Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican tourism is booming.
But incredible hidden beaches are still waiting to be discovered.
After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico, the once vibrant tourist destination fell silent.
But less than two years after one of the deadliest storms in history, Puerto Rico tourism is back with a vengeance. As the resilient little island rebuilds, droves of travelers are pouring in in record numbers.
The U.S. territory welcomed a record 54,000 passengers this February and is expected to receive an unprecedented number of cruise ship passengers this fiscal year.
The ever-quickening stream of visitors is great for Puerto Rico, a community relying on tourism to fuel recovery after being left with $80 million in post-Maria damages.
But soaring tourism rates come with a drawback for travelers seeking respite from crowds: the once vacant, white sands of Puerto Rico’s pristine beaches are increasingly speckled with beach umbrellas, pervaded with the sweet scent of suntan lotion, and bustling with chattery families visiting from Delaware.
However, if you’re the type of traveler who prefers to venture off the beaten path away from the crowds and into tranquility, you’re still in luck. Puerto Rico is home to more than 300 of the most stunning beaches in the world, from jam-packed spring break hotspots to remote, secluded strips just waiting to be discovered.
Strap on your swimsuit, grab a beach towel and a good book, and head on down to one of these four spectacular secret Puerto Rican beaches.
A tiny island just 27 kilometers off the east coast of Puerto Rico, this sleepy spot is celebrated for its unparalleled diving reefs, hiking trails, and—best of all—secluded, diamond-dusted beaches with crystal-clear waters.
For travelers seeking to escape the resorts, golf courses, and crowds of the mainland, Culebra Island is only a water taxi ($50 per person) or kayak ride away.
This is an island where you’ll find chickens pecking away outside of shops with signs reading “open some days, closed others,” and nightlife that is limited to grizzled regulars nursing their beers at the Dinghy Dock Bar.
Of the island’s six beaches, the north ones—particularly Playa Tortuga—are popular nesting and feeding grounds for green sea turtles and solitude seekers.
Located on the small island of Vieques where beaches are notoriously difficult to get to without renting a jeep, Playa Caracas is the only one accessible by a paved road and local public transportation.
Part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Reserve, Playa Caracas (also known as “Red Beach”) boasts gentle turquoise waters, soft sands, and white coral.
The beach is fringed with palm trees and towered over by dramatic cliffs and grassy mountains. Unlike other beaches on Vieques, Playa Caracas offers gazebos for picnics and bathroom facilities.
Bring a snorkel to frolic among the colorful fish. We recommend arriving early if tranquility is what you’re after—the beach has risen in popularity as it has become easier to access and was used as the backdrop for a recent Victoria’s Secret Swim Special.
To get there, take the $5 one-way ferry from the main island, then ride over on a cab ride or público, the public bus that arrives every 15 minutes or so.
Playa Borinquen is an otherworldly realm of underwater relics of former Air Force planes, secret sea coves, and the ruins of an old lighthouse. The beach is situated in the northwest mainland town of Aguadilla and relatively difficult to get to - perfect or intrepid travelers who are after a little peace and quiet.
The sprawling, pillowy-sand beach has rougher waves in the winter, so swimmers should plan for a summer trip.
We suggest going during low tide when you can take the 10-minute walk to Punta Borinquen, which is home to hidden sea caves worthy of exploration and Instagram photos (but take care not to drop your phone into the water as you’re snapping a selfie!).
You can get to the beach by taxi or car from Aguadilla. Look for a road that cuts through the nearby golf course for beach access.
Playa Tres Palmas
Reserva Marina Tres Palmas was established in 2004 in an effort to protect the island’s vibrant marine biodiversity and the rare, close to extinction Elkhorn coral.
The reserve’s large coral forest runs for nearly a mile, parallel to Dogman’s Beach, Little Malibu Beach, and the peaceful Playa Tres Palmas - aka Playa Escalera, or “Steps Beach,” for the three concrete steps that sit in the water.
The golden sand is rimmed with palm and almond trees, and natural pools created by crashing waves form along the water. During the winter months, the beach offers some of the best surfing on the island—though these massive waves are recommended only for experienced surfers.
From April through October, however, the waves transform into calmer waters, so you have the opportunity to snorkel through the enchanting Elkhorn coral gardens. Keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins, hawksbill turtles, spiny lobsters, and colorful tropical fish.
Playa Tres Palmas is located on the far west end of the island near the town of Rincón.
In the end, Puerto Rico is what you make of it. While you’ll never have to wander far for a luxury resort or bumping beach party, there’s also plenty of natural beauty and tranquil beaches waiting to be explored.
For more information on accommodation and real estate investment opportunities in this one-of-a-kind archipelago, get in touch with Lifeafar.