With over 300 miles of coastline, the greatest beaches in Puerto Rico offer an eclectic variety of sand and surf. From crystalline pools to secluded coves, half-moon bays to mangrove keys, stunning snorkeling spots to epic waves for experienced surfers, there's a stretch of sand to delight anyone's fancy. It wasn't easy picking the top locales, but we gave it a shot. Here are the 12 best beaches in Puerto Rico.
Travel to remote paradise on Flamenco Beach, Culebra
Flamenco Beach is regularly ranked as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean and the island’s premier beach destination. Located on the smaller island of Culebra, part of the Puerto Rican archipelago, this long-time favorite attracts crowds willing to travel by car, plane or ferry to see its dazzling seaside.
Flamenco’s crescent-shaped bay is encircled by low, green hills and immaculately fine sand. The two brightly painted Sherman tanks that decorate the far end of the beach, a testament to the naval occupation of the island, have now become iconic landmarks.
Head to family-friendly La Monserrate, Balneario de Luquillo
Just a stone’s throw from El Yunque National Rainforest lies the beloved La Monserrate Beach. Known as El Balneario de Luquillo by residents, this immensely popular beach is visited by both locals and tourists alike for its warm and shallow waters, family-friendly vibe and ample entertainment.
One of a handful of Blue Flag beaches on the island, the calm waves and low tides attract many families whose children play on the beach or picnic areas. Best of all, there are dozens of budget-friendly food kiosks that line the beach entrance.
Enjoy the peaceful isolation of La Playuela, Playa Sucia
Playa Sucia literally translates to dirty beach but don't let the name fool you: this beach is anything but dirty. The wild and isolated beach is one of the most pristine on the island and a favorite among those searching for an off-the-beaten-path adventure.
A rocky drive down dirt roads through the pink Corozo salt flats and the Cabo Rojo wildlife refuge eventually lead to a wide crescent of sand, flanked by incredible views. The Cabo Rojo Lighthouse, limestone cliffs and turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea all provide for an incredible backdrop.
Take a boat ride to Aurora's Key, Gilligan's Island
Aurora’s Key, commonly called Gilligan’s Island – after the famous '60s TV show – is part of the Guanicas’ Dry Forest Reserve in Puerto Rico’s semi-arid south. There is only one way to get to Aurora’s Key, and that is by boat. Although technically not a beach, the cay affords some of the clearest and most unique swims in the island. Channels fenced in by mangrove systems allow you to float effortlessly with the current all around this tiny island.
Get active on Playa Isla Verde, San Juan
With countless tanned bodies lounging or flexing their biceps around the volleyball net, this urban beach basks in its reputation as the Copacabana of Puerto Rico. Serenity seekers may prefer to head west to Ocean Park but despite the crowds, this broad, mile-long swath of sand lying between Punta Las Marías and Piñones in San Juan is an undeniable beauty, especially at sunset. Jet skis, flyboards, beach chairs and umbrellas are all available to rent; banana boats and parasailing are on offer too.
Get your Instagram shots at Crash Boat, Aguadilla
Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla is one of the most popular and oft-photographed beaches on Puerto Rico’s west coast. Fishing skids park on the sands making for picture-perfect postcard images. The facilities include parking, restrooms, showers and food vendors.
Snorkeling and diving are also good here, especially north of the beach’s iconic storm-battered pier. This lovely spot is well-known for its incredible sunsets and many visitors stay well into the evening hours to admire them.
Grab some shade under the palm trees of Sun Bay, Esperanza
Part of Puerto Rico's national park system, this half-moon-shaped bay, less than a half-mile east of Esperanza, is Vieques' balneario (public beach), with all the amenities you could hope for, including lifeguards and a cafe serving criollo treats. Measuring a mile in length, it rarely appears busy – even with 100 people sunning and playing on it, it will still seem almost deserted. The surf is gentle.
Head to the eastern end for shady parking places amid the palms and few other sunbathers. For even more solitude, keep heading east on the beach road to Playas Media Luna & Navio. In the evening, kayak companies often begin their tours in the parking lot, taking Sun Bay's dirt roads to access Bahía Mosquito.
Ride the waves of Rincón
One of the most popular surfing destinations on the island is the beach municipality of Rincón, a true surfer’s paradise – surf shops abound and boards strapped to car roofs are a common sight.
Beaches like Domes, located between a lighthouse and Puerto Rico's inactive nuclear reactor, provide consistent waves with a combination of beach and coral reef breaks that make for a mellow ride. Maria’s, another favorite Rincón reef break, is suitable for all levels of surfing with its excellent shape and long rides.
Enjoy world-class surfing at Punta Borinquen, Aguadilla
In 2018 Punta Borinquen was named the Caribbean's first World Surfing Reserve. This designation by the Save the Waves Coalition will now protect over a dozen world-class surfing spots spread over a nearly 5-mile stretch of coastline from Crash Boat to Surfer's Beach in Aguadilla. Some of the more famous breaks include Wilderness, Survival Beach and Gas Chambers.
Experience the popular waves of Aviones, San Juan
Named for its proximity to the San Juan International Airport, Aviones (airplanes) is one of the most consistent beaches for great waves close to the San Juan area. Waves break left and right at this often-crowded break that’s best for intermediate riders or above. The popular spot is visited by thousands of riders throughout the year and can get crowded during the season, but don’t let that deter you – it’s popular for a reason.
Follow the lighthouse trail to Playa Santa, Guanica
Playa Santa is touted as one of western Puerto Rico's best beaches. Follow the trail by the lighthouse out to an immaculate crescent beach, where a protected bay makes excellent swimming for both humans and manatees.
Avoid the crowds at Balneario El Escambrón, San Juan
Often considered San Juan's finest beach, this sheltered arc of sand offers decent surf breaks, local action and a 17th-century Spanish fort shimmering in the distance. Best of all, it's often uncrowded.