Puerto Rico is a beautiful US island in the middle of the Caribbean. It’s known for its gorgeous landscapes of mountain tops, misty waterfalls, white-sand beaches, and the green El Yunque Rainforest. But these provide plenty of hiding spaces for some seriously dangerous creatures.
Although Puerto Rico isn’t known for its threatening predators, there are a few wild things that could be potentially deadly. There are centipedes, snakes, and spiders in the forests, while sharks, lionfish, and jellies await in the ocean. And, although Puerto Rico is rather a safe holiday destination by most estimations, some animals could be harmful.
From small venomous insects crawling beneath your feet to large sea creatures and reptiles that you probably don’t want to meet, we’ve listed the nine most dangerous animals in Puerto Rico. Keep this guide handy when you travel!
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This creepy little animal, also known by its Latin name Scolopendra gigantea, crawls around certain parts of Puerto Rico. The giant centipede is a small, colorful insect found mainly in the wooded and forested parts of the island. And, thanks to its extremely painful bite, it’s considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in Puerto Rico, too.
Although the bite of the giant centipede can be agonizing and could potentially make you very sick, it’s usually not fatal. The venom only poses a minor life threat to little children, and it’s hard to find records of any fatalities in modern times. That said, the nasty sting would probably ruin your holiday!
It’s not easy to come across this small insect while traveling around the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Most people stick to the towns and the cities, like bustling San Juan and the surf areas of Rincon, but you probably have to venture into the forests and mountains to make their acquaintance.
Many of us suffer from arachnophobia, a fear of spiders. There is a good reason for it – they can bite! And the bad news is that there are lots of these eight-legged arachnids around Puerto Rico, and many of them can be dangerous.
The most dangerous of all is the brown recluse. It’s a fairly small spider with long legs and a brown torso. Although they are not very common, their bites could be potentially deadly. The good news is that they fear people and rarely attack them.
Other species of spiders in Puerto Rico include:
- The black widow – Their venom is potentially deadly to humans. They rarely bite people, only in self-defense.
- Common Puerto Rican brown tarantula – A small, nocturnal, hairy arachnid. Their bites are harmless.
- Banana spider – A shy spider that strays away from humans. Their bites are a little painful but not dangerous.
- Cave spider – A harmless, nocturnal spider that lives in caves.
- Tent cobweb weaver – Commonly found in homes. It rarely bites, and its venom isn’t harmful.
Like most tropical destinations, Puerto Rico has a healthy population of scorpions. There are seven species of these tiny stingers around the Caribbean island. Although there are many deadly scorpions around the world, the ones here aren’t thought to be quite as dangerous as others in, say, South Africa or Central America.
Although the sting of a Puerto Rican scorpion isn’t usually fatal, it is very nasty and can easily spoil a holiday. It all depends what genus of the species you encounter. Six of the seven scorpions here are tityus scorpions, which are harmful but rarely deadly. Then there’s the more dangerous bark scorpion, which has necessitated the stocking of antivenom on Puerto Rico.
Many people don’t encounter these little creatures when visiting Puerto Rico, but it’s not too hard to come by them. They can hide behind a curtain or a pillow in your hotel room, or be out in the wild. Make sure to check your sheets and clothes for scorpions if you want to avoid that painful sting.
Swimming in the ocean always brings the threat of meeting some of the scariest marine creatures in the world: Sharks. Puerto Rican waters are home to many species of sharks, but there were only two deadly shark incidents in the history of the US territory. Although fatal attacks are a rarity around the island, it’s impossible to ignore these beasts when talking about the most dangerous animals in Puerto Rico.
The good news is that most sharks in the area aren’t dangerous and don’t attack people. In fact, it’s quite rare for sharks to even get anywhere near the beaches here, so most days you can safely enjoy your swim. To stay on the safe side, though, it’s better to check for regular alerts.
The great white is considered one of the most aggressive sharks of all. It lives in the waters of all major oceans on the globe. That also includes the Caribbean around the Puerto Rican coast. Although it is unlikely that you’ll encounter the great white, it can’t be ruled out. And believe us, you wouldn’t like to be the unlucky one to come by one of those. Remember Jaws?
There are around ten different species of snake native to Puerto Rico. Luckily, most of them are neither venomous nor dangerous to humans. In fact, there is only one venomous snake in the region: The Puerto Rican racer.
Also known by its Latin name borikenophis portoricensis, it’s the second-largest snake in Puerto Rico. It only grows up to three feet long, is brown, and can be recognized by its neck hood, similar to that of a cobra. The racer, which mainly lives in the trees of the Toro Negro State Forest, has also been spotted in the El Yunque Rainforest. The venom of the racer isn’t deadly but can cause symptoms ranging from mild swelling to serious numbness and immobilization that could last for weeks.
Luckily, it’s unlikely that you’d get bitten by a snake in Puerto Rico, so that shouldn’t be your main concern. As a precaution, we’d recommend staying alert and wearing solid boots while hiking to avoid any nasty surprises.
Another marine creature that you won’t like to encounter while enjoying the warm waters of Puerto Rico is a lionfish. This small, colorful fish is covered in spiky, venomous fin rays. The most common type in the area is the red lionfish, also known as the zebrafish. And, although it isn’t native to the Caribbean Sea, it has become an invasive species there in recent years.
The red lionfish can grow up to 18.5 inches (47 cm) long, and it can live more than ten years. Its name comes from the color of the nasty spines that grow around their bodies. Their venom isn’t usually deadly, but their stings are extremely painful. Apart from the pain, the stings can cause vomiting, headaches, and breathing difficulties.
If you see one of these nasty little fish, don’t be tempted to touch them. They use the spikes as a defense mechanism, and they’re pretty effective!
Most tropical destinations are a perfect environment for mosquitos to breed, and Puerto Rico is no different. It may seem that, apart from being a little irritating, these small insects are harmless. But the fact is that Puerto Rican mozzies can give you a lot more than just an itchy bite. They can carry some serious diseases that can be potentially life-threatening.
Mosquitos are high in numbers on the island and can transmit diseases that include Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya. All of those might need hospital treatment and can lead to death. It’s very important to protect yourself from getting bitten by using repellents or protective clothing, like DEET spray and sleeping nets.
Caimans are alligatoroid reptiles that inhabit parts of beautiful Puerto Rico. They are smaller and less aggressive than their alligator cousins but can be dangerous to children and pets. Although caimans are quite large in numbers around the island, it isn’t their natural habitat. They were brought to Puerto Rico as pets and later released into the wilderness. Their population has since been growing.
Caimans found in Puerto Rico can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh no more than 88 pounds. The most common ones are speckled caimans. These reptiles like living near freshwater, especially rivers, mangroves, and lakes. They are particularly common in the Tortuguero Lagoon located between Vega Baja and Manatí.
Caimans are not known to be aggressive towards people, but there have been cases of some attacks. You should have your wits about you whenever you venture into areas near freshwater.
Box jellyfish are the most dangerous jellies out there, and some inhabit the Caribbean Sea. Although those that can be found in Puerto Rican waters are not generally deadly, their stings can cause some very unpleasant symptoms. From nausea to back pains to limb cramps, these aren’t what you want to experience on your holiday.
Box jellyfish can be hard to spot because of their transparent appearance. You can get stung by touching one of their long and thin tentacles. Because of their nasty sting, they have been nicknamed sea wasps. You can distinguish them from other jellyfish by their long tentacles that grow from each corner of their bell-shaped body. Boxes can weigh up to 4.4 pounds and can live up to a year in total.
Although this type of jelly is particularly nasty, there aren’t many of them in the waters surrounding Puerto Rico.
What is the most dangerous animal in Puerto Rico?
Although Puerto Rico is pretty safe when it comes to dangerous animals, there are a few creatures you should try to avoid. The most dangerous animals in Puerto Rico are spiders. There are a few species of the eight-legged arachnids on the island that could inject deadly venom into their victim. The deadliest spiders are the brown recluse and the black widow.
Are there Jaguars in Puerto Rico?
The simple answer to this question is no. Although jaguars are often associated with rainforests., these large cats are nowhere to be found among El Yunque’s wildlife. In fact, there are no kinds of large cats in Puerto Rico, but the small domestic cat is doing well on the streets of San Juan!
Are there crocodiles in 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.
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.What is the biggest predator 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.What kind of dangerous animals are in Puerto Rico? ›
- Giant centipede: This brightly colored insect can reach 12 inches in length. Its bite is extremely painful. ...
- 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.
Bats are the only extant native terrestrial mammals in Puerto Rico. All other terrestrial mammals in the area were introduced by humans, and include species such as cats, goats, sheep, the small Indian mongoose, and escaped monkeys. Marine mammals include dolphins, manatees, and whales.Is there any poisonous snakes in Puerto Rico? ›
The Puerto Rican Racer is the second largest Puerto Rican snake, and its venomous bite is mildly poisonous.What are the top killers in Puerto Rico? ›
Heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and Alzheimer's disease are the leading causes of disability and death in Puerto Rico.What are the most violent cities in Puerto Rico? ›
La Perla is a neighborhood known for its high crime rate and poverty. It has been the subject of numerous documentaries and is often referred to as "the most dangerous place in Puerto Rico". The area is known for its high rate of drug-related crime and gang activity.What is a dangerous spot in Puerto Rico? ›
Dangerous places in Puerto Rico include parts of cities like Carolina, Bayamon, Vega Baja and some San Juan areas like Santurce, La Perla, Parque de la Palomas, and Puerta de Tierra.Are there mountain lions in Puerto Rico? ›
The major big-game species that live in the San Juan National Forest are mule deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose, black bear, and mountain lion.Does Puerto Rico have a jungle? ›
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, and one of Puerto Rico's most beloved natural gems. The park has a very diverse ecosystem, with hundreds of unique plant and animal species, including Puerto Rico's famous coquí frog.
Primates are not native to this country, but the one monkey in Puerto Rico is the rhesus macaque. Scientists brought these monkeys over in the late 1930s to study them, but they escaped the research facility.What is Puerto Rico's national animal? ›
The Puerto Rican coqui (pronounced ko-kee) is a small arboreal frog that's brown, yellow, or green in color. Its scientific genus name—Eleutherodactylus—means “free toes” because, unlike many frogs, the coqui doesn't have webbed feet.Is there sloths in Puerto Rico? ›
The Puerto Rican ground sloth, Acratocnus odontrigonus is known from several poorly documented cave excavations in northwestern Puerto Rico. The various species are regarded as being semi-arboreal because of their (relatively speaking) small size and their large hooked claws.What animal is the #1 killer? ›
Mosquitos are the deadliest creature in the world because they transmit a number of deadly diseases, the worst of which is malaria. Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite that results in fever, chills, headache, vomiting and, if left untreated, death.What is the 1 deadliest animal? ›
Close-up of Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) sucking blood on human skin. The mosquito is the single deadliest, most dangerous animal in the world and also one of the smallest. Mosquitoes are estimated to cause between 750,000 and one million human deaths per year.
In terms of the number of humans killed every year, mosquitos by far hold the record, being responsible for between 725,000 and 1,000,000 deaths annually.What bugs bite you in Puerto Rico? ›
Mosquitoes, scorpions, centipedes, flying cockroaches and tarantulas can all be found inside and out in wilderness areas such as forests .What pets are illegal in Puerto Rico? ›
Per the USDA website: All breeds of Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American Pit Bull terrier, and hybrids produced by crossbreeding with dogs of other breeds are prohibited to be introduced or imported to Puerto Rico.What is the largest snake in Puerto Rico? ›
Description. The Puerto Rican Boa or "culebr" is the largest native species of snake, and one of only three Boidae on the island. It typically grows to a length of 6 or 7 feet, although 12 foot long specimens have been reported.What is the scary monster in Puerto Rico? ›
The chupacabra or chupacabras (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃupaˈkaβɾas], literally 'goat-sucker'; from Spanish: chupar, 'to suck', and cabras, 'goats') is a legendary creature in the folklore of parts of the Americas, with its first purported sightings reported in Puerto Rico in 1995.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Puerto Rico. Standardized Mortality Rate (ASMR) from this cause rose from 205 per 100,000 population in 1997 to 218 per 100,000 in 1999, when cardiovascular diseases accounted for 29% of all deaths.Who was the biggest Puerto Rican gangster? ›
Quitoni. Quitoni "El Gran", leader of one of the crime families, he made over $956 million for the mafia from extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, and drug trafficking.What are the blackest cities in Puerto Rico? ›
In modern times, most of the music, dance, culinary traditions, and art produced in Loíza is Afro-Puerto Rican and the town has the largest black population on the Island.Where is the poor side of Puerto Rico? ›
Adjuntas, Puerto Rico has the lowest median household income of any county or county-equivalent in the United States. Per capita income ranges from $24,264 in Guaynabo to $5,943 in Maricao.What is the safest city in Puerto Rico? ›
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.Is there anything poisonous in Puerto Rico? ›
The giant centipede is ranked as one of the most dangerous creatures in Puerto Rico because of the venomous bites and you should be wary if you are going to visit the forested areas of the island. The bite of the giant centipede is agonizing and it could make you very sick.What is the safest place to stay in Puerto Rico? ›
🏖️ What is the safest place to stay in Puerto Rico? Old San Juan is the safest place to stay in Puerto Rico due to being the capital city and heavily guarded by policemen. Isla Verde is also a good option if you are looking for somewhere safe with a good beach.Is Puerto Rico safer than Mexico? ›
Is Puerto Rico safer than Mexico? Statistically, Puerto Rico is fairly safer than Mexico. While both countries have dangerous areas that should be avoided at all costs, Puerto Rico is tourist-friendly overall. There are gang-related crimes happening in both countries, but they usually don't affect visitors.Do jaguars live in Puerto Rico? ›
When you think of a rainforest, you might imagine wildlife such as jaguars and monkeys, but you won't find those among El Yunque's animals. The island of Puerto Rico was formed from an underground volcano, so while the island boasts a lot of aquatic wildlife, birds, and amphibians, it doesn't have many endemic mammals.Are there tarantulas in Puerto Rico? ›
The Common Puerto Rican Brown Tarantula (Cyrtopholis portoricae) is a medium-sized terrestrial arachnid, typically no more than 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters) in length (including leg span), having a dark brown body covered with short, shiny hairs called setae.
Feral Dog, Wild Dog (Eng.), Perro Salvaje (Sp.), Canis familiaris (Sci.), Native to Puerto Rico; introduced exotic species in the El Yunque NF.Does Puerto Rico have monkeys in the rainforest? ›
You will see many neat things in Puerto Rico, but wild animals are not usually one of them – except if you go check out Monkey Island. Monkey Island (officially Cayo Santiago) is a small island, about 1 nautical mile off of the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, that is home to about 1000 free-roaming Rhesus monkeys.What food is Puerto Rico known for? ›
The vibrancy of Puerto Rican culture comes alive in its dishes, a celebration of flavors that visitors have the opportunity to indulge in. Some of the favorites are mofongo, tostones, pasteles, arroz con gandules, tembleque, and coquito.Why are there so many stray animals in Puerto Rico? ›
Puerto Rico's stray dog crisis is a result of many years of infrequent spaying/neutering, which leads to unwanted litters of puppies and a never-ending cycle of reproduction.What is the giant rodent in Puerto Rico? ›
The most popular Puerto Rican dishes include arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), pasteles (plantain cakes), tostones (twice fried plantain slices), cuchifritos (fried appetizers), and flan de queso (cream cheese dessert).What is a coco rat? ›
The rats, which can reach lengths of 46 centimeters and bore through coconut shells to feed on the meat inside, are incredibly rare—researchers were only able to find the specimen after it was injured when a tree fell. Regrettably, the animal died shortly after being discovered.What animal looks like a rat but bigger? ›
Nutria. Alternatively known as the coypu, the nutria is an herbivorous, burrow-dwelling semi-aquatic rodent native to South America. Resembling a giant rat, the typical nutria grows anywhere from 28 to 42 inches in length. Adults weigh as much as 37 pounds.Why are there mongoose in Puerto Rico? ›
Mongooses were originally brought to Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian islands from Asia to protect sugar cane fields from rats and snakes. This small swift predator preys on birds, reptiles, and amphibians.What is Puerto Rico's national drink? ›
If you like piña colada, you should know the famous tropical drink was invented in Puerto Rico! The sweet mix of coconut cream, pineapple juice, white rum, and ice was born in San Juan, but the identity of its creator is still an unresolved controversy on the island.
Pigs were originally brought to the island from Spain during Christopher Columbus' second voyage in 1493, and they have been a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine ever since.What is Puerto Rico's national fruit? ›
This fruit, known as quenepa in Puerto Rico, grows particularly abundantly in the municipality of Ponce, and there is a yearly celebration in that municipality known as Festival Nacional de la Quenepa (National Genip Fruit Festival). The fruit ripens during the warm summer months.