Puerto Rico has so many beautiful and amazing places to visit. The beauty of nature is exposed here on its mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and beaches. It can be appreciated any time of the year. With the warm weather and cool breeze, beaches are one of the most popular attractions in our Island. We Puerto Ricans proudly call it “Isla del Encanto” or “Enchantment Island”.
I’ve written about the beautiful beaches around the Island, and it has been a hard task to pick only ten on each coast. For this post, I picked ten more of these amazing places, so unique that I want to tell you all about them.
First, let me tell you about the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. Bioluminescence is a very interesting chemical reaction from some living organisms that produces light. They use it as a defense mechanism, to confuse predators, or to attract and hunt prey, or even to attract mates. For more information, check this article from National Geographic Magazine https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bioluminescence/
Some animals that are good examples of these type of reaction are:
- the angler fish: uses it to attract prey, the fish we see in Finding Nemo, 2003 Pixar/Disney movie;
- the “vampire” squid: uses it to confuse predators, instead of dark ink they produce a bioluminescent mucus; and,
- the firefly, also known as lighting bug: uses it to attract mates (those cute little fireflies!).
This phenomenon happens most commonly in warm water lagoons or bays near the ocean. There are five bioluminescent bays around the world, three of them are in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, this is mostly caused by micro-organisms, called dinoflagellates, reacting to confuse predators. This reaction, producing a bright light, is better appreciated at night.
One of these bays is Mosquito Bay. It’s located in the south coast of the island-municipality of Vieques. Vieques is located to the east of Puerto Rico, and you have to get there on a boat, a ferry, or on a plane. This bay is considered the brighter one. There are many tour guide companies offering visitors a tour to the bay to see this phenomenon up close.
The second bay is Laguna Grande (Big Lagoon). It’s in the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, in the town of Fajardo. It’s located in the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve area. There are many mangrove trees surrounding the lagoon. Because it’s in the reserve, reservations are required. Different tours are offered for visitors, including night tours.
The third one is La Parguera Bay. It’s in the southwest, in the town of Lajas. It’s located in the La Parguera Nature Reserve, and near the Guánica Dry Forest. Like Laguna Grande in Fajardo, there are many mangrove trees in the area. It’s considered the least bright, but still have some bioluminescent activity in it.
Check this article from “The Culture Trip” for more information about Puerto Rico’s amazing bioluminescent beaches https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/puerto-rico/articles/a-guide-to-puerto-ricos-magical-glow-in-the-dark-beaches/.
There are also some interesting beautiful beaches around the many islets and cays around the Island. Puerto Rico is considered an archipielago (a group of island close together). It includes 143 small islands, islets and cays. I’ve selected some of them to write about, as they are some of the most beautiful beaches around Puerto Rico. As there are no facilities in most of these islands, visitors are advised to bring water, food, insect repellent, sunblock, and garbage bags for trash.
Starting in the north, there’s Isla de Cabra (Goat’s Island), located in the town of Toa Baja, near the San Juan area. There’s a small fort in this islet, the Fort San Juan de la Cruz, that was one of the forts built by the Spaniards when they governed the Island. A kid’s play zone has been built there for visitors with children. There are also picnic tables and public restrooms. There is a small beach area, but is not suitable for bathing. There’s an entrance fee per vehicle.
In the northeast, near Fajardo, we find Icacos Island. It’s about 3 miles from mainland, and you have to get there by boat. It’s managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, and is very popular as a scuba diving and snorkeling destination. The sand is of light white color and the water is crystal clear. There are no restrooms on this island. Food and coolers can be brought over for picnics.
Palomino Island is also in the northeast, near Fajardo and close to Icacos. It’s a small paradise with light white sand and crystal clear water. Part of the island is privately owned by a nearby hotel resort, and thereby reserved for their guests. But there are areas still accessible to public visitors. There’s a restaurant on this island, but is in the reserved area for the hotel guests. As Icacos, the sand is of light white color and the water is crystal clear.
Moving to the south, we find Caja de Muerto (Coffin) Island near the town of Ponce. This name was given because, from afar, the island looks like a coffin. This island is also managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. There are some hiking trails around the island. There are five named beaches on the island: Pelícano, Playa Larga, Playa Chica (also known as Carrucho), Playa Ensenadita (also known as Pocitas), and Playa Blanca (also known as Coast Guard).
All those beaches are good for bathing, as always, taking all necessary precautions. There are restrooms with composting bathrooms and changing rooms. There are gazebos with picnic tables. There’s also a visitor’s center, an educational center, and an office for the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
Aurora Cay, best known as Guilligan’s Island, is in the southwest, near Guánica. It’s about a mile from mainland. It’s part of the Guánica Nature Reserve and it’s managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. Being part of the reserve, you’ll find a lot of mangrove trees around. There are many bathing spots all around the island. There are picnic tables and barbecue pits. There are no restrooms, but there are composting toilets.
There’s another beautiful small cay nearby Guilligan’s, known as Mata La Gata Island (a tricky name, as translation means “Cat the Plant” or “Kill the Cat”). This one is also in the southwest, near Lajas, close to Guánica. It’s part of the La Parguera Nature Reserve. Beaches are safe for bathing, but always taking necessary precautions. This island has picnic tables, gazebos, and barbecue pits. The restrooms here have composting restrooms, showers and changing rooms.
Mona Island is in the west, near Mayagüez. It’s located about 41 miles west of Puerto Rico, and about 38 miles east of Dominican Republic. It’s also managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources as Mona Island Nature Reserve. Part of this reserve are two more smaller islands nearby: Monito and Desecheo. Most popular beaches are Sardineras, Pájaros and Arenas. There’s also an extensive cave system in the island.
There are some impressive cliffs, better appreciated as you approach the island on boat. Sights of humpback whales and dolphins are common here. There’s a big turtle population that comes to this island to nest, especially the hawksbill sea turtle. Biologists come often to do research here. There are restroom facilities, but water consumption is limited. Camping is allowed, but permits are required.
For more information on these beautiful places, and some others nature reserves managed by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (document is in Spanish), check here http://drna.pr.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/NANP_Folleto.pdf. (Note: As a warning, if you open this document on your phone, it has 56 pages. It opens as a “pdf” in Adobe reader.)
All these beautiful places are part of Puerto Rico’s many nature wonders. We are privileged to have all these extraordinary and unique beaches and islands. I hope that all these places would be well taken care of, and preserved, so future generations can have access to enjoy all that our Island has to offer. As soon as I go back to Puerto Rico, I’d be visiting some of these places. I’m so proud to be able to share all of these with you. Time for my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en español, vea https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/08/11/mi-hermoso-puerto-rico:-playas-unicas-y-especiales/