Destination Beach > Magazine > Beach > Puerto Rico

Flamenco, TDA
Destination Beach > Beach > Puerto Rico
When it comes to beaches, Puerto Ricans are experts. After all, we can use them every day of the year, so we have lots of experience. We can tell you about beaches shaded by rows of coconut palms, remnants of former plantations. Or back-to-back beaches on treasured islets. We can direct you to long strips of beaches that follow the coastline for miles. Or, if you prefer, small curves of sand wrapped around half-moon coves. Puerto Rico has hundreds of beaches, off-the-beaten-path beaches and beaches that host a festive crowd every weekend. And they are all ready for your visit.

If it’s off-the-beaten-path beaches you want, explore the eastern off-shore islands of Culebra and Vieques. Both are important nature islands known for their reserves and their stunning coastlines. Dozens of beaches with bone-white sand lead into shallow coral-fringed waters. During the week most are semi-deserted and on weekends the crowds remain sparse. One of the most spectacular, Flamenco Beach on Culebra, forms vast bands of turquoise sea, white sand, green hills and blue sky. Back-to-back beaches are found on the islets of Culebrita and Luis Peña. On Vieques, numerous beaches within the 16,000-acre wildlife refuge rival any in the Caribbean with their crystal-clear waters.

If you prefer festive crowds, you’ll find them in metropolitan San Juan on virtually any weekend, although there do remain a few adherents to the old Island adage that one should only swim during the months that have no “r” – May through August. San Juan’s beaches form long curves facing the Atlantic Ocean and fronting hotel resorts and residential districts. You’ll find rentals for just about every watersport your heart desires, from surfing to kite boarding. Two of the best-known beaches, Escambrón west of Condado and Carolina in Isla Verde, are balnearios, public bathing beaches with parking, lifeguards, changing rooms and snack bars. They are also members of the European-based Blue Flag program for environmentally sound beaches. Yet even the metro area has out-of-the-way gems such as Piñones, an undeveloped track of coastline set amid mangroves, coconuts, kiosks and a six-mile-long bicycle boardwalk/path. West of San Juan the lovely peninsula known as Punta Salinas is also a balneario and Blue Flag beach.

Elegant describes many beaches along the northeast and eastern coasts. Waters are shallow, and sands are bordered by stately coconut palms. Small cays dot the horizon from Fajardo to Humacao and deep-green forests rise in the background. Resort hotels here pamper beachgoers with lounge chairs and cooling drinks. The best-known northeast beach is Luquillo’s Monserrate, a balneario and a Blue Flag beach, ideal for families (with facilities for specialneeds travelers). Rustic kiosks along Highway 2 here serve up traditional Puerto Rican snacks and home-style meals.

Southern Puerto Rico faces the Caribbean Sea. The sea is calmer, particularly in winter. Mangroves, protect the coastline and harbor large numbers of wildlife. For a remote treasure-island sort of adventure, take a charter to Caja de Muertos off Ponce’s coast. Back-to-back beaches, a little-used snorkeling trail and a hilltop lighthouse distinguish the islet. A popular land beach is the Caña Gorda balneario in Guánica. Also in Guánica, small boats take visitors to nearby Gilligan’s Island, topped by scrub and bisected by a swiftly moving channel, a south-coast favorite.

Boquerón’s balneario, a large and deeply recessed bay bordered by bird-rich lagoons, tops the list of fabulous “sunset” beaches along the west coast. A popular Island resort for decades, Boquerón manages to retain the rural charm prevalent in western Puerto Rico. At the Island’s southwestern corner, a dirt road leads to the neoclassical Cabo Rojo Lighthouse, set at the edge of 200-foot cliffs. To the left is a beautiful but undeveloped (take everything you need) half-moon beach known as La Playuela. Cabo Rojo’s lighthouse is one of a dozen that surround Puerto Rico and its offshore islands. Built in the latter half of the 19th century, they guide landlubbers to lovely off-the-beaten-path coastal settings.

Another lighthouse is found in the west-coast town of Rincón. Rincón marks the division between the calm Caribbean to the south and the rougher Atlantic to the north. Most beaches in this region extend for miles and offer virtually every kind of water adventure, from low-keyed beachcombing to world-class surfing. Along the northwest coast, many beachgoers head to Aguadilla’s Crash Boat Beach, set at the foot of limestone cliffs. Colorful fishing boats line the shore and tropical fish sashay around an old Air Force pier. Neighboring Isabela hosts a long series of beaches with sand dunes and protective offshore rocks. Like most of Puerto Rico’s beaches, they offer attractions for just about every taste.
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