The most prominent land feature your eyes naturally drift off towards when you’re looking at the ocean as your driving in and around Ponce is that strange island off in the distance to the south. It’s just out there – calling you and beckoning you to go and visit. If you really look at the island, you’ll see its formation looks exactly like a person is lying horizontally on top of the water. You can clearly see a “head,” a “body,” and the extension all the way to the “toes.” We’re assuming that’s why the island is called Caja De Muertos – or Dead Man’s Coffin because from afar it does look like someone is resting in peace. When I finally went to the island and explored it for ourselves, it was indeed a peaceful tropical paradise that cannot be missed!
While Ponce is not known for its beaches, in my opinion that is a significant omission because probably the best beach in the entire island resides just a few miles south of the coast. Caja De Muertos is this crown jewel of the cays along the south shore. It’s a bit of planning and a sense of adventure to get here, but worth the effort! It’s an easy day trip, that will leave you pleasurably exhausted by the end of the day.
The Ferry – Getting Here
To get here, you must PRE-BOOK with Island Ventures – a company that manages the ferry boat rides to the island. You have a couple of options to pre-book your reservation, and thankfully you can also do it online now. They take reservation phone calls Tuesdays-Saturdays from 10:00AM-7:00PM, but good luck because sometimes it takes pure luck to get an answer. The good news is that they have an online reservation system where you can see dates of availability.
Once you set up your reservation, the next order of business the day of your excursion to Caja De Muertos is to wake up early that day as the ferry operators require you to be at La Guancha Marina by 8:30AM sharp. They allow about 100 people per ferry ride, which is a great thing in the sense that the island beach will not be super crowded, but which also means they have to process over 100 people to get on the ferry and help with their coolers, etc. So make sure you wake up early, go to the grocery store with time and paitence, and fill your cooler with all the food and drinks you’re going to need for the day.
Even though the ferry sometimes sells some food and drinks, its best if you stock up on basic necessities for the day such as mosquito repellent, garbage bags, sunscreen, and everything you’ll think you’ll need for the day. You will be on the island from roughly 9:30 AM till about 3:30PM. Depending on your cooler size, you may be charged an additional $5 to bring it on the ferry but it’s worth it in our opinion.
The ferry ride is comfortable itself, and provides you a 45 minute trip to get to the island. In our opinion, nothing starts the day off better than spending a good 45 minutes on a boat in the ocean with a perfect destination on the horizon. Once there, you bring your gear and pick out one of the picnic shaded pavilions to set up “your spot.” There’s great options to choose from so don’t worry. There’s also bathroom facilities and changing rooms if you desire. The rest is up to you what you want to do with the 6 hours you have here.
Exploring Dead Man’s Coffin
The best times to visit Caja De Muertos is during late spring/early fall – as its not as hot – but keep in mind you can come here year round and have a blast. The island is a perfect and majestic way to spending the day relaxing at the beautiful coral blue waters (blue flag beach), or hiking along the cactus trail to a breathtaking view from the lighthouse. The views from the lighthouse provide the best postcard photo opportunities, and it’s a view you’ll probably never forget in your lifetime. It’s that good. You can also hike to a small cave (Almedia Cave), check out the beach where turtles nest, or snorkel. Our guess is that you can do a little of everything today to get a sense and feel of the island. We did a little of all of the above, and then hung out at the picturesque beach with the cliffs as a backdrop drinking our drinks and just taking it all in.
By the time 3:30PM comes around and you hear the ferry’s signal for us to board, you wonder how 6 hours could possibly go so fast? The day and experience is spectacular to say the least, and for $25 it’s a bargain. We also hear stories that this island was once a place where the secret society of Freemasons met, so that just makes this place that much more intriguing to check out. There’s another tour company that provides a bit of a different experience around the island – one in which you could snorkel much more and explore the caves and surrounding sea shell beach by kayak.
However, we strongly recommend the day trip to this perfect oasis. Once you get back on the ferry, you can relax as you make your way back to La Guancha Bayside Boardwalk in Ponce. Once there at around 4:15PM, you can have even more local food and drinks and enjoy the rest of the day as the sun sets. Nothing gets better than this on the island of Puerto Rico in our opinion!
Directions: (Click on link)
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” – Chief Tecumseh