Isla de Mona is an island in the Puerto Rico archipelago and a popular destination amongst locals and nature enthusiasts. The island is referred to as the Galapagos of the Caribbean, because it is home to some unique flora and fauna.
About Isla de Mona
Isla de Mona is uninhabited and a large nature reserve where people can go for a day. Especially people who love the idea of being on a secluded island or want to explore caves or the underwater world will find what they are looking for on Isla de Mona.
The island is situated about 40 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico and measures only 4 to 6 miles. Another fun fact about the location of the island, is that is it close to the deepest trench of the Atlantic.
Biologist love Isla de Mona as it is home to endangered species such as turtles and iguanas. Travelers who wish to go to the island need a permit.
Isla de Mona History
It is believed that the island was populated since the 12th century by the Taino. They lived in caves and used rock tools to survive.
Christopher Columbus was commissioned by the Spanish royal family to search for a sea route to the eastern spice islands. Unexpectedly, in 1492 he discovered the unknown continent of America.
During his second voyage in 1494, Columbus made a note of the island of Mona, near Puerto Rico. The island, approximately fifty square kilometers, was in a crucial position on the route between Europe and South America.
The island consists largely of chalk cliffs with underground corridors. These rocks contain fresh water, which suited the ships passing by. Drinking water was indispensable during a sea voyage and this island soon became an important stop for the Spaniards.
At the same time – in 1494 – one or more indigenous tribes lived on the coast of Mona. The island was a day’s canoe ride from the islands of Hispaniola (Now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico, and the population was part of a vast tribal network of hundreds of thousands of people, from the Bahamas to the Lesser Antilles.
They tilled small areas of land for agriculture, especially cassava roots, raised livestock, and hunted game and fish. They made bread from the cassava and the inhabitants immediately responded to the need for fresh water and food for European travelers.
With the arrival of the Spanish settlements, the indigenous tribes expanded their exports and supplied finished goods such as cotton garments and hammocks.
Isla de Mona Weather
The best time to visit Isla de Mona island is from November to April. It is winter in the Caribbean, when the chance of precipitation is also the smallest and, moreover, it is cooler and less oppressively warm than in summer. There is a risk of hurricanes in the months of August and September.
Isla de Mona has a tropical climate with an average temperature of about 86ºF (30ºC) all year round. In the summer months from July to October it is a few degrees warmer than in the other months.
Autumn is dominated by the hurricane season, which can lead to turbulent days with wind, golf, thunder and lots of rain. During the winter months, the weather cools and the tropical wind also dies down.
Isla de Mona Facts
Isla de Mona is the third largest island of the Puerto Rico archipelago, a group of islands that is often referred to as The Galapagos of the Caribbean. The Mona Ground iguana is part of the rock lizard family and is endemic to Isla de Mona.
The island of Mona is one of the most rocky areas in the world. There are two hundred caves on the small island, seventy of which have been explored since 2013.
Thousands of indigenous cave drawings have been found in thirty caves, which means that Mona has the largest variety of indigenous cave art in the entire Caribbean. Illuminated with torches, the native residents carved the images into the soft limestone walls with their fingernails, it turns out.
Hundreds of meters underground, they depict ancestor figures, meandering waves and other geometric patterns.
What To Do in Isla de Mona
Not many tour operators offer tours to Isla de Mona and as a result the islands welcomes a small number of travelers. Actually, only 100 visitors are allowed at one time as the island is part of a natural reserve.
They come here to enjoy the pristine beaches, explore the coral reefs and caves and spot unique wildlife. Also the caves are home to some historical petroglyphs, dating back from the time Tainos lived here.
The coral reefs around the island make it a popular diving location for those who travel in the Caribbean. However, to go diving you need a permit from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Also transport to the island is difficult to arrange and your best chance is to book a dive boat operator. The site itself is worth the dive, but be careful as on some locations there are strong currents.
Isla de Mona is home to several caves that were used as homes by the former native Taino. Some estimate that there are about 200 caves on Isla de Mona. Lots of them include artwork made by the Taino and the Spanish conquistadors. Some popular caves include Mona Island cave and Cueva Diamanta.
Isla de Mona is secluded and isolated. This makes it one of the best places in the Caribbean to gaze at the stars.
Sometimes the best activity on an island like Mona is to just enjoy the solitude. The island in uninhabited, but it is allowed to camp if you apply for a permit. Several tour operators offer camping trips to the island. As the island is hard to get to on your own, this is your best option.
Deep sea fishing
Nothing beats the experience of fishing for shark, kingfish or barracuda while you are in the Caribbean. Charter your own boat or book a tour. The best option is to hire a boat with captain as they often know where the best locations are to go deep sea fishing.
Isla de Mona Attractions
Some believe that the lighthouse dating back from 1886 was designed by Gustave Eiffel, known for having designed the Eiffel Tower. But that’s not the case. It was the Spanish engineer Rafael Ravena that designed the structure.
This is the most accessible beach on Isla de Mona. It is also here where you will find the rangers who enforce the strict rules of the nature reserve. Other beaches include Playa Pajaros and Playa Mujeres. These are connected to each other via trails.
As mentioned before, the island Mona is home to hundreds of caves that were inhabited in the past. There are still tracks of this history as lots of caves have pictograph paintings dating from the colonial period. There are drawings from both conquistadors as the native Taino.
Caja de Muertos
Besides Isla Mona, Puerto Rico is surrounded by a few other small islands. One of them is Caja de Muertos. The island is protected as a nature reserve for its turtles that lay their eggs there. The four beaches of the island are all equally beautiful. These are Playa Larga, Carrucho, Pelicano and Coast Guard. There is a regular ferry from La Guancha to this beautiful island.
Tibes Ceremonial Center
Isla de Mona used to be inhabited by the native Taino indians. If you like to go back in time to see how these people lived before the time of Christopher Columbus, you should definitely visit the Tibes Ceremonial Center in Barrio Portugues.
This place is in the municipality of Ponce, which is in the south of Puerto Rico. The Tibes Ceremonial Center is one of the most important Indian places in the Caribbean Islands. The history mainly concerns that of the Igneri and the Taíno people.
The houses from that time made of reed and straw are scattered here and there. There is a museum where much is shared about this pre-Columbian time.
Isla de Mona Accommodation
There are no accommodations on the island. The island is often visited as a day trip from Puerto Rico. Camping is allowed for a maximum of three nights, but you need a permit and be full self-sufficient.
Travelers who are looking for a more comfortable stay, will have to look on the island Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico you have a wide choice of accommodation, from historic hotels in the capital San Juan to luxury resorts with beautiful beaches and excellent service. You can stay in a charming bed and breakfast or a parador, a traditional, small, family-run hotel.
Outdoor enthusiasts can indulge in glamping in a nature reserve and backpackers and low budget travelers can stay in a guesthouse or hostel in Puerto Rico.
Isla de Mona makes a perfect day trip from Puerto Rico for travelers who love nature and want to have a Robinson Crusoe experience.