Though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, being there is unlike anywhere else you may visit in the 50 states. On the sunny island, historic buildings and old-world culture blend with innovative cuisine and hospitality, creating a destination like no other.
Though many adjectives can be used to describe the island—vibrant, lively, authentic, friendly—it’s perhaps most known for its beautiful landscapes and sights. If you’re longing to experience island life, there’s one activity you can’t miss while vacationing here: hanging out on the best beaches in Puerto Rico.
There are hundreds of places to soak up the sun here. The top beaches in Puerto Rico offer everything from seclusion and relaxation to upscale beach clubs and restaurants where you can sip a piña colada with your toes in the water.
These are some of the best beaches to explore during your visit to Puerto Rico.
Playa El Escambrón
Conveniently located in San Juan, you’ll see why Playa el Escambrón is one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico as soon as you hit the sand. This picture-perfect beach has dozens of swaying palm trees and a long, soft sandy beach with plenty of room, even when it’s crowded.
What really makes this one of the best Puerto Rican beaches is what’s just off the shore: hundreds of intentionally sunken reefs that protect a wide variety of marine life. The fish here are very used to having people in the water with them, so whether you want to scuba dive or snorkel from the beach, you’ll likely spot hundreds of colorful fish.
Underwater, you can also explore re-created ruins of the lost city of Atlantis or look for sea turtles swimming through the clear water. The beach is also very close to the small Fortin del Escambrón, a lovely place for a sunset stroll.
Playita del Condado
Playita means “small beach” in Spanish, and Playita del Condado is just that. Although it’s tiny, its urban location and mix of seaside and city views make it one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, especially for a quick dip while exploring the capital city.
The beach’s shape makes it reasonably protected from swells, with small waves and barely any current. That makes it an excellent spot for beginner snorkelers or younger kids who want to wade in the water but aren’t quite ready to jump through the waves.
If you work up a sweat while wandering around the neighborhood, look for the drink and ice cream stands across the street. Fresh coconuts are almost always available for just a few dollars, and you can rent beach chairs or umbrellas from the nearby hotels if you plan to spend a few hours here. This beach can get crowded, so try to visit mid-week if possible.
If you want to spend a full day or long afternoon dedicated to soaking in the sun, make plans to head to Luquillo Beach. Located in the town of Luquillo (pronounced loo-KEE-yo,) it’s known as the “sun capital of Puerto Rico.” The beach is quite large and has plenty of shady places to post up for a few hours beneath swaying palm trees.
It takes around 45 minutes to reach Luqilllo from San Juan, but there’s plenty to do here to occupy a full day. Luquillo is the gateway to Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest on the island’s eastern region.
Here, you can go for a hike, take a horseback riding tour, or soar on a jungle zipline. Most people choose to visit El Yunque before heading to Luquillo Beach, since nothing feels better than a dip in the ocean after being deep in the rainforest.
Vivo Beach Club at Isla Verde
If your idea of the beach has less to do with relaxing and more to do with live music and fresh fruit cocktails, head to Vivo Beach Club near San Juan’s Isla Verde. The beach club is stylish but laid-back, with a large pool with in-water loungers, a stage and dance floor, three restaurants, five bars, and even a full-scale microbrewery.
The beach club attracts a diverse crowd during the day, ranging from newlyweds to college groups to retirees who appreciate the convenience of not lifting a finger when it’s time to order another craft cocktail. You can take it easy by the pool or walk just 30 steps down to the beach to splash in the waves.
Playa Mar Chiquita
If you usually prefer pools to beaches, consider making the trip to Mar Chiquita. This beach looks like a natural pool, since ocean water fills into it from a small break in the rocks that surround the swimming area.
In the summer, the water is calm and so clear that you’ll be able to see schools of brightly colored fish swimming around your legs. During winter, the pool becomes much more active as huge waves crash against the rocks. Swimming isn’t recommended during these months, but the photo opportunities are fantastic.
While the north shore of the island is known for its unique pools, the shallow water and perfectly round shape of the coastline at Mar Chiquita make it one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico. It’s not very shady, but you can find umbrella and chair vendors just beyond the beach, along with food, drink, and craft vendors.
Playa de Los Cabes
The beach at Playa de Los Cabes isn’t very big or sandy, but it has another draw that makes it one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico: it’s home to the enormous Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 500-year-old fort that once served as a critical military outpost for Spain.
Touring the fort is considered one of San Juan’s must-do activities, especially if you’re a first-timer, but its location also makes it an ideal spot to catch the perfect beach sunset. The contrast of red and pink in the sky against the fort’s stark greys and browns makes for lovely photos.
If you’re keen to take some fantastic sunset photos but don’t know exactly where to go, you may want to consider a sunset walking tour. These tours usually last around 90 minutes and include a guide to teach you about the fort’s history and lead you to the perfect spot to catch the sunset. Try to pick a tour that includes a post-sunset cocktail or tapas tasting for an authentically Puerto Rican experience.
Crash Boat Beach
Socialize with local residents—or perhaps just joining in on an impromptu dance party—during a day at Crash Boat Beach. While this is a very popular scuba diving location, it’s also known as one of the island’s liveliest beaches.
Food and drink carts often line up along the brightly painted pier, and local vendors can provide everything from beach chairs and umbrellas to kayak and paddleboard rentals. You can also rent snorkel gear at the beach or sign up for a bouncy banana boat ride.
Crash Boat Beach is about 90 minutes from San Juan, so it’s best to visit as part of a longer trip around the island. Besides exploring the best beaches on the north shore, you could stop in for a hike to the picturesque Cueva Ventana or explore the Arecibo Observatory, both in Arecibo.
You might think that a beach right in the heart of San Juan would always have crowds, but that’s not the case at Playa Peña. Because most visitors to San Juan are there for the history, food, and city culture, the beach is usually fairly low-key and always less crowded than Playa el Escambrón.
Playa Peña is tucked away from the road and has a more rugged feel, with a rocky shoreline that divides the beach into a few different sandy sections. Despite being in the city—and despite the rocky shoreline—there’s plenty of space to lay out in the sun. Though you can walk here from the Old Town, it feels like the type of beach you’d find tucked along a forgotten shoreline on a remote part of the island.
Bring your own towel and snacks as this beach is far less commercial than most in San Juan. The water is most shallow on the beach’s leftmost side, but because no lifeguards are on duty, it’s important to keep an eye on children, even if they’re excellent swimmers.
One thing most people don’t know about the island is that there are a handful of smaller islands just off the mainland’s coast. As you might imagine, these small islands have some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico.
To get to Cayo Icacos, you’ll need to take a 25-minute boat ride from the Fajardo Marina. The extra effort it takes to get here is absolutely worth it. It’s almost always less crowded than mainland beaches, and the sand takes on a pink hue in places that gently drop off into the clear blue ocean.
When you get here, you’ll see why Cayo Icacos is often considered one of the top beaches in Puerto Rico. The island is entirely uninhabited, so make sure to bring everything you’ll need like towels, snacks, water, and a plastic bag to carry your trash or wet clothing as you leave.
Flamenco Beach (Isla Culebra)
Culebra has wide and soft white-sand beaches reminiscent of a tropical postcard. There are around 20 small coves on the island with access to the ocean, and Flamenco Beach is the most well known. Unlike Cayo Icacos, there are businesses and facilities on the island, so it’s easy to grab lunch or a frozen drink from a local restaurant.
Culebra is about 20 miles off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, and the best way to get there is usually to book a sailing tour that will take you past some of the island’s prettiest vantage points en-route. Tours leave from San Juan or the Fajardo Marina and usually include plenty of time to relax and snorkel off the immaculate Flamenco Beach. You can also get a ferry from Ceiba, but check the ferry schedule (and possibly buy your tickets) in advance.
While there’s plenty to do in San Juan, exploring the best beaches in Puerto Rico can be a great way to see smaller towns and villages, find one-of-a-kind photo ops, and experience the rugged and adventurous side of the island.
Discover this stunning paradise on a cruise to Puerto Rico. Aside from lounging on beautiful beaches, you can explore natural wonders, sample authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, and learn about the rich history of the island.
Cruises from San Juan visit some of the best Caribbean islands like St. Maarten and the ABC Islands. Visit our website to browse cruise itineraries and book your next incredible vacation today.