Are you hankering after a balmy domestic escape? You can get bargain deals on Puerto Rico flights and accommodation for a relatively inexpensive getaway. As a large island, PR can offer both touristy and secluded tropical vacays, complete with mountains, rivers, waterfalls, coral reefs, and lagoons. And then there are the magnificent beaches. With time enough to explore, you're in for a treat on every coast. The Isle of Enchantment is a U.S. Commonwealth, so spur-of-the-moment breaks are just a click away, and your tourism dollars help the economy and hurricane recovery efforts.
A half-hour ferry ride from La Guancha in Ponce, Caja de Muertos is a gem off the south coast of Puerto Rico. It sounds a lot spookier than it is, we promise! The uninhabited island makes for a laidback and unhurried day trip with birdwatching and hiking, and Pelícano Beach is pristine.
Arguably one of the best urban beaches in the Caribbean, Isla Verde is always pleasantly warm and chock-full of activities to do, from jet skiing to parasailing. It's a stone's throw from SJU airport, sets the scene for a range of high-rise hotels, and has three distinct areas: El Alambique, Pine Grove, and Balneario de Carolina, which is staffed with lifeguards for your peace of mind.
Another San Juan treasure, Condado beach, is queer-friendly, and you'll cherish the hospitality if you're a member of the LGBTQ community. Sip passion fruit juice or parcha while working on your tan, take those long walks on the beach with your significant other, and then hit the town when the sun goes down.
Also known as Balneario Monserrate, this well-known beach is safe and child-friendly. It's a welcome experience after a nice sweaty hike in the only tropical rainforest in the United States, El Yunque.
You'll need some cash for parking, umbrella rentals, and to make spontaneous purchases when food sellers walk by with fresh-as-can-be seafood drenched in glorious mojo sauce. If you want a more traditional dining experience, head to La Parrilla for a sit-down meal. Or visit Los Kioskos, a vibey restaurant and nightlife strip serving up plenty of fried fare.
When you're full, go to Loíza, about 40 minutes away. You can soak up Afro-Puerto Rican culture in this former slave hub. Get in the La Bomba groove or see craftsman whittling masks out of coconuts.
About 35 miles east of San Juan, you'll find Fajardo with its bioluminescent bay and ferries to Culebra Island. Check the ferry schedule and arrive with plenty of time to spare to guarantee spots on the boat. The ferry usually takes about an hour, and you have your pick of beaches from Tamarindo—a favorite for sea turtle sightings—to Flamenco. The latter is truly unforgettable; a postcard-perfect Caribbean beach with loads of snorkeling opportunities. Shallow waters stretch out like a giant swimming pool, and a nearby coral reef will have you finding Dory in no time. If you still have energy, you can go kayaking at night upon returning to Fajardo.
Seven Seas is yet another option for those who love the ocean when it's flat, calm, and all the better to swim in. At Seven Seas, you can do a whole lot more than swim. There's barbeque, camping, picnicking, and shower provisions, and you can catch sight of Cabezas de San Juan Reserva Natural.
Take a ferry from Ceiba to the island of Vieques, southeast of the mainland. Vieques is gorgeous. Wild horses abound, Playa Negra is full of rare black sand, and the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge comprises mangroves, salt flats, and beach trails.
The island is also home to the world's brightest bioluminescent bay, Mosquito Bay. The bay holds a Guinness World Record, so it's a solid bucket list attraction. Plan an excursion to this extraordinary body of water when there's a new moon to enhance the glow-in-the-dark effect of the resident microorganisms.
Crash Boat beach in Aguadilla is a local favorite. The beach is often busy but rewarding if you're in the mood for a party or a bit of easy diving at El Natural. Think golden sands, palm trees, and an irresistible reggaeton soundtrack. If you find yourself wondering about the blue pier, it's an unusual shape because it used to dock U.S. airbase rescue boats.
You'll find a winter surfing mecca in Rincón, a place featured in the Beach Boys song Surfin' Safari. There's Domes Beach, Tres Palmas, María's, and Sandy Beach to check out first. And you won't struggle to locate surfing paraphernalia or surf schools ready to teach newbies how to ride the waves.
Domes Beach hosts big wave competitions. The area's decommissioned nuclear reactor looks like half of an Epcot sphere and looms over the entire scene. For tasty fuel in between surf sessions, give Jack's Shack fish tacos a try. You can chow down while looking at whales backdropped by a stunning sunset.
Leave the cruise ship masses behind and trek to PR's southwest coast. The less developed beaches in this part of the island will afford you more privacy.
La Playuela is ideal for relaxed sunbathing with a book in hand. Look out for the charming and very Instagrammable Los Morrillos lighthouse with its aquamarine windows. La Playuela, also called Playa Sucia, is a Cabo Rojo highlight, but parking is limited, so you'll need to get there early.