Puerto Rico is home to plenty of pristine beaches, their shorelines glistening with white sand and turquoise water. It’s easy to get lost in their serenity, reading, tanning, and relaxing — but exploring what lies just a short distance away, beneath those turquoise surfaces, is a chance to add a new layer of fun to your trip.

Snorkeling is a popular island activity, and doing so makes it possible to encounter the lively coral and colorful marine life without the training and responsibility that scuba diving necessitates (not to mention it’s much cheaper at just $15-20 USD a day). While some beaches require a small trek or boat ride to reach, others are enjoyed by simply ditching your beach towel and walking a few feet into the water. To help you find the best of these locations, we’ve compiled a list of Puerto Rico’s premiere beaches for snorkeling.

Boqueròn Beach

Roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) from San Juan, Boqueròn is a quick escape from the city’s urban bustle. While visiting this quaint seaside village in southwestern Puerto Rico, you’ll be able to enjoy the local beach without much of a crowd and find rental kiosks along the way. And, if you have more time, consider checking out nearby La Parguera, a nature reserve that’s home to two of the island’s three bioluminescent bays.

Escambron Beach

If you’re flying into San Juan, it’s hard to beat the convenience Escambron offers when looking for a quick snorkeling fix. Located within walking distance of Old San Juan, this beach illustrates just how accessible nature is when visiting Puerto Rico. And despite being so close to the island’s main urban center, snorkelers can dive into an underwater experience that will make them feel a world away. Although there are no rental shops right on the beach, there are plenty scattered throughout the city!

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Carlos Rosario

Carlos Rosario Beach is one of many sandy snorkeling holes found on Culebra, a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, which can be reached by ferry from Fajardo. The ride takes about 45 minutes and only costs $4.50 USD for a round trip ticket. Once there, you’ll have your pick of rental companies. After that’s settled, it’s time to head to the beach. Carlos Rosario is located just a short walk west of Flamenco Beach (which tends to attract larger crowds) and allows you to explore the mile-long reef more intimately than other beaches on the island. The colorful waters you’ll witness show just how rich this particular reef is.

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La Chiva Beach

Like Carlos Rosario, La Chiva is easily accessible via Fajardo’s ferry terminal. This time, though, the ferry will drop you off at a different island, Vieques, where the heavenly Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (the largest of its type in the Caribbean) awaits. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by long, stretching beaches and almost unbelievably clear water that serves as Puerto Rico’s third bioluminescent bay. Head to the far end of La Chiva with your goggles and snorkeling gear (available to rent on the island) to explore not only the vibrant corals, but also the plentiful marine life that includes creatures like green sea turtles.

Seven Seas Beach

Your snorkeling dreams don’t have to end if you lack the time to hop on a ferry, as just getting to the port town of Fajardo will pay dividends. The small coastal center is known for its own ocean adventures and has plenty of snorkeling spots to explore without traveling far. And because it’s such a water-adventure hub, there are endless rental shops and tour companies that can be found around the downtown marina. After acquiring the right gear, it’s time to pick your spot along Seven Seas Beach, and hop in the water!

Steps Beach

Located within the stunning Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, Steps Beach is well-worth the visit. The reserve prides itself on sustaining the fragile marine life that lives in the area — from turtles and whales to dolphins and lobsters. Due to these important sustainability efforts by Puerto Rico’s government, you’re sure to encounter a few new friends on your adventure, even if it’s just small fish like grunts and snappers. Because of the area’s focus on preservation, most people rely on guided snorkeling tours to explore, though it’s not entirely necessary. It’s also worth noting that, for snorkeling purposes, this beach is best suited for the summer months, when the enthusiastic surf tends to die down a bit.

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In light of the recent disasters that have struck Puerto Rico, we understand the importance of restoring these natural areas as thoroughly as possible. If any of the locations mentioned above are currently closed due to restoration, please let us know by commenting below!

Header image by Dan Gold