Are There Alligators in Puerto Rico? (2023 Updated) (2023)

You won’t find an alligator in Puerto Rico, but you will see many caimans.

Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean that is also a US territory.

The caiman, which is a close cousin to the alligator by way of the crocodilian family, has lived on the island since the 1950s.

This is when the species was introduced to the island.

Find out what the caimans mean in terms of the potential for alligators to be in Puerto Rico.

Are There Alligators in Puerto Rico? (2023 Updated) (1)


  • So… Are There Alligators in Puerto Rico?
  • Alligator Species in Puerto Rico
  • Is that an Alligator or a Caiman?
  • Is it Safe to Swim in Puerto Rico?
  • Interesting Alligator Facts in Puerto Rico
  • Alligators vs. Crocodiles
  • 3 Safety Tips for Swimming in Alligator-infested Waters
    • Stay Out of Freshwater
    • 2. Be Alert at All Times
    • 3. Run if Attacked
  • Summary
  • Frequently Asked Questions
    • Where are there Camainsin Puerto Rico?
    • What is the most dangerous type of caiman?
    • What is Operation Crocodile?
    • Has anyone ever died from an alligator attack in Puerto Rico?

So… Are There Alligators in Puerto Rico?

It is true, you will not see a single alligator when you are in Puerto Rico.

But you will certainly be fooled as there are about 1,000 known caiman crocodiles to have made their home on the island.

This is because of human propagation of the species, as the caiman and other crocodiles and alligators do not have any connection to Puerto Rico.

Even though Puerto Rico is an island, and reptiles live in the water, that does not mean alligators live in Puerto Rico.

The biggest reason why they do not is that no one has tried to breed gators there commercially or legally.

Additionally, there is a lack of food available for larger reptiles.

As we will cover in a moment, the diet habits of alligators involve much more bulk compared to the needs of much smaller caiman.

Therefore, even though the weather and waters are well suited for alligators to take up a residence on this Caribbean island, Puerto Rico is alligator-free.

Alligator Species in Puerto Rico

There are no known alligator species in Puerto Rico.

However, there are known crocodile species on the island.

These include:

  • Spectacled caiman
  • Common caiman
  • White caiman
  • Speckled caiman

The most common caiman is, ironically, called the common caiman.

But more exotic kinds like the caiman may also be found on the island.

For any other lesser-known types of this crocodilian, these would come from personal pet owners who have, for some reason, released the caimans into the wild.

(Video) SHOCKING Reasons You Should NEVER Move To Puerto Rico!

Is that an Alligator or a Caiman?

If you are in Puerto Rico and think you have spotted a caiman crocodile, here is what you want to look for in the identifying marks.

A caiman has a similar body shape and structure to that of an alligator.

But an alligator will have smoother textured skin in comparison to the rough-nosed caiman.

Additionally, a caiman has a very thin nose.

The nose of a caiman is more like a saw-nosed shark than the broad nose of a saltwater crocodile.

If you see an alligator, the nose will be wide and shaped like a U at the end.

Is it Safe to Swim in Puerto Rico?

Swimming in Puerto Rico is more than safe–it is part of the allure.

For starters, the island is a US territory that offers American travelers somewhere domestic to visit.

Puerto Rico is also in the middle of the Caribbean islands, which arefamous for their tropical paradise vibe.

The Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are equally exciting for surfing, scuba diving, and swimming when on the island.

As a result, you can anticipate having beaches and areas for tourists and locals to safely swim free of alligators.

The freshwater rivers and ponds are also safe for swimming, and there should not be a fear that you will find an alligator in your backyard pool.

However, there is always the slim chance that a caiman has climbed over the fence and is visiting instead.

So stay alert when entering outdoor watering holes and swimming beaches.

The biggest threats to swimming safely in Puerto Rico are the rip currents and tides.

Swimmers who are not sure about swimming in saltwater or ocean currents will be at the greatest risk.

Caution must be made for swimming at high tide or with strong rip currents.

Drowning from getting pulled under a super strong and unseen current is the most common threat to public safety when swimming in Puerto Rico.

Are There Alligators in Puerto Rico? (2023 Updated) (2)

Interesting Alligator Facts in Puerto Rico

The Caiman crocodile, a relative of the alligator, has become a full-time reptile on this island.

Even though caimans are not native to Puerto Rico, they fit right in.

Caimans are smaller than alligators, making them the right choice for dinosaur-like reptiles to have on the island.

(Video) Only in Florida: Video of HUGE gator in Lakeland goes viral

If you tried to breed alligators or saltwater crocodiles in Puerto Rico, you would have trouble finding them something to eat.

That is because Puerto Rico is a small island with no large mammals, such as cows or horses.

Alligators and crocodiles would be forced to eat any of the 200 species of birds, along with beetles, crabs, and mice–like the caiman has been found to eat.

This would be too harsh for any crocodilian larger than a caiman to stomach.

A lack of food sources bigger than a mouse or bird means alligators have been starved out by natural selection.

Alligators vs. Crocodiles

In Puerto Rico, there are no alligators, but you will find a small type of crocodile.

This is the caiman, which was introduced to the natural habitats of the island in the 1950s.

Since then, due to breeding, pets, and animals released into the wild, there are multiple types of caimans in Puerto Rico.

These include the spectacled caiman and llamo caiman.

The difference between alligators and caiman crocodiles is that the caiman is in direct relation to the crocodile.

These both belong to the Crocodylidae family of animal species.

Alligators are a different type of reptile that is close but not within the same kind as the caiman.

Therefore, when you spot smaller-looking alligators in Puerto Rico, you are actually seeing caimans.

The differences between alligators and caiman crocodiles are that alligators are about six to 12 feet in length.

Caimans are much smaller at four to five feet long.

Also, the caiman can live in saltwater, as do some species of crocodiles, unlike the freshwater habits of alligators.

You will also see that the snout of the caiman is different from both alligators and crocodiles.

In Puerto Rico, the caiman has a snout that is small, narrow, and thin–more like a swordfish nose than the A-line snout of a crocodile.

An alligator has a broader snout in comparison to either of the two crocodile types.

3 Safety Tips for Swimming in Alligator-infested Waters

Find out what you need to do to stay safe when swimming in the waters in and around Puerto Rico.

Stay Out of Freshwater

The Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea are saltwater territories that could not possibly be home to alligators.

(Video) Alligator swims toward woman, tries to bite paddleboard at Central Florida park

That is because alligators need fresh water to live and breed in.

In order to swim in alligator-infested waters in Puerto Rico, you would have to be in a pond, lake, or river.

Therefore, if you stick to the ocean, you will not have to deal with alligators at all.

Now, saltwater crocodiles, on the other hand, that’s a different tale, as these much-larger reptiles can easily navigate the seas.

2. Be Alert at All Times

Do not let down your guard when swimming in Puerto Rico.

Even though you are less likely to encounter an alligator, there are caimans.

Caimans are a smaller but similar version of the alligator.

You could be swimming with caimans instead of alligators, which can lead to the same disastrous results if you are attacked.

3. Run if Attacked

Alligators are territorial, and the water is their backyard.

Get too close and like anyone with “property rights,” alligators will start snapping at you.

If this happens, and you are accidentally in the swimming pool of a gator, get out of there as fast as possible.

Speed is the only thing that will save you in this case.


The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, between the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands, is home to many types of crocodiles, including caimans.

However, you will not spy a single alligator in the freshwaters of this island.

If you were to see an alligator, though, it would have to be inland in a water source without saline, as alligators cannot live in the oceans and seas around Puerto Rico.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are there Camainsin Puerto Rico?

There are a few types of caiman, which are a smaller version of the crocodile and alligator, in Puerto Rico.

The spectacled caiman has been living on the Caribbean island for more than 50 years.

The caiman is primarily found in the Tortuguero Lagoon Natural Reserve and is an apex predator of local species.

(Video) We almost got bit by an Alligator 😳😭 .. Puerto Rico Vlog ❤️‍🔥

However, Puerto Rico has no large mammals, according to a scientific study regarding the prey of the caimans on the island.

Therefore, there are limited predators larger than the caiman that would attack it.

What is the most dangerous type of caiman?

The most dangerous caiman in South America is the black caiman.

This caiman could potentially be a threat to the species of caimans, as well as humans, in Puerto Rico, if it were introduced to the island.

The caiman is larger than normal caimans, measuring an average of eight feet in length.

The black caiman is also more deadly when threatened, similar to the way a saltwater crocodile or alligator behaves when someone is in their territory.

What is Operation Crocodile?

In February 2019, CBS News reported Operation Crocodile is a “multimillion-dollar drug trafficking ring in Puerto Rico [that] is linked to more than a dozen killings.”

The reason why it is called Operation Crocodile is that the drug dealers involved were using caimans, which are a type of crocodile, to dispose of human bodies.

An undisclosed and unknown number of victims have evidently been fed to caimans in Puerto Rico.

Has anyone ever died from an alligator attack in Puerto Rico?

To date, there have been no deaths from an alligator in Puerto Rico.

Caimans, on the other hand, are a different story, as you are about to find out.

This means a relative reptile has attacked and caused the death of humans in Puerto Rico.

Therefore, if alligators were living in Puerto Rico, they would be likely to fatally attack humans if threatened.

Additional Resources

  • Are There Alligators in Massachusetts?
  • Are There Alligators in Compass Lake?
  • Are There Sharks in Puerto Rico?
  • Are There Alligators in the Philippines?
  • Are There Alligators in Lake Hartwell?
  • 15 Pros and Cons of Living in Puerto Rico


Is there alligators in Puerto Rico? ›

In Puerto Rico, there are no alligators, but you will find a small type of crocodile. This is the caiman, which was introduced to the natural habitats of the island in the 1950s. Since then, due to breeding, pets, and animals released into the wild, there are multiple types of caimans in Puerto Rico.

Where are the alligators in Puerto Rico? ›

The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) was introduced to Puerto Rico over 50 years ago with the Tortuguero Lagoon Natural Reserve (TLNR) as its epicenter, where it is now established as an apex predator.

Could alligators survive in the Rio Grande River? ›

There are plenty of alligators at the Las Palomas Wildlife Area where the Rio Grande empties into the gulf coast. Alligators like coastal areas with warm fresh water, so the river there is a great habitat. As you go inland along the Rio Grande, the alligators get fewer in number.

Are there crocodiles in San Juan Puerto Rico? ›

Although crocodiles are not native reptiles to Puerto Rico, there are some species around the island. They were brought here as pets in the 1960s and released into the wilderness when they grew too big. The most popular reptile is the speckled caiman, whose main area of residence is near the Tortuguero Lagoon.

Is it safe to swim in Puerto Rico water? ›

☁️ Rip tides and swimming conditions – Many famous beaches in Puerto Rico are dangerous to swim in for their rip tides. Beaches like Playa Peña in Old San Juan and Playa Jobos in Isabela are home to numerous drowning incidents every year.

Are the beaches safe to swim in Puerto Rico? ›

Unfortunately, there are many beaches in Puerto Rico where rip currents regularly occur. The very waves that make for great surfing and boogie boarding, can also be deadly. Beaches on the north, east and west coasts can be big problems, and a sadly number of people drown each year.

Is it safe to swim in San Juan Puerto Rico? ›

FAQs About the Best Beaches of San Juan

San Juan sports great beaches for visitors to refresh themselves like Condado Beach, Escambron Beach, and Isla Verde Beach, but visitors should be aware of rip currents and avoid getting into the water if waves are too strong.

Does Puerto Rico have saltwater crocodiles? ›

The crocodiles are believed to be the descendants of pets brought to the island in the 1960s and are now flourishing in the estuary, which is surrounded by more than 500,000 people. Most common is the spectacled caiman, a native of Central and South America that can grow to more than 6 feet (2 meters).

What island is filled with alligators? ›

Ramree Island
Ramree Island ရမ်းဗြဲကျွန်း
DivisionRakhine State
• Total1,350 km2 (520 sq mi)
6 more rows

Which is the most alligator infested river in world? ›

With an average of 75 crocodiles per square mile, the Tárcoles River in Costa Rica is the perfect setting for the world's highest concentration of crocodiles.

Is it safe to swim in alligator infested waters? ›

Do not allow your dogs or children to swim in waters inhabited by alligators, or to drink or play at the water's edge. To an alligator, a splash potentially means a food source is in the water. It is best to avoid swimming in areas that are known habitats for large alligators but at the least, never swim alone.

Will alligators go in the ocean? ›

There are many things you may encounter when swimming in the ocean. Alligators probably aren't one of them. While alligators can tolerate salt water for a few hours or even days, they are primarily freshwater animals, living in swampy areas, rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.

Where not to swim in Puerto Rico? ›

Condado Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico

A lot of people write on Trip Advisor that Condado Beach is "very nice but very dangerous." Big waves, strong underflow, and rip currents scare people away.

What to avoid in San Juan Puerto Rico? ›

Neighborhoods to avoid in San Juan Puerto Rico
  • Earth Gate.
  • Palomas Park.
  • Pinions.
  • new Port.
  • river stones.
  • Santurce (only the South part and Juntas)
  • Vega Baja.
  • Louis Lloren Torres.
Feb 13, 2023

Is it safe to walk around San Juan Puerto Rico? ›

San Juan is generally a safe destination for tourists. While the crime rate is higher than in some other Puerto Rico cities, violent crime rarely affects visitors.

Where is the clearest water in Puerto Rico? ›

Where is the clearest water in Puerto Rico? The beaches with the clearest waters in Puerto Rico include Tortuga Beach in Culebrita, Playa Pelícano in Caja de Muerto, Playa Caracas in Vieques, Cayo Aurora, Icacos Beach, and Gilligan's Island.

What is the best month to swim in Puerto Rico? ›

Best time to visit Puerto Rico for beaches

The North Coast of Puerto Rico has beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Between April and June, the water will be warm and inviting. It's not yet hurricane season, and the weather is mild enough to plan a full day at the beach.

What is the safest beach in Puerto Rico? ›

Due to its shallow and calm waters, swimming in Luquillo Beach is super safe. Plus, the on-site kiosks serving fresh seafood and local dishes make it a great spot to sample Puerto Rico's best food while relaxing beachside. It's easily one of the best family beaches in Puerto Rico.

Do you have to be careful about the water in Puerto Rico? ›

Yes! Tap water in Puerto Rico is potable, meaning it is safe to drink and use. I grew up in Puerto Rico, and all of the water provided by the Island's aqueduct, Puerto Rico's Water and Sewage Authority, is potable (that's 97% of the island).

What is the nicest beach area in Puerto Rico? ›

To help you plan your next visit to the island, we put together a list of 10 best beaches in Puerto Rico.
  • Luquillo Beach. Walter Bibikow/Getty Images. ...
  • Sun Bay Beach. Per Breiehagen/Getty Images. ...
  • Jobos Beach. Christian Ouellet/Getty Images. ...
  • Tortuga Beach. ...
  • Sandy Beach. ...
  • Icacos. ...
  • Ocean Park Beach. ...
  • Escambrón Beach.
Dec 3, 2022

Is it safe to drink faucet water in Puerto Rico? ›

Both the CDC and World Health Organization say that Puerto Rico's drinking water is generally safe to drink. Travel advisors expand on that, pointing out that as a territory of the United States Puerto Rico must meet the same standards for drinking water as the States do.

Is Aguadilla Puerto Rico safe? ›

Aguadilla is one of the safest places for tourists in Puerto Rico. The Aguadilla City Police works with Puerto Rico State Police to keep people in Aguadilla safe.

Are there poisonous snakes in Puerto Rico? ›

The Puerto Rican Racer is the second largest Puerto Rican snake, and its venomous bite is mildly poisonous.

Are there scorpions in Puerto Rico? ›

Spiders and scorpions: Like most islands, Puerto Rico has a high number of spiders, including the brown recluse. It also has a healthy population of scorpions. Scorpions won't kill you, but their bite is painful.

Are there monkeys in Puerto Rico? ›

The Rhesus Macaque is the only monkey in Puerto Rico and instead of being a New World monkey, it is an Old World species.

Does Padre Island have alligators? ›

Although there are wild alligators around South Padre Island, they rarely wander into the surfside areas, where beachgoers swim and enjoy the coast.

Where is the alligator capital of the world? ›


Gatorland has been said to be the "alligator capital of the world" and while I am not an alligator expert, they do live up to that title in my eyes.

Which island has the most crocodiles? ›

Ramree, a particular island off the coast of Myanmar, is home to thousands of crocodiles. The most crocodile-infested swamp in the world was on Ramree Island, a part of Myanmar.

What alligator has killed the most humans? ›

Gustave (crocodile)
A photograph of Gustave for National Geographic, taken by Martin Best
SpeciesCrocodylus niloticus (Nile crocodile)
Hatchedc. 1955 (age 67–68)
Known forAllegedly killing up to 200 people
2 more rows

Which US state has the most alligator attacks? ›

The state of Florida, where most attacks and deaths occur, began keeping records of alligator attacks in 1948.

Which 2 states have the most alligators? ›

Louisiana and Florida have the largest alligator populations—there are more than one million wild alligators in each state. Although alligators can be found in ponds, lakes, canals, rivers, swamps, and bayous in Louisiana, they are most common in our coastal marshes.

What are alligators most afraid of? ›

Alligators have a natural fear of humans, and usually begin a quick retreat when approached by people. If you have a close encounter with an alligator a few yards away, back away slowly. It is extremely rare for wild alligators to chase people, but they can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances on land.

Is it safe to kayak in alligator waters? ›

I would stay away from it. At least until you know for sure it is not someone's home. A mother alligator might quickly chase you out of that area. On the other side of that, I have encountered mother gators in heavily used kayak trails like the Turner River in Big Cypress.

What to do if an alligator is in your pool? ›

You should never handle an alligator, even a small one, because alligator bites can result in serious infection and it's illegal. If there's an alligator under 4 feet in your swimming pool, on your porch or in a similar situation, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

Can alligators climb trees? ›

Crocodiles and alligators can -- and do -- climb trees. “Climbing behavior is common among crocodilians,” reads a new study in Herpetology Notes.

Does Myrtle Beach have alligators? ›

Are there alligators in Myrtle Beach? The American Alligator is a fascinating creature found in many parts of South Carolina, including the Myrtle Beach area. These reptiles are an important part of the state's natural ecosystem, and visitors can often see them in retention ponds, state parks, and even on the beach.

Can alligators and crocodiles mate? ›

And no, crocs and alligators can't interbreed. Florida already has more non-native amphibians and reptiles than any region worldwide, according to the UF paper, published April 30 in Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

Where in Puerto Rico is safest from hurricanes? ›

For the small size of Puerto Rico, hurricanes affect the entire island, regardless of the hurricane category. If a hurricane passes far to the north or the south, the outer rainbands might affect only one part of the island, and depending on the route, the west coast might be the safest.

Why can't you swim in lakes in Puerto Rico? ›

All of the Caribbean and that includes Puerto Rico has schistosomiasis in all lakes and standing water. There is no lake you can safely swim in, in Puerto RIco..

Is it safe to snorkel in Puerto Rico? ›

The absence of lifeguards means that you should swim at your own risk as you take in the beautiful coral formations. Thanks to the remote nature of the island, its waters are pristine as well as warm, shallow, and calm offering safe conditions to go snorkeling in Puerto Rico for kids and beginners.

Can you drink alcohol on the beach in Puerto Rico? ›

Note that the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18, but it is strictly forbidden to drink on the streets (the beach is fine).

Is Puerto Rico worth going to? ›

Puerto Rico's combination of rich history, colorful culture, astonishing scenery, immaculate attractions, warm people, and fascinating cities make this Caribbean gem a world-class destination.

Can you drive in Puerto Rico with a US license? ›

Visitors from the United States can use their driver's license to drive in Puerto Rico since the island is a territory of the United States. International visitors will need an International Driving Permit along with their country's license.

Can you walk around Old San Juan at night? ›

Take a romantic stroll in Old San Juan

And locals say it's especially lovely at night. Take a sunset stroll down the Paseo De La Princesa (locals say to be sure and see the beautiful Raices Fountain), wander along the neighborhood's blue cobblestones, or enjoy a craft cocktail at El Factoria.

What is the homicide rate in Puerto Rico? ›

Crime in the 2020s

There were 529 homicides in 2020 and 614 in 2019.

Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Puerto Rico? ›

Is Puerto Rico safe for female travelers? Puerto Rico is safe for solo travellers but as with anywhere just be careful at night. There have been instances of people being robbed so don't take valuables out if you don't need to prevent yourself from being a target.

Does Puerto Rico have snakes and alligators? ›

The island has no large native mammals, and its small mammals include bats and shrews. Although they are not native, mongooses also live in Puerto Rico. The island has a high number of amphibians and reptiles, including nonpoisonous snakes, lizards, frogs, and iguanas.

Can you swim in lakes in Puerto Rico? ›

There is no lake you can safely swim in, in Puerto RIco.. You CAN however swim in the rivers and waterfalls and pools at the higher elevations, where the water is rushing and not still.

Is it safe to swim in San Juan? ›

Can you swim in the ocean in San Juan? The best beaches for swimming are Playita del Condado, Escambron Beach, Pine Grove Beach in Isla Verde. Please do not swim at Condado Beach, and never leave your children unattended, very dangerous water but great for lounging.

What is the safest part of Puerto Rico to visit? ›

San Juan is the safest city for tourists in Puerto Rico. Although there are some dangerous areas, it features extensive public transportation, some of the best attractions in Puerto Rico, and beautiful beaches. Taking common precautions should be enough to stay safe.

Does Puerto Rico have monkeys? ›

The Rhesus Macaque is the only monkey in Puerto Rico and instead of being a New World monkey, it is an Old World species.

Are there crocodiles in El Yunque? ›

You will see a live display of caged snakes like the Puerto Rican Boa and a Python; Giant Monitor Lizards, native and exotic Ground Turtles, and even a small Caiman crocodile!

Is Isla Verde Beach safe to swim? ›

Isla Verde Beach is safe, yes. The biggest risk to tourists visiting the beach are petty theft and rip tides. When visiting the beach, if you plan to swim, it's best to leave valuables at your vacation rental, because unattended bags are easy targets.

Can tourists drink the water in Puerto Rico? ›

Is the water safe to drink? The food and drink standards in Puerto Rico are comparable to those of mainland United States. The tap water is safe to drink as it is filtered and treated at the source.


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