A local's beach guide to Puerto Rico: Which beaches to visit, what to know in San Juan, Culebra and more

·4 min read

The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has nearly 300 beaches, and each of them is magical in its way.

From the white sands of Flamenco Beach in the island town of Culebra to the black sands of Playa Negra, each beach has a character that brings la Isla del Encanto closer to a Caribbean paradise.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, one of the many pastimes was visiting beaches like Crash Boat in Aguadilla. I would wander the beaches searching for shells and dive headfirst onto the waves. My friends and family would have picnics and celebrate every birthday on the beach, taking advantage of the island's natural wonders.

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The beach was, and is, something almost every Puerto Rican has a connection with personally – and it should be preserved. Because of rising water levels and warmer climates, many of the island's beaches are disappearing. Another threat lies in foreigners purchasing beachfront lots, which makes access to Puerto Rico's beaches difficult for locals. Every beach on the island is public and accessible to residents and guests equally. As a Puerto Rican, here are my picks for the best beaches on the island.

Survival beach, Aguadilla

Located on the northwest coast and accessible only through a hidden entrance, Survival Beach is the perfect place if you're a fan of hikes.

The hike usually lasts about 20 minutes and is considered relatively easy, but make sure to bring the right shoes and some water. Another nearby option is Surfer's Beach, which is on the same path. Surfer's Beach is considered one of the better places for surfing; it's good for novice and pros alike.

Playa Zoni, Culebra

Located on the smaller island of Culebra off the east coast of the main island, Playa Zoni is a remote beach wonderland away from the hustle and bustle of busier beaches.

If you need to get to Culebra, the best way is by ferry. It runs from the town of Ceiba six to seven times a day, and the ride is usually 2 to 3 hours. The other option is to fly from San Juan on Vieques Air Link.

Be prepared to bring everything you need; the best part of this beach is that it's abandoned. White sands cover this beach, which could easily be mistaken for the shores of the Maldives.

Playa Sardinera, Isla Mona

Isla Mona is another small island off Puerto Rico between the Dominican Republic and the western side of the commonwealth.

Accessible only by boat, its untouched beaches like Playa Sardinera are the perfect destinations for a beach field trip. Unbothered and with white sand stretching further than the eye can see, the beach also features large rocks that act as a barrier to the crashing waves.

There are no amenities on this beach or the entire small island for that matter. Pack a tent and explore the next time you want to go camping.

Playa Crash Boat, Aguadilla

Named Crash Boat after all the colorful fishing boats that would strike rocks and sink while trying to enter the beach, Crash Boat is another locals' favorite that I would visit almost weekly.

Parking and other amenities are readily available to anyone who visits.

Playa La Poza del Obispo, Arecibo

The sleepy beach town of Arecibo is not well known outside of locals, but if you venture to Playa La Poza del Obispo, you'll discover why it's considered one of the best places to visit on the island.

Parking is relatively easy and safe, and most days, food trucks are nearby for light snacks. The beach is also perfect for families because of its smaller natural pool near the main beach.

Playa Flamenco, Culebra

The landmark of this beach is an abandoned tank left over from when the U.S. Navy occupied Culebra.

The waters here are calm, perfect for snorkeling, and the sand is soft and white. Zaco's Tacos is the perfect lunch spot.

Cayo Icacos, Fajardo

Considering the most popular cays in Puerto Rico, Cayo Icacos is the perfect place to unwind and disconnect.

The only way to arrive is by catamaran, and rentals are readily available. Companies like East Island Excursion and Salty Dog provide day trips. Rent one out and save yourself the trouble of packing.

Playa Mar Chiquita, Manatí

This pebbled grounded beach is a northern Puerto Rican delight, shaped like a manatee's tail.

Nestled between Barceloneta and Vega Baja, it's a local cooling spot considered one of the best in Puerto Rico.

Parking is a breeze because it's centrally located, and there are multiple food options. Check out Las Tacas de La Chiquita for delicious Mexican beach dishes.

Playa Ocean Park

Sunset at Ocean Park beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sunset at Ocean Park beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nestled in San Juan, this beach is excellent for its numerous food options.

Eateries such as Uvva and Numero Uno Beach Hotel & Restaurant are perfect for waterfront dining. And don't miss out on all the great surfing spots if you stay in the San Juan area and prefer a local site.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Puerto Rico travel: Going beyond the tourist beaches

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