How do I always end up with places like this to myself?

Isla Caja de Muertos

Playa Pelicanos on Isla Caja de Muertos Nature Reserve. The ferry dock has service from Ponce.

Because I was there on a Tuesday? Yes, most of the locals were back to work after the weekend, but that still doesn’t explain where the other sailboats were. Not that I’m complaining. Isla Caja de Muertos, or “Coffin Island”, is an uninhabited nature reserve on the south coast of Puerto Rico, about six miles from Ponce.  Don’t be spooked by the name.  I spent one night here on my way to Salinas, where, to answer my previous question, I found the rest of the cruising fleet jammed into the mangrove anchorage.

Isla Caja de Muertos

Isla Caja de Muertos lighthouse

The old lighthouse on Isla Caja de Muertos was built by the Spanish in 1877 and is now maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Isla Caja de Muertos is about a mile and a half long and barely a half mile wide. Visitors arrive at the ferry dock on the south end of the island, where there is a visitor’s complex with picnic gazebos and a museum explaining the natural history of the island. Also here is Playa Pelicanos, a small pristine beach with designated swimming area. On the other side of the isthmus is a reef snorkeling park, though this is exposed to the Caribbean Sea and conditions need to be favorable for snorkeling. A pathway lined with tall pipe cactus leads north out of the visitor’s complex up to the Caja de Muertos lighthouse, built by the Spanish in 1877. This lighthouse has fallen into disrepair and is now more of a “beacon” maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. It makes for some interesting exploring and photographs, and offers great views of the small island.


Isla Caja de Muertos was awarded the “Blue Flag”, an eco-award given to beaches and marinas meeting certain criteria. This is an international award with more than 46 participating nations. Caja de Muertos won the honors for having clean water, environmental education programs, excellent environmental management, and exceptional safety standards & services. The water is tested for bacteria every 14 days, and visitors can view the results on an information board near the beach. In the museum, visitors are educated about reef management, responsible boating practices, and native species of the island to include hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtles. A number of free moorings are also available to protect the seabed from anchors. All of these things make Isla Caja de Muertos Nature Reserve a great example for other beaches to follow and a quality place to visit, either by sailboat or ferry from Ponce.

Isla Caja de Muertos dock

The old dock at Playa Pelicanos on Isla Caja de Muertos Nature Reserve.

Have you been to any other “Blue Flag” beaches?  Find one near you at  Sorry to those in the continental United States, you’re a little behind, but that’s a great excuse to catch up!

Gallery (Click the image to open in a new window)


Isla Caja de Muertos

The lighthouse on Isla Caja de Muertos awaiting nightfall.


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