Puerto Rico beaches

One of my first thoughts when I knew I was going to the Caribbean was of those Puerto Rico beaches – all white sand and palm trees, blue skies and clear waters.

And my first experience of a beach in Puerto Rico was in Escambron in San Juan. Although it doesn’t sound like a promising area for a beach, Escambron was worth a visit. The area used to have bad reputation but the last few years have seen the construction of some public beach facilities, a beach club and car parking. It’s quite pleasant, but remember that you’re still pretty much in the city and at weekends there are cars queuing around the block to get into the parking lot.

Palamenitos - a real desert island


The North and East

We explored the northern coast one day, starting near Fajardo. Las Cabezas de San Juan is a nature reserve with a bioluminescent lagoon, and close by is Playa Seven Seas, a crescent shaped public beach about 500 yards wide and fringed by palm trees.

Like many Puerto Rico beaches, the sand is pure white and the sea quite shallow, although it is difficult to enter the water from the eastern side due to the presence of a coral reef.

On the way back we stopped at Luquillo, which styles itself as the Puerto Rican Riviera.

Located towards Fajardo from San Juan, the public beach is a popular destination for the crowds from San Juan. In addition to a long sandy beach there are changing facilities available and some food stalls. We prefer slightly more deserted beaches, but the facilities make it a good spot for families.

Although we didn’t go there, some of the best beaches near Fajardo are on at the Wyndham El Conquistador resort. It leases the island of Palominos exclusively for its guests – there is a shuttle ferry between the docks and the island. We viewed the island from a boat when invited to go sailing.

Palominos has a little sister too, called Palomenitos, which we did visit. A tiny island consisting of white sand and coral, it has a few trees in the centre and is a real desert island. You can take an excursion there from Fajardo and it is a popular destination for those with boats moored in Fajardo.

Although anchoring and swimming to the island for a day’s tranquility seems like a good idea, the reality is that you are likely to be disturbed by a tourist excursion boat. Palomenitos is still worth a visit for half an hour though.


Puerto Rico beaches in the south and west

On the south coast Ponce has a beach area that is worth a quick visit if you are looking to cool down after visiting Ponce. There are few people and no facilities and the area around La Parguera on the southwest consists of mangrove, but after Cabo Rojo on the far southwesterly tip of Puerto Rico you come across Boqueron, which has a public beach with good facilities.

Locals often visit the beach to picnic or barbeque, sitting on benches shaded from the strong Caribbean sun by tall palm trees.

Rincon on the west of the island is a surfing Mecca and the beaches around the area long, sandy and with large swells. Some beaches are marked as not suitable for surfing, make note of any signs if you are visiting for this purpose.


Our favorite Puerto Rico beaches

For a few concentrated days of beach you might consider the islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Vieques has a number of long sandy beaches, although we found them generally too shallow for a decent swim. They are good for young families though and offer a scenic day on the beach.

Playa Media Luna is one such beach, although it has many prickly sand spurs that we didn’t find comfortable. Better is the long public beach of Sun Bay, with wild horses and other wildlife.

Culebra’s Flamenco beach is an extremely popular destination for vacationers and Puerto Ricans alike – it’s long, sandy and shallow – and if you are looking to stay right on the beach then you might like Villa Flamenco Beach.

The US Navy used to use this area for target practice until a few years ago and there are a couple of rusting tanks right on Flamenco beach. Keep to the marked paths around here though as there is a danger of unexploded ordinance in the land around.

More isolated is Playa Carlos Rosario, which you can get to by water taxi from Culebra’s main town, Dewey, or make a 20-minute walk from the parking lot for Flamenco beach. Playa Carlos Rosario has a barrier reef with abundant coral reefs, a sandy basin and an assortment of fish – spending a couple of days here snorkeling we realized that of all the Puerto Rico beaches we’d been to this couldn’t be beaten.

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