Puerto Rico's Beaches

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Puerto Rico's Beaches
The island might only have 78 municipalities, but makes up for it with 300 beaches. These waterfront paradises share the same Puerto Rican coastline, but each one is different to the last.
By Dwiveck Custodio, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Patrick Bennett
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    Relax in Calming Waters
    The crystal waters and relaxing waves of Puerto Rican beaches make for great swimming, floating, or just wading with a beer in hand. Bishop’s Pool, in Arecibo, combines peaceful waters for observing colorful fish with crashing waves farther down. On Culebra, an island off the east coast, Flamenco Beach’s peaceful waters and fine white sand charm visitors. (And for history buffs, several war tanks sit around Flamenco, hinting at the former American military activity in Puerto Rico.)
    Photo by Patrick Bennett
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    Where to Go Surfing
    The westernmost side of the island appeals to surf aficionados, with waves often reaching 20 feet in height. The northwest municipality of Rincón has some of the best surfing beaches on the island—athletes travel from around the world to join surfing competitions here—and is a major tourism hotspot. Farther north in Aguadilla, Rompeolas Beach—which means “breaks waves”—has a sandy ocean floor, which is a plus for novice surfers. At the northernmost tip of the island, Playa Middles in Isabela is another huge surfing destination, and has hosted the Corona Pro Surfing Contest.
    Photo by Michele Falzone/age fotostock
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    Explore Puerto Rico by Kayak
    Escape the beach and explore the sea by kayak. Rent one in the southwestern town of Guánica and spend the day island-hopping. Gilligan’s Island—accessible by kayak or by ferry—is a popular destination, with lots of picnic areas and places to dive into the water from the trees. For prime whale-watching on the west coast, head to Isla de Ratones in Joyuda. Isla Ballena is only accessible by kayak, and draws visitors with the promise of whale sightings from December to March—and with the prospect of not sighting a single other person. Make sure to take the time to snorkel—all kinds of fish, coral, seashells, starfish, barracudas, crabs, and anemones can be found just below the water’s surface.
    Photo by Dwiveck Custodio
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    Beaches to Hear Yourself Think
    Hitting the beach is many Puerto Ricans’ favorite pastime, so it can prove difficult to find a spot in which to sit and take a moment to think. Some beaches, however, have concealed areas perfect for introspection. Southern Bahía Sucia, an azure dreamland near the Cabo Rojo salt flats, is known for its panoramic views from the lighthouse. One of its most private spaces is a natural bridge that protrudes over the ocean. Also in Cabo Rojo is Buye, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It's often crowded, but does have quieter segments at each end.
    Photo by Chelsea Harms
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    Comfort Food by the Sea
    Many beaches have restaurants serving the best of island comfort food. In Cabo Rojo, scarf down sorrullitos (corn sticks), empanadillas (turnovers filled with seafood), or rice, beans, and fish at Annie’s Place on El Combate. Crashboat in Aguadillla has stands selling bacalaitos and pinchos (skewers with grilled meat, bread, and barbecue sauce). If it's liquid sustenance you are after, Tamboo Tavern—a few steps from Sandy Beach in Rincón—attracts its loyal clientele with mojitos that you can sip on the deck or while strolling down the beach. You can also come for the live merengue and salsa.
    Photo by Kirsten Alana
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    The Magic and Wonder of Bioluminescent Bays
    There is nothing more mesmerizing than swimming in water that shimmers and glows as you splash around. Puerto Rico has three bioluminescent bays, and night tours leave from Fajardo, Vieques, and La Parguera. Most tours—except for those from Vieques—allow the daring to plunge into the cool, dark bay and swim among the microorganisms that cause the changing colors; for those wishing to stay dry, dip your hand in one of the buckets of water provided by the guides. But it's not just the waters off Puerto Rico that glow: Back in the southern town of La Parguera, the dock and town is as bright and lively as the ocean, with music, drinks, and Puerto Rican finger food on offer late into the night.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Lighthouse Views
    Lonely beacons bearing witness to a life spent at sea, lighthouses shine light on the past and can evoke a sense of nostalgia in even the staunchest of landlubbers. Puerto Rico is dotted with them, each offering fresh air and a spectacular vista to go with their slice of history. Visit the Punta Higuero lighthouse in Rincón, built in 1892, or the Los Morrillos lighthouse in Cabo Rojo, whose small museum will transport you back in time. Even more mesmerizing are the views out over the sea towards faraway islands; sometimes you can even see whales. Another worthy visit is the Culebrita Lighthouse (currently undergoing restoration) in Culebra, an island off Puerto Rico's eastern shore, which overlooks a turquoise ocean and deep green foliage.
    Photo by Chelsea Harms
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    Where to Catch the Best Sunsets
    Sunsets on Puerto Rico are magical: Settle back on your beach towel, sip a piña colada or a cold beer, and get lost in the spectacle of colors as the daylight fades away. Rincón lives up to its reputation as the “Town of the Beautiful Sunsets,” where any of the beaches will offer views resplendent with hues of gold, orange, and purple. If you don't want to sit directly on the beach, there are many nearby bars from which to watch the show. During sunsets at the Balneario de Boquerón in southwestern Cabo Rojo, the streets of the town are filled with people eating fresh seafood, drinking, and playing lively music.
    Photo by Marc Pagani/age fotostock
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    Public Beaches
    Puerto Rico has many balnearios, government-owned public beaches with restrooms, picnic tables, and other facilities that are aimed at campers. The Balneario La Monserrate, in northeastern Luquillo, is a good spot for aquatic activities like windsurfing and snorkeling. Kiosks sell fritters, drinks, and beach towels; chair, umbrella, and kayak rentals are also available. On Vieques, an island off the southeastern shore, the palm tree-lined Sun Bay has horses roaming the grounds. If Sun Bay gets too crowded, walk over to the nearby Esperanza Beach for some peace and quiet.
    Photo by Patrick Bennett
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    Beachcombing for Natural Treasures
    You can find pretty sea glass and seashells on most of Puerto Rico’s beaches, but there are a few places in particular that are great for beachcombing. Coral and a wide variety of seashells, including unbroken clamshells, are common on Joyuda Beach in Cabo Rojo. Sea stars will oftentimes get washed up on shore—good Samaritans can admire these fascinating creatures before returning them to the ocean. If you want to stuff your pockets with sea glass in all sorts of colors, Antonio’s Beach in Rincón is a good bet, as is Playa Cofi in Vieques—the beach is named after Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofre, so you should keep an eye out for his buried treasure too.
    Photo by Jessie Festa