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Boqueron--Lying 85 miles (137km) southwest of San Juan and 33 miles (53km) west of Ponce is the little beach town of Boquerón. It is just south of Cabo Rojo, west of the historic city of San Germán, and near the western edge of the Boquerón Forest Preserve.

What puts sleepy Boquerón on the tourist map is its lovely public beach, one of the island's finest for swimming. It is also known for the shellfish found offshore. The beach has facilities, including lockers and changing places, plus kiosks that rent watersports equipment. Parking costs $2. On weekends the resort tends to be crowded with families driving down from San Juan.

The outfitter that offers the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the area is Mona Aquatics, on Calle José de Diego, directly west of the heart of town (tel. 787/851-2185). It can arrange special trips to Mona Island some 50 miles (81km) out to sea, a sanctuary known for its spectacular dive opportunities. The company also rents snorkeling gear and, if enough people are interested, conducts boat tours of the Bahía de Boquerón.

From Boquerón you can head directly south to El Faro de Cabo Rojo at the island's southernmost corner. The century-old Cabo Rojo Lighthouse lies on Route 301, along a spit of land between Bahia Sucia and Bahia Salinas. Looking down from the lighthouse, you'll see a 2,000-foot (600m) drop along jagged limestone cliffs. The lighthouse dates from 1881, when it was constructed under Spanish rule. The famous pirate Roberto Cofresi used to terrorize the coast along here in the 19th century and was said to have hidden out in a cave nearby.

La Parquera--This charming fishing village lies 78 miles (126km) southwest of San Juan and 26 miles (42km) west of Ponce, just south of San Germán. From San Germán, take Route 320 directly south and follow the signposts. Note that this route changes its name several times along the way, becoming Route 101, 116, 315, 305, and then 304 before reaching La Parguera -- even though it's all the same highway.

The name of the village comes from pargos, meaning snapper. Its main attraction, other than its beaches and diving, is Phosphorescent Bay, which contains millions of luminescent dinoflagellates (microscopic plankton). A disturbance causes them to light up the dark waters. For dramatic effect, they are best seen on a moonless night. Boats leave for a troll around the bay nightly from 7:30pm to 12:30am from La Parguera pier, depending on demand. The trip costs $5 per person.

Offshore are some 12 to 15 reefs with a variety of depths. The Beril reef goes down to 60 feet (18m), then drops to 2,000 feet (600m). This wall is famous among divers, and visibility ranges from 100 feet to 120 feet (30m-36m). These reefs also provide some of the best snorkeling possibilities in Puerto Rico. Marine life is both abundant and diverse, including big morays, sea turtles, barracudas, nurse sharks, and manatees. Paradise Scuba Center, Hotel Casa Blanca Building, at La Parguera (tel. 787/899-7611), offers the best diving and snorkeling. A two-tank dive costs $70; a 3-hour snorkeling jaunt goes for $35 per person. Full equipment can be rented.

Guánica--Guánica, on the Caribbean Sea, lies 73 miles (118km) southwest of San Juan and 21 miles (34km) west of the city of Ponce. Part of the area is a UNESCO-designated world biosphere reserve, adjacent to the famed Guánica dry forest, home to more than 100 species of migratory and resident birds, the largest number in Puerto Rico.

The beach at Guánica is pristine and the crystal clear water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Directly offshore is the famed Gilligan's Island, plus six of Puerto Rico's best sites for night or day dives.

The area was once known for its leaping bullfrogs. The Spanish conquerors virtually wiped out this species. But the bullfrogs have come back and live in the rolling, scrub-covered hills that surround the 18-acre (7.2-hectare) site of the Copamarina Beach Resort, the area's major hotel.

Guánica is adjacent to the unique "Dry Forest" and experiences very little rainfall. Nearby mountains get an annual rainfall of 15 feet (4.5m), but Guánica receives only about 15 inches (38cm). This is the world's largest dry coastal forest region. The upper hills are ideal for hiking.

Guánica was once the haunt of the Taíno Indians, and it was the place where Ponce de León first explored Puerto Rico in 1508. One of his descendants later founded the nearby city of Ponce in 1692.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.