The three-hour boat ride from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, to Mona Island might seem an exercise in patience. The waves prevent napping, but that's a good thing: Nap and miss the dolphins delighting in the bow wake. The passage, coupled with the fact that no overnighting on Mona is allowed without a permit, means few visitors. And few visitors means no-other-boats-in-sight days, pristine reefs and still-curious marine life. Unlike many Caribbean destinations, Mona still feels synonymous with exploration and adventure, especially when you're weaving through its labyrinthine swim-throughs and caverns.
Desecheo Island, only about 45 minutes from Rincón, is much the same way: Also uninhabited, its reefs spring with life, partially thanks to currents. They're strong enough to attract swimmers such as pompano and Atlantic spadefish and to sweep the corals free of sediment, but not so strong that an experienced diver couldn't fin through them. Sites like Yellow Reef enjoy calmer conditions and the same 100-plus-foot visibility. From
the boat deck, one can clearly see the growth that gives the site its name.
On the mainland, try La Parguera on the island's southwest side for its 20-mile-long wall. At Star, fingers of reef reach for the depths some 2,000 feet below. Green morays and sea turtles, as well as elkhorn and black coral, are all common here.
When your trip comes to a close, all roads lead to San Juan and its airport. But schedule your own delay for one last adventure this one culinary. Caribbean staples meet Mediterranean, Asian and French influences. Perusing a menu can become an exercise in restraint, which, unlike patience, does not reap significant rewards.