Isla Piñero located southeast of Fajardo

Isla Piñero located southeast of Fajardo

Puerto Rico is a small, mountainous island that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is the smallest of the Greater Antilles and its location lies between the two Americas. It has a number of islands, cays, and islets that have an area defined and limited to certain available resources, natural areas, and habitats of great value for wildlife.

Island– is a piece of land, rather large, that is surrounded by sea.

Islet– is a smaller piece of land that is surrounded by sea.

Cay– is a sterile portion of land that protrudes from the surface of the water.

Desecheo Island
Located about 21 kilometers to the west of Puerto Rico, in the northeastern region of the Mona Passage. Its territory covers 1.2 square kilometers. It is mountainous and arid with thorny bushes, small trees, and weeds covered in cactus. There are monkeys and wild goats on the island. Exuberant marine life abounds off the coast. Coral reefs, rocky coastlines, and marine caves are some of its attractions. Today, Desecheo is accessed by small fishing vessels and is in custody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cayo Ratones
Located west of Joyuda. Its territory covers 0.99 acres. It is covered in Australian pines and is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Cayo Ratones has a small beach and recreation area, used for day trips, swimming, and scuba diving. In its calm and clear waters we see coral reefs of impressive development.

Mona Island
Located approximately 73.6 kilometers from the west coast of Puerto Rico, it is closer to the coast of the Dominican Republic than to our island. It is in the shape of a broad bean and measures approximately 10.9 kilometers long and 6.8 kilometers wide. Its area is approximately 13,639 acres. It is predominantly a limestone plateau surrounded by cliffs that are interrupted by strips of beach. It has a dry climate. There is a wide variety of common trees, several species of poisonous shrubs, and thorny scrub on the island. In Mona Island we can see varied and diverse fauna; the Mona Island Rhinoceros iguana is the main tourist attraction. Mona is now a nature reserve in the custody of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. The waters around Mona have a wide variety of coral reefs, crustaceans, and marine turtles.

Monito
Located 5 kilometers northwest of the island of Mona. Its entire coast is composed of cliffs that reach about 200 feet high. It has an extremely diverse flora and fauna for such a small area. The upper plateau is used by a large number of birds for nesting (magnificent frigatebird, pelicans, white-tailed tropicbird, booby, yellow-shouldered blackbird and several species of gulls). The waters that border this island have unmatched marine life. Today, Monito is part of the Mona Island Nature Reserve and is designated as a critical habitat.

Magueyes
Located south of La Parguera. It has a size of approximately 24.72 acres. Among its natural attractions are mangrove swamps, coral reefs, and rock formations. This island has the facilities of the Marine Sciences Department of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez. Magueyes is home to a large colony of lizards.

Caja de Muertos
Located in the southwest of Punta Pastillo. It is 2.75 kilometers long by 1.85 kilometers wide. The existing vegetation is typical of a semi-arid climate, with many thorny coastal weeds and cacti. Located at the highest promontory of the island is a lighthouse. Caja de Muertos is a nature reserve under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Among its natural attractions are sandy beaches, coral reefs, underwater seagrass, mangrove swamps, rocky coasts, dry forest, caves, and nesting areas for birds and sea turtles. Caja de Muertos has facilities such as areas for swimmers, picnics, sidewalks, dock, and surveillance stand.

Cayo Berbería
Located to the northeast about 5.5 kilometers from Caja de Muertos island. It measures 1.5 kilometers long and 200 meters wide. It is part of the Caja de Muertos island nature reserve. Cayo Berberia is covered in a bulky vegetation of red mangrove and inland it is interspersed with white mangrove. It is considered a mangrove islet. It has a high density and diversity of fish. Turtles and manatees have been seen in areas near the cay.

Cayo Caribe
Located south of Punta Pozuelo. This is a series of 15 islets populated by mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. They originate in Punta Pozuelo and end in Boca del Infierno. Cayo Caribe is part of the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. These islets serve as habitat for several endangered species such as the brown pelican, manatees, and hawksbill sea turtle.

Cayo Santiago
Located to the east of Puerto Rico in Humacao. Cayo Santiago has a size of approximately 37.07 acres. The University of Puerto Rico has a population of research monkeys on this cay. Among the natural attractions there are coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and short herbaceous vegetation.

Culebra
Located approximately 27.4 kilometers east of Puerto Rico and 14.5 kilometers north of Vieques island. Culebra has a size of approximately 30.1 Km2. Culebra is a subtropical dry island where semi-arid vegetation predominates. The waters around Culebra are highly crystalline. Its coral reefs represent one of the least disturbed and healthiest ecosystems in Puerto Rico. The island has an irregular topography in which small hills predominate. A large portion of islets, rocks, and cays are not open to the public. White sand beaches, crystal clear water reefs, cays, and islets are some of the natural attractions that this island offers its visitors.

Vieques
Located 6 miles southwest of Puerto Rico. Vieques measures 20 miles long by 4.5 miles at its widest point. It is the largest island. Its topography is characterized by a range of mountains or hills of low altitude and small valleys. Among its attractions are natural coral reefs, mangrove swamps, lagoons, bioluminescent bays, beaches of crystal clear waters and white sands. Much of Vieques was occupied by the United States Navy.

Piñero Island
Located to the east of Punta Medio Mundo. It has a size of approximately 327.45 acres. It is under the Navy’s jurisdiction and is part of the military facilities at Roosevelt Roads.

Culebrita
Located northwest of Culebra. Culebrita`s territory covers approximately 265.67 acres and it is one of the largest and most diverse islands in the Culebra island archipelago. Among its natural attractions are beach areas, extensive forests, lakes, and rocky cliffs. Culebrita has a lighthouse built by the Spanish government. The island is in custody of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cayo Norte
Located north of Culebra. It has a size of approximately 321.27 acres. Its vegetation is semi-arid. Its crystal clear waters provide favorable conditions for marine life and recreational boating. Cayo Norte serves as a natural nesting refuge for species of seabirds, turtles, several species of fish and lobsters. It is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.

Cayo Icacos
Located east of Fajardo. Icacos has a size of approximately 158.16 acres. It is part of a chain of cays, islands, and coral reefs that are collectively known as the Cordillera nature reserve. Cayo Icacos is very active in sports and recreation: swimming, fishing, scuba diving, and camping. Many seabirds, turtles, lizards, and boas have been seen. Cayo Icacos is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

Palomino
Located to the east of Punta Fajardo. It has a size of approximately 100.83 acres. It is one of several private islands that exist in Puerto Rico. Today, it has great recreational activity. South of Palomino is Palominito Cay. They are both part of the Cordillera natural reserve. Coral reefs, seagrass beds, and rocky coast species are among the natural attractions found in Palomino island and Palominito cay.

Credits
Editing: Víctor M. Suárez Zapata

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: August 27, 2014.

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