Has There Been A Shark Attack In Puerto Rico? (2023) – All You Need To Know

Shark sightings on the beach can be terrifying.

There have been shark sightings in Puerto Rico, but thankfully, shark attacks are rare.

I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and have never seen a shark at any of the beaches I’ve visited.

In this article, I will cover everything that you need to know about sharks in Puerto Rico:

When was the last time there was a shark attack in Puerto Rico?
How many shark attacks happen in Puerto Rico each year?
Why are there no shark attacks in Puerto Rico?
Are there sharks in San Juan?
Can you swim in the ocean in Puerto Rico?
What types of sharks are found in Puerto Rico?
Are there Bull Sharks in Puerto Rico?
Are there Great White Sharks in Puerto Rico?

 

When was the last time there was a shark attack in Puerto Rico?

Shark attacks in Puerto Rico are quite rare.

image of shark and scuba diver
The last shark attack in Puerto Rico was on Vieques, in 2011.

According to the Shark Attack Data website, the last shark attack was over ten years ago, back in 2011, in Vieques. 

The attack happened at night, and it was an unprovoked attack with no fatal injuries. 

And before that attack, there was one back in April of 1966.

For general safety information about the island, visit our article Is Puerto Rico Safe For Travel?

 

How many shark attacks happen in Puerto Rico each year?

On average, 0-1 shark attacks occur in Puerto Rico each year.

Shark attacks are relatively rare worldwide, and the chances of being bitten by a shark are very low. 

The vast majority of shark species are not dangerous to humans.

image of a Snorkeler and a shark
Shark attacks in Puerto Rico are a very rare event, so you can take comfort knowing the odds are in your favor when you are swimming.

With the most recent attack being over ten years ago, and the one before that over 55 years ago, it’s safe to say that you’re safe from any shark attack when visiting the island.

 

Why are there no shark attacks in Puerto Rico?

The reason for rare shark attacks in Puerto Rico is that sharks don’t consider humans a food source.

image of Diver and Tiger Shark
The island sees an average of around 4 million visitors per year, and over the last 100 years, there have been fewer than 20 shark attacks in Puerto Rico.

There have been less than 20 shark attacks from 1900-2023, where 10 were unprovoked and 4 were fatal. 

 

Are there sharks in San Juan?

There are no sharks in the San Juan area.

image of Great White Shark warning sign
Unlike other beaches in the world, San Juan offers a safe place for shark free swimming.

The beaches in San Juan are safe and free of sharks, like the Escambrón Beach in San Juan.

It’s popular among locals and visitors for diving, snorkeling, or just relaxing at the beach. 

Read more about two very safe and popular beaches in San Juan in our articles about Condado and Isla Verde.

 

Can you swim in the ocean in Puerto Rico?

Yes, you can swim in the ocean in Puerto Rico.

The ocean in Puerto Rico is relatively safe to swim in. Watch out for high tides, currents, and waves. 

image of a woman swimming
Puerto Rico has a wide variety of beaches to swim at, from tranquil waters on the southwest coast and surrounding islands to beaches that host international surf competitions.

Many beaches are great for surfing, so you don’t have to worry about shark attacks.

Visitors often love finding where sharks hang out the most and swim with them!

Below is a video of someone swimming with the sharks in Caja de Muerto, Puerto Rico:

If you would rather explore Puerto Rico’s waters in a kayak while experiencing one of its most popular natural phenomenons, head over to our Ultimate Guide To Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays.

 

What types of sharks are found in Puerto Rico?

There are different shark species found in other regions of Puerto Rico. 

The sharks prefer to swim in the very deep end of the ocean, where you’ll only see them if you’re going on a fishing trip in a boat to the deep sea.

There are currently six common “Puerto Rican” sharks you’ll hear about.

1. Whale Shark

image of Whale shark
Whale sharks are known for being very large but cool tempered.

A whale shark is a gentle giant that grows up to 72 feet long.

They are considered social sharks, and divers love to interact with them. 

The only “injury” you’ll get from them is getting hit by their large fins. There have been no reports of any Whale Shark attacks. 

 

2. Caribbean Reef Shark

image of Caribbean Reef Shark
The Caribbean Reef Shark is the most common shark in Puerto Rico.

This shark is the most common shark you’ll find.

You can find them swimming around the reefs of Puerto Rico. 

These sharks are antisocial, and will likely ignore divers and swimmers, so you’re safe. Be aware that they can become aggressive if going through a feeding frenzy.

There have been four unprovoked attacks by this shark, but 0 were fatal.

 

3. Silky Shark

image of Silky Shark
Be careful around the Silky Shark if it is feeding in a reef that you are nearby.

This shark is as smooth as silk!

You can find a silky shark in the deeper reefs of the islands. You’ll most likely have to dive to see a silky shark.

They will most likely become aggressive if food is around and near the reef. They will harass you to leave the reefs, as reported by a few divers.

There have only been two attacks from this shark, unprovoked, and none were fatal.

 

4. Blacktip Reef Shark

image pf Blacktip Reef Shark
The shy Blacktip Reef Shark is easy to identify due to its black tipped fins.

This is a common shark you’ll find around the reefs of Puerto Rico.

You can easily distinguish them by their blackfin tips.

This shark is shy and will very likely swim away from you. However, they tend to spend a lot of time in shallow waters, so don’t be alarmed if you see one swimming nearby. 

 

5. Antilles Catshark

image of Antilles Catshark
The adorable Antilles Catshark poses zero threat to humans.

Yup, even cats can be found underwater!

The Antilles Catshark is tiny, cute, and found in shallow waters around Puerto Rico. 

They weigh just 3 lbs and grow up to 1.5 feet long. They pose 0 threat to humans as there has never been a shark attack from an Antilles Catshark.

 

6. Nurse Shark 

image of Nurse Shark
Steer clear of the Nurse Shark if you spot one while underwater.

This is another shark that doesn’t interact with humans.

And you shouldn’t get close to it either.

These sharks can be found near shallow waters near the reefs. There have been nine unprovoked attacks, but none were fatal. 

 

Are there Bull Sharks in Puerto Rico?

Yes, there have been sightings of the Bull Shark in Puerto Rico.

image of Bull Sharks
Bull Sharks are rare in Puerto Rico, but have been spotted.

Bull Sharks are rare to spot. They prefer warm coastal waters but can also live in fresh waters and lakes.

Unlike the other sharks I mentioned, they are highly aggressive and will try to attack at any slight sign of provocation. 

 

Are there Great White Sharks in Puerto Rico?

There have been sightings of the Great White Shark in Puerto Rico, but they are uncommon.

image of Great White Shark Close up Shot
Great White Sharks are more common in Australia than the Caribbean.

There was a rumor of a great white sighting in Ponce after Hurricane Irene in 2011.

However, you’ll most likely find this shark in Australia more than in the Caribbeans. 

 

Final thoughts

Shark attacks in Puerto Rico are very rare.

The last shark attack in Puerto Rico happened in 2011, with no fatal injuries.

If you’re worried about seeing sharks in the ocean, or fear shark attacks, rest assured that you’re safe in Puerto Rico.

The beaches on this island are lovely, so I compiled a list of the 30 Best Beaches In Puerto Rico for you to check out.

Article by

Miguel Concepcion

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and have experienced every inch of this stunning island. Growing up in Puerto Rico has helped me truly learn about the rich culture and extensive history this island has to offer. I share my local knowledge in all of the articles that I write.

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