which is understandable, once it became well known, the flood of people would have destroyed it. I have every intention of going back to Mata la Gata in the near future. It is not the way it was back then, but it will still feel good. Memories...

    Comment by Jose Jorge Rosado on 28 May 2015

    Thank you for sharing the most needed informative article of interest and the correction added another thought.

    Comment by Nancy Remus on 07 Jun 2014

    I would like to correct the information on the origin of the name of this island. In the mid 1940's a local fisherman named Vicente Cotte decided to adopt this island and care for it. At that time only very few persons visited the pristine island to spend the day under the shade of the mangroves and enjoy the clear waters. As time passed rats began appearing on the island and Don Vicente decided to bring several cats to control the unwanted population. Years later Don Vicente made a dock where visitors could berth their boats and in order to pay for the materials he needed for maintenance of the dock, the island and the small rustic cabins he rented hebegan to charge a modest entrance fee. Thus the island became known as Mata de la Gata meaning Island of the Cat. and not the name and interpretation you erroneously have given it.

    Comment by Patricia Benavent on 01 Apr 2013

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