Puerto Rico: Snorkeling

Keeping going with the various activities we did on our vacation. We spent an entire day going snorkeling, and it was a blast. That said, there are definitely some things I learned in the process that would likely help other people if they’re interested in doing the same thing on a trip to PR.

First off was trying to decide where exactly to go snorkeling. There are a ton of different options when you start poking around. For a long while, I was set on snorkeling right in San Juan. There’s a bay just off the beach in the heart of the touristy area that was supposed to have great snorkeling. No transportation needed (other than an Uber), and the price wasn’t too bad. (About $60/person). On the other hand, most of the articles I was reading about snorkeling down there said you’d be much better set to go out to one of the larger islands: Vieques or Culebra. The biggest trick with those is that they’re quite far away from San Juan. About a 45 minute drive at least. You can get an Uber over there for around $75 or so (one way, though that was just the one time I checked. I don’t know if that was cheap for the time or not), but that still seemed steep.

I did find some companies that said they’d offer transportation over to their launch site. They didn’t list the price, but in the end I decided to go with that. Pure Adventure was the company we went with. For $85/person, you got a boat ride to a beach on Vieques, another ride to the snorkeling site, photographs of the experience, trained divers to help you get started, and snacks. Seemed like a great deal. In many ways it was.

Overall, I’m very happy we went to Vieques, but there are a few ways it could have gone very wrong. First and foremost was the question of transportation. Two days before the excursion, I got an email that said transportation was just a request and not guaranteed. Perhaps I missed that in the advertising, but I had checked it pretty carefully. Suddenly it seemed like there was a chance I might have to pay a ton extra to get us over there. I had quite a few messages out to the company, and they weren’t returning any of them. That was unsettling to say the least. At last they did message us to confirm transportation would be happening. It cost $75 total (round trip), which wasn’t terrible. However, I did see some reviews of the company by people who hadn’t gotten transportation on their trip, and they were very justifiably upset. I would approach that with caution.

That said, the trip itself was fantastic. The boat was big enough for our group of around 25. It was about a half hour ride out to the beach, which was empty except for us, and very picturesque. We were, indeed, provided with snorkeling gear, though the “instruction” was basically, “Make sure it works. If you have any questions, ask us.” On the other hand, I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to see anything if my glasses didn’t fit in the gear. Spoiler alert: glasses will never fit in the gear. They interfere with the seal. By a huge stroke of luck, the company had one pair of goggles with prescription lenses, and those lenses happened to work perfectly for me. However, if I were to do this again, I would likely get my own goggles ahead of time and bring those. Or wear contacts.

The snacks they made us were much more like “lunch” than a simple snack. Nothing extravagant, but good wraps (veggie options were available) and fruit and soda and nuts. We ate after the beach, then headed to the snorkeling area. It wasn’t what I had expected, though I’ve only been snorkeling one time before: in the Red Sea right by a coral reef. This wasn’t like that. The creatures we were looking at were spread out below us about 20 feet, but there were a lot of them. I saw multiple sea turtles, sting rays, tons of fish, and even a shark that was about 5 feet long. (I heard after the fact that seeing a shark there is rare. The dive guides certainly seemed excited about it at the time.)

One thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was that we were all basically going everywhere in a big clumped group. I would have liked to have been more on our own, or better spread out. If I were to do it again, I think I would stay more away from the clump. That said, I was also struggling with my mask. I was getting a bunch of water up my nose, which made it so I had to keep pausing to adjust it every few minutes. After I got back to the hotel, I searched the problem some and discovered that it was happening because of my beard. (Hard to get a good seal with a beard.) Easy to overcome–you just breathe out through your nose instead of your mouth when you want to clear the mask of any bits of water. (That tidbit of information would have been nice for our “dive instructors” to tell me about . . .)

So. All told, it was gorgeous, and fun, and it all worked out, but next time I go, I know more about how to handle things and what to expect. As always, if you have any questions, just ask.

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