While on a road trip in Puerto Rico, my family stopped in a small town called Naguabo to see an island I read about while planning our visit. Riddled with old homes all close together, this town looks abandoned. In front of the houses, however, lies a sidewalk, a wall, and the sea. Soon after we arrived in Naguabo, there seemed to be a street market going on– local families were selling necklaces, hammocks, sweet treats, instruments, and handmade decorations. We walked by each little hut and ended up buying a güiro (a classic Latin American instrument) that was handmade right in front of us by an old man.
Later, we looked for the parking garage where we were supposed to go to in order to meet a man named Frank. After poring through internet sites and books about Puerto Rico, I found this man’s business. I read that Frank, who goes by “Captain Paco,” takes small groups to a close-by island called Cayo Santiago (AKA Monkey Island). This island is home to the University of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Primate Research Center. What interested me most about Captain Paco’s ad was that his trip included snorkeling. So I called him.
“Another beautiful day in paradise! This is Paco,” he answered. We were already excited. We chose a date and time with him and now he sitting in his boat, waiting for us. We hopped in, eager to see what was to come.
Getting ready to go
His boat, La Paseadora, was spacious and comfortable. Captain Paco came well prepared, too: he brought conch shells to call the monkeys, a large sandwich for us to share, some musical instruments, and full snorkeling gear. On the way to the key, he told us a little bit about himself (he’s retired from the Coast Guard) and the history of the island. The island itself is off limits to humans, since there are a bunch of monkeys living there. Anyway, as soon as Captain Paco anchored the boat, we saw the monkeys walking around. I was impressed by the monkeys, since I imagined they would be up in trees the whole time we were there.
The first monkey we saw
Paco gave us shoes and snorkel gear, then we jumped in and swam to a nearby ship wreck. It isn’t huge like you see in movies or TV ads, but it’s visible and there are fish there. It was nice to relax in the sea and swim with the little fish. We watched them swarm the small chunks of bread we threw in their direction, then quickly swam away :). When we got tired, we took turns kayaking closer to the island. At a certain point, we got off the kayak to walk in the crystal clear water where patches of white sand were surrounded by sea grass teeming with life. We even saw a jelly fish, to which my mom yelled, in the spur of the moment, “Look, a jelly bean!” Before we took off for the mainland, Captain Paco let us get on top of the boat, my dad pulled the anchor in, and we all played instruments.
Part of the ship wreck
Another beautiful day in paradise it was.
Travel Tip #1: Never back out too early.
To contact Captain Paco for reservations, call him at 787-850-7881 or 787-316-0441.