You’ll know you’ve arrived in Rincón – ‘the corner’ – when you pass the group of sun-grizzled gringos cruising west in their rusty 1972 Volkswagen Beetle with surfboards piled on the roof. Shoehorned far out in the island’s most remote corner, Rincón is Puerto Rico at its most unguarded, a place where the sunsets shimmer scarlet and you’re more likely to be called ‘dude’ than ‘sir.’ This is the surfing capital of the island and one of the premiere places to catch a wave in the hemisphere.
For numerous Californian dreamers this is where the short-lived summer of love ended up. Arriving for the Surfing World Championships in 1968, many never went home. Hence Rincón became a haven for draft-dodgers, alternative lifestylers, back-to-the-landers and people more interested in catching the perfect wave than bagging $100,000 a year in a Chicago suburb.
Breaking anywhere from 2ft to 25ft, Rincón’s waves are often close to perfect. The names are chillingly evocative: Domes, Indicators, Spanish Wall and Dogman’s. The crème de la crème is Tres Palmas, a white-tipped monster that is often dubbed the ‘temple’ of big-wave surfing in the Caribbean.
Though Rincón is crawling with American expats (many of them residents), the tourist/local divide is more seamless and less exclusive than in the resorts out east. However, with a new, more affluent surfing generation demanding a higher quality of living than their hippie parents, Rincón has developed a clutch of boutique hotels with upmarket services aimed at surfing Gen X yuppies. Indeed, these days those with boards are more likely to be lawyers than high-school dropouts.