Puerto Rico is well recognized as a tourism destination. We proudly call it “Isla del Encanto” or Enchanted Island. Being surrounded by water, there are beautiful beaches all around. We have the Atlantic Ocean in the north, and the Caribbean Sea in the south. And, as I like to remind everyone, there’s no snow during the winter season.
I wrote a previous post about many of Puerto Rico’s diverse attractions. (See article here https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/03/16/my-beautiful-puerto-rico-this-is-where-i-come-from/)
If you’d like to visit the Island, and you travel from the United States, requirements are same as any domestic national flight. If you’re traveling from outside the United States, international requirements apply, like having a passport or requesting a tourist visa.
As I was researching for more information, I found this great article from Primera Hora newspaper, stating that there are 1,200 named beaches in Puerto Rico! Over a thousand named beaches all around the Island! I was surprised, but then, I realized this is possible as we have some amazing spots to enjoy. Check the article, mostly pictures, (in Spanish) here https://www.primerahora.com/fotogalerias/noticias/puerto-rico/las1200playasdepuertorico-1069825/foto-1/.
Of 78 municipalities in the Island, 43 have access to the beach. People who live in the central region, like my family, only need to drive about 1 hour to get to the closest beach. Not bad in my opinion. People do drive longer distances to try and get to the most popular ones, but if you like the less visited, more isolated spaces, I’m sure you’ll find a spot.
The north coast is the longest side of the Island. It runs about 100-110 miles long. You can imagine all the sandy beaches you’ll find all along. On the northern region, the land area is mostly flat. Some areas have rocks that form natural pools.
According to USA Today, the beaches on the Atlantic side have a stronger current and waves are more active. They’re favored by surfers, and some competitions bring in international attention and participation. For more information, see the article here https://traveltips.usatoday.com/information-beaches-puerto-rico-12101.html.
The Program of National Parks of Puerto Rico administers eleven beach areas around the Island. This program is part of the Department of Recreation and Sports of Puerto Rico. Those beaches are called “Balnearios” (bathing spots) and have designated parking and picnic areas, and some have open showers and public restrooms. Some of them also have lifeguards on staff. There is an entrance fee per vehicle to access those beaches. See more information (in Spanish) here http://www.drdpuertorico.com/parquesnacionales/balnearios/.
In the northern region, from west to east, there are 17 towns with beautiful beaches in their jurisdiction: Isabela, Quebradillas, Camuy, Hatillo, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Manatí, Vega Baja, Vega Alta, Dorado, Toa Baja, Cataño, San Juan, Carolina, Loíza, Rio Grande, and Luquillo. Most of these beaches are of easy access and easy to find.
I picked the top 10 most popular beaches in the north coast. There are plenty more to visit and explore. I go from the town of Isabela in the west, to the town of Luquillo in the east.
If you travel from San Juan to the west area, there’s the José de Diego Expressway, PR-22. But there’s also the main road PR-2, that goes from San Juan to Aguadilla. It continues through the west, all the way to Ponce in the south.
Starting in the northwest, there’s Jobos Beach in the town of Isabela. This is about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive from the Luis Muñoz Marín (LMM) Airport or from the San Juan area. Jobos is a beach well known by surfers from all around the world. It’s not considered a swimmer-safe beach. The water is highly affected by the tides and water currents, making it attractive for surfing. The beach is marked by a natural rock wall, that creates a protected cove with safe shallow areas. There are no restrooms facilities on this beach and parking is limited.
The Guajataca Beach is in the town of Isabela. Close by the beach is the Guajataca Tunnel, constructed around 1904. This is a structure that was part of the old railroad system in Puerto Rico. It was used mainly for transportation of sugarcane. It was last used around the late 1950s. In the year 2000, it was declared historical monument by the Government of Puerto Rico. It’s open to the public, and it leads to the beautiful Guajataca Beach. An artificial rock wall was built to protect the shore.
Mar Chiquita Beach is in the town of Manatí. It’s about 45-50 minutes drive from San Juan or the LMM airport. Two coral rock formations make for a small pool-like area that makes it perfect for bathing and enjoying the water, without big waves. It’s a smaller beach area than the others, but it’s a beautiful spot. There are no restroom facilities in the area, and parking is limited.
Cerro Gordo Beach is in the town of Vega Alta. The drive from San Juan is about 50 minutes to 1 hour from San Juan. It’s also known as Balneario Javier Calderón, and is administered by the National Parks Program. It has camping and picnic areas that can be reserved for a low cost.
Punta Salinas Beach is in the town of Toa Baja. It’s one of the “balnearios” administered by the Program of National Parks, so there’s an entrance fee per vehicle for parking. An artificial breakwater was built in the eastern area to protect the shore and the beach area. The drive from San Juan is about 40 – 50 minutes.
Escambrón Beach is in the Old San Juan area, near the Luis Muñoz Rivera park area. It’s about 15 minutes driving distance from the LMM airport. It’s a popular beach area, since it’s close by Old San Juan and the tourist area of Condado. This is one of the “balnearios” so there are public restrooms, and a large parking lot. There’s an entrance fee per vehicle.
Ocean Park is close to the Escambrón Beach. It’s located in the Condado area, also of high traffic because of tourists visiting San Juan area. It’s also about 15 minutes driving distance from the LMM airport. It’s a perfect spot if you are a tourist. But also a perfect spot if you are a local and want to experience all the beaches in our Island. Condado neighborhood is full of hotels, restaurants, and small boutique shops, all within walking distance. Ocean Park sand is soft and light, nice for walking around. There are no public restrooms and no assigned parking lot, but there are areas close by with accessible parking spots.
Now, we go to the eastern region. If you travel from San Juan to the east area, there’s the PR-26 Román Baldorioty de Castro, that goes from San Juan to Carolina. Then, there’s PR-66 Roberto Sánchez Vilella, that goes from Carolina to Rio Grande. There’s also PR-3, main road that goes from San Juan to Luquillo, and continues throughout the east coast all the way to Salinas in the south of the Island. In my personal opinion, this is the most beautiful route to watch the sea as you drive around.
Isla Verde is in the town of Carolina. It’s about 10-15 minutes drive from the LMM airport. It’s a “balneario”, so there’s a big parking lot (with entrance fee per vehicle), accessible open showers and public restrooms. This is another favorite beach, so it’s usually crowed. But it’s worth the visit, as the beach is beautiful and the shore extends for a wide and long distance into the ocean. In 2016, it was selected “Best Urban Beach” by the readers of USA Today.
Piñones Beach is in the town of Loíza. It’s a 40-45 minutes drive from the LMM airport. There’s a forest area, mostly mangrove. There’s a beautiful boardwalk to enjoy all the magnificent views. Piñones is a favorite spot for many locals and visitors. But it’s not only for the beach. It’s a favorite spot for the variety of food stops offering all Puerto Rican favorites fried snacks: bacalaítos, alcapurrias and empanadillas. All fried, crispy, and filled with different meats for everyone’s taste.
Finally, Luquillo Beach is located in the town by the same name. To travel to Luquillo from San Juan, the drive is about 45-50 minutes distance going west. It’s also known as Balneario La Monserrate. As the other “balnearios”, it has a large parking lot (with entrance fee per vehicle), picnic areas and public restrooms. It’s considered one of the best and most popular beaches in Puerto Rico. This beach is known for its extensive coastline and soft sand.
As you can appreciate, there are so many beach areas to visit and enjoy. If you don’t like overpopulated areas, there are many spots where you can drive and park close to the beach. If you don’t mind the crowds, you get to enjoy wonderful spots around the Island. There are also many locations close by the road where you can see the beach, the ocean in this case, right as you drive by.
My personal advice, even when you can enjoy visiting Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches all year round, safety is always key. Some of these beaches are natural spots, with no lifeguard services. The “balnearios” are preferred areas, as they offer better facilities, some have lifeguards and security available.
As a Puerto Rican, growing up we had the opportunity to visit many beaches all around the Island. Now as a visitor, we try to continue visiting these amazing and beautiful spots as often as we can. I have plenty more to tell you about our beaches. Make sure to check my future posts. It’s time for my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en Español vea https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/06/30/mi-hermoso-puerto-rico:-playas-de-la-costa-norte/