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Dive Review of Island Scuba/Copamarina in
Puerto Rico/Southwestern

Island Scuba/Copamarina, Feb, 2011,

by Carol Keller, KS, US ( 2 reports). Report 5930.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 3 stars Food N/A
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This is one of the undiscovered jewels of the Caribbean! Make no mistake, this is not a convenient spot to reach (2 hr drive from San Juan), but it is well worth the effort. We have been diving for over 25 years, and have been all over the Caribbean. Weve heard very little about Puerto Rican diving, so had never really considered it before. San Juan was always just a stop-over, for a connecting flight to some other island.

We were set to take off for our scheduled trip to Bonaire, when we discovered our passports had expired the previous week. We scrambled to find a spot in the US, and came up with PR. Found a couple of reviews in Undercurrent, which tipped us off to the wisdom of steering clear of the San Juan area, and heading across the island to the southwestern portion. There we discovered Island Divers. First the facts:

The Dive Shop - They are a stand-alone dive shop. They will, however, come and pick you up, wherever you are staying. We stayed 20 minutes away, and they picked us up and took us back when we finished. The shop is well equipped. Although we brought our own gear, other divers with us rented, and it was all good quality stuff, in good repair. There are no dip tanks, so rinsing gear is done with a hose. They will let you keep your gear at the shop, which is great, but expect the lack of thorough rinsing to result in a wetsuit funk in short order. Getting to the boat is a minor inconvenience. Since their main boat is too big to bring into the shallow water of the dock, you first board a small boat, then ride about 50 yards to the regular dive boat.

The Boat Certified for 22 divers. Fast, well maintained and comfortable. Outstanding safety features, including life raft, automatic emergency radio beacon, 2 ship to shore radios, with channel prioritized to Coast Guard, cell phone accessible to anyone ICE, oxygen and emergency medical equipment. There is a Head, which functions well. The forward compartment closes for privacy (allows changing of clothing, if needed). Exit boat aft via Giant Stride (would like to see them allow backward roll from side access areas as well, for diver convenience, but Im sure its easier for them to keep track of divers from the back). Re-entry is by ladder. Crew stays in the water to assist, if needed. Water was pretty rough while we were there, which can make boarding more difficult, but they do a nice job of assisting, and even the new divers got back on board with no problem. Water, juice, and snacks were plentiful. Now heres something new---a warm water rinse hose on board! Just awesome.

The Diving The diving on this end of the island is among the best in the Caribbean. Think about that for a moment. We had very low expectations, and we were very surprised. Not quite Bonaire, but still top notch. Dive sites are all fairly close. Reefs are in outstanding condition. Marine life is plentiful and varied. Water is very comfortable (78 degrees while we were there in Feb). Dive pressure is obviously low, and we never saw another dive boat the entire week.

The Crew I saved the best for last. Santos and Pedro run the operation. Santos stays topside, and Pedro is the dive instructor who serves as the underwater guide. These guys are experienced, professional, and friendly. They are very helpful, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure your experience is enjoyable. As I stated earlier, we are experienced divers, and weve seen all types of crews. They have the ability to quickly discern who needs and or wants help, and will follow your ques. Want to do it all yourself? Fine. Care to let them do all the work? No problem. They also take pride in their part of the island, and the diving it has to offer. They realize that Puerto Rico doesnt have a good reputation with divers, because the convenient diving near San Juan is not very good. They also recognize that the folks in the big city arent always the friendliest, and they clearly want to dissociate themselves from that image. They want to be good ambassadors for their part of the Caribbean, and if you give them a chance, I can guarantee you wont regret it.

If you go: Although we flew into San Juan, there are other smaller airports (Ponce, for example). My suggestion would be to fly into San Juan, rent a car for the duration. Drive to Guanica, 2 hrs away. It's an easy and beautiful drive across the island, on an interstate highway. When we return we'll take the long way, down Highway 1, along the coast. It takes a little longer, but I hear it's outstanding.

Pedro says he can arrange for house rentals for up to 8 people, which are more economical than the hotels. Our hotel experience with the Copamarina is described below:

The good: Beautiful grounds. Very nice westward-facing view of the ocean. Nice clean rooms. A very nice upscale restaurant, Alejandra's, with fine dining in elegant surroundings, a nice wine selection, and good service.

The bad: Hotel staff were generally slow to respond to any request, and information was unreliable, e.g., (A), I asked the front desk clerk to check on a rental car for us, at 0645, as we left for the dive shop. When we returned at 1300, she still hadn't done it. (B) When we spoke with the front desk clerk the day before our arrival, we were told that there would be a shuttle to take us from the airport to the hotel (a 2 hr. drive). We gave our arrival time to him, and he said "fine". Upon arrival, there was no shuttle, and they told us they could send someone, but it would be 2 hrs before they could get there. Our only option left was a $155 taxi ride to Guanica from San Juan. Just a couple of illustrative examples.

Food at the regular restaurant is pedestrian, and very pricey, with a limited menu. Medalla beer was $6 ($1.50 in town). A Mojito is $10. A cheeseburger is $13. Breakfast buffett $18.

The very bad: Their website states as of 2/21/11, that they are a "full service Dive Resort", that the diveshop is on premises, and boats depart from the hotel dock which is "between 30 and 100 yards" from the guestrooms. Guess what? There is no diveshop, and dives are scheduled with an off-site operator in the town of Ensenada, 20 minutes car ride away. This means all the inherent inconvenience, as well as necessitating an earlier morning wake-up. They weren't the least bit apologetic about this, and stated that they probably needed to update their website. Nobody could or would tell us when the diveshop had closed, but one of the clerks stated that there had not been one there in the nine months he'd worked there.

Websites Island Scuba   Copamarina

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving All over the Caribbean, Hawaii
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy, surge
Water Temp 77-79°F / 25-26°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 90-120 Ft/ 27-37 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions depth limits on some dives
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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