Take a breather from everyday life and escape to nearby Puerto Rico. Known for its lively culture, friendly ambience and miles of gold- and white-sand beaches fronting emerald waters, Puerto Rico is as convenient as paradise gets. Here are the best beaches in Puerto Rico for getting away from it all.
Playa Mar Chiquita
In less than an hour of your arrival at the San Juan airport, you can be on Playa Mar Chiquita in Manati. Full of lagoons, natural pools and lush jungle, the crescent-shaped beach fronts calm azure waters, perfect for swimming. On the weekends, you can grab street food like empanadas and pina coladas.
You’ll have to get off the main island for this beauty – to Culebra Island, 17 miles east of Puerto Rico and 12 miles west of St. Thomas. The horseshoe-shaped beach is a vision of brilliant white sand and turquoise water. While you’re here, take the time to explore the island, just 7 miles by 3 miles – and its eco-tourism options. There’s incredible diving and snorkeling in Culebra’s renowned reefs and hiking through the Isla de Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.
Playa Carlos Rosario
Another Culebra Island favorite, Playa Carlos Rosarios requires a 20-minute hike to reach it. Start from the Flamenco Beach parking not and walk along the edge of the Reserva Natural de Culebra before reaching the beach, with its shimmering white sands. Go snorkeling in the shallows with schools of reef fish.
Sun Bay Beach
Another Spanish Virgin Island, Vieques Island (Isla Vieques), like Culebra, requires a day trip, but you’ll be glad you did. It’s 8 miles from the mainland is 21 miles by 5 miles. Sun Bay Beach is a highlight here, with a wide swatch of sand, plenty of parking and public restrooms and showers. It’s here that you’ll get to experience the incredible phenomenon of bioluminescence. Each night in Mosquito Bay (Bioluminescent Bay), you can join a tour by boat, canoe or kayak to see the water light up from the movement of phosphorescent dinoflagellates.
While the bioluminescent lagoon may be the braggart in these parts, beach lovers won’t want to overlook the powdery sands of Playa Caracas on the island’s south coast. It is one of the easiest beaches to get to within the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge and is dramatically surrounded by huge rock formations and lush vegetation.
You don’t have to leave the mainland for this one. Luquillo Beach is 30 miles east of San Juan and boasts a long crescent-shaped beach of golden sand, picture-perfect palm trees and typically calm waters. Lifeguards are on duty during the day. You can even camp here, if that’s your style. Plenty of food vendors set up right outside the entrance to the beach. Kayaks are available to rent. Just beyond the beach, you can explore El Yunque National Forest.
Sometimes referred to as “Gillligan’s Island,” Cayo Aurora is a speck of an island off Puerto Rico’s south coast. Visit the mainland’s Bosque Estatal de Guanica, a United Nations Biosphere Reserve, then hop on the ferry or take a private boat tour to Cayo Aurora’s Playa de Guanica. (You can even kayak there if you so wish.)
Playa Crash Boat
If you’re a surfer, or just enjoy living vicariously through those who do, don’t miss Playa Crash Boat (or Crashboat) and the area around Rincon on Puerto Rico’s west coast. Smaller waves – and swimmable waters – are found here, perfect for those for whom 15-foot swells aren’t a reality. Snorkel and dive the reef north of the pier and around the bridge, then grab lunch at one of the local street vendors or beachfront restaurants. Whale-watching tours run between mid-January and March.
Cabo Rojo – the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico – is home to Playa Sucia. Plan to walk about 10 minutes from the parking area – this usually cuts down on the beach crowd, especially on weekdays. The water is crystal-clear and calm. Another area option is Buye Beach – and don’t miss Cabo Rojo’s famous lighthouse.
One of the most convenient beaches to San Juan, Isla Verde is actually considered a suburb of the city. You can easily grab a taxi from Old San Juan for the short drive to the beach. Several luxury hotels line the sand. Lifeguards are on duty on the public beach. Beach chairs are available for rent and there are plenty of water sports opportunities, from jetskiing to parasailing to surfing.
Another San Juan favorite, the hip Condado District is where locals and celebs go to see and be seen. It’s an easy add-on to a day of sightseeing in Old San Juan. Stay in one of the beach resorts fronting the ocean or, if not, rent a sun-lounger or umbrella. The swimming is not as safe here as it is at Isla Verde because the current is quite strong.
Ocean Park Beach
Also in the Condado District, Ocean Park Beach is a bit quieter than Condado Beach. The one-mile white-sand beach was developed in the 1950s as San Juan’s first tourist zone. Just be aware that there are no restrooms, changing rooms or showers.
Balneario de Boqueron
Another Cabo Rojo favorite, golden-sand Balneario de Boqueron boasts a border of almond trees and coconut palms. The local- and family-favorite beach has clear, calm waters for swimming, restrooms, showers, snack bar and fresh seafood vendors. Save your jetskiing for this beach, where you can embark on a one-, two- or four-hour jet ski tour of the coastline.
Want to truly get away from it all? Head to Culebrita island (close to Culebra Island) to hang out at Tortuga Beach. You can only get here via water taxi or boat, so there’s a tantalizing “paradise found” vibe. There aren’t too many facilities or dining options at this wild beach, so come prepared.