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The Southwest Coast

The southwest corner of the island is where the locals go to kick back and chill out. The area is a favored vacation spot for San Juan and Ponce residents, as well as a weekend getaway destination. In fact, for many travelers the area will be too crowded during Easter week and the month of July, the height of the Puerto Rico tourism season. Here are some of Puerto Rico's great beaches, notably the beaches of Guánica and Boquerón Beach, and a lot of mom-and-pop operations that offer nightly rentals and good seafood dinners.

Southern Puerto Rico is increasingly gaining a reputation among scuba divers, although the outfitters are a bit lean here and not as well organized or plentiful as in the Cayman Islands. The attraction is the continental shelf that drops off a few miles off the southern coast. Within this watery range is a towering wall that is some 20 miles (32km) long and filled with one of the best assortments of marine life in the West Indies. Diving is possible from the town of La Parguera in the west all the way to Ponce in the east. The wall drops from 60 to 120 feet (18-37m) before it "vanishes" into 1,500 feet (457m) of sea. With a visibility of around 100 feet (30m), divers experience the beautiful formations of some of Puerto Rico's most dramatic coral gardens.

Bird-watchers should head to the Guánica State Forest, which is the sanctuary that has the greatest number of birds on the island. For beachcombers, there are many hidden places, such as Gilligan's Island off the coast of the little village of Guánica. For snorkelers, there are miles of coral reefs, awash with tropical fish, coral, and marine life. The Cabo Rojo lighthouse, south of Boquerón, offers views of the rocky coastline and a panoramic sweep of the Caribbean.

The Southern Mountains

The mountain towns surrounding the gorgeous Toro Negro Forest Reserve straddle Puerto Rico's highest peaks that run along the center of the island. The area is included here because it is most accessible from the south, from Ponce and surrounding towns. The mountain towns include Villalba, Orocovis, Adjuntas, and Jayuya, as well as parts of Utuado, Coamo, and Juana Díaz. Even from Ponce, the best route to this region is to head east first along the coastal Hwy. 2 to neighboring Juana Díaz. Then take Rte. 149 north through town and into the lush mountains of Villalba. Continue straight until the intersection of Rte. 143 west to get to Toro Negro Forest Reserve (there's an entrance at Km 32.4).

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.