Exploring Puerto Rico’s Spectacular Beach Scene

Dec 3, 2016

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So much of Puerto Rico’s coastline is covered by sandy beaches, it can be hard to decide where to go first. Luckily, there’s an idyllic beach spot for everyone, whether you’re in search of blissful palm-tree-shaded stretches of shore without a soul in sight, or want to be right in the middle of all the action. The island itself is relatively small, so renting a car and driving to these places is easy, especially since they’re all generally within an hour or two of the big city.

<em>The beach scene in Puerto Rico is nothing short of magical. Image courtesy of the author.</em>
The beach scene in Puerto Rico is nothing short of magical. Image courtesy of the author.

Don’t want to venture too far? Check out Condado, a bustling area just east of San Juan. Its long, sandy beaches cater to those who want to spend their evenings exploring the historic city center and their days sipping cocktails while watching the waves roll in (the local boogie boarders here are fun to watch, too). This part of the island resembles Miami, with hotels lined up along the shore, allowing visitors to stay connected to nightlife and restaurants while enjoying an active beach scene.

About a 10-minute drive to the east of Condado, Ocean Park is much calmer and still close enough to Old San Juan if you’re in the mood for something a bit more relaxing. Its perfect winds and waves also make it ideal for kitesurfing.

Ocean Park is delightfully calm.
Ocean Park is delightfully calm. Image courtesy of the author.

In Puerto Rico there are plenty of balnearios, or public beaches with showers, bathrooms and picnic facilities. You can get in for free, but note that parking is generally about $4 per day. These beaches are most popular with the locals, who enjoy spending the day along the water with their families and giant grills, tents, cribs for the little ones, and speakers to flood the scene with salsa or reggaeton — do yourself a favor and set your towel down near the family playing your preferred style of music and make some new friends!

The Balneario de Carolina, located just a bit past Ocean Park, is a family-friendly spot offering calm waters for little kids and Jet Ski rentals for the big ones. It’s also the perfect beach for plane-spotting, as you can relax on the sand while watching various aircraft take off from nearby Luis Muñoz Marín Airport (SJU).

If you
Aviation geeks should head to Carolina Beach, where they can see planes take off about every 10 minutes from SJU. Image courtesy of the author.

About a 45-minute drive from San Juan, you’ll find the city of Luquillo, whose beach, La Pared, is often deserted. Climbing over a few rocks will get you to miles of sandy shoreline, with palm trees dipping over the orange-tinted sands.

La Pared
La Pared’s sands have an interesting orange color. Image courtesy of the author.

Continuing east, the protected natural reserve of Medio Mundo has the white, fine sands and clear water you dream about during a long, snowy winter in northern climes. Park at Playa los Machos and take a five-minute walk through the groves of trees to get there.

The white sands and turquoise waters of Playa Medio Mundo.
The white sands and turquoise waters of Playa Medio Mundo. Image courtesy of the author.

In the southeast corner of the island, Naguabo’s beach is deliciously deserted, and has screensaver-style palm trees dangling over turquoise waters. The stretch of beach called Suroma is sandwiched between two rivers, making the surrounding ecosystem delightfully tropical, with interesting wildlife like egrets, crabs and lizards.

Naguabo has some beautiful palm trees.
Naguabo has beautiful palm trees. Image courtesy of the author.

The nearby malecon, or paved waterside walkway, of Naguabo is perfect for a sunset stroll, especially with an after-beach beer and some salsa tunes.

Everyone comes out around sunset to stroll along the Malecon, grab a beer and just hang out.
Everyone comes out around sunset to stroll along the malecon, grab a beer and just hang out. Image courtesy of the author.

Another protected space, Humacao Nature Reserve, offers forest trails, biking and kayaking, as well as a gorgeous, protected beach. Pack a lunch and make a day of enjoying both the woodsy walking and the beach. Expect to spot some giant iguanas here, too.

This nature reserve is a special spot where you can enjoy the beach or the forest.
The Humacao Nature Reserve is a special spot where you can enjoy the beach and the forest. Image courtesy of the author.

Over on the southwestern side of the island, Rojo Cabo, named for the minerals that once gave the water a reddish tint, is home to the beautiful and sandy Balneario de Boqueron, the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge — a subtropical dry forest — and the Faro de los Morillos de Cabo Rojo, a blissful cliffside lighthouse dating back to 1881.

<em>Los Morillos lighthouse and the cliffs of Cabo Rojo. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.</em>
Los Morillos lighthouse and the cliffs of Cabo Rojo. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Obviously, there are way too many beautiful beaches to include in a single article, so you should do some exploring the next time you’re in Puerto Rico and find your own favorites. Driving around the edge of the island can be a great adventure, allowing you to discover hidden beaches and special spots along the way.

What’s your favorite beach to visit in Puerto Rico? Tell us about it, below.

Featured image courtesy of the author.

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