Puerto Rico's sunkissed waves and good vibes are enticing.
When I relocated to the westside of Puerto Rico, I had never set foot in the region. I had heard about the sun-kissed waves and good vibes and was enticed to investigate this tropical haven for myself. As a US territory, US citizens are not required to prepare any immigration paperwork to visit or live in Puerto Rico, which is another aspect of why I chose to move here, compared to an overseas destination that would require visas.
For those sailing in the Caribbean, it is popular for sailors to chart a course that includes the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra. Most sailors will arrive at port in Fajardo, on the east side of the island.
While the east side provides opportunities to visit bioluminescent bays and the El Yunque National Forest, the capital city of San Juan is only one hour away by car. San Juan can scratch any metropolitan itches you may have, not to mention the possibility of provisioning at Costco, but if you’re looking to venture to a more rural region, rent a car and head towards the west side of the island where you’ll find endless swells, secret beaches, and scintillating sunsets.
The hot spot of the west side: Rincon
The hotspot of the west side is Rincon, a small town that is considerably Americanized in comparison to other regions of Puerto Rico. While some areas of Puerto Rico will make it mandatory for you to engage your Spanish skills, Rincon is so frequently visited and inhabited by North Americans and English-speakers that almost everyone speaks some English, even if just enough to communicate and help you navigate around town.
I like to start my day with a fresh juice from The Juice Box in Black Eagle Marina, which is a humble marina with no more than five boats moored off the beach and a concrete ramp into the ocean used by several fishermen who trailer their boats when conditions permit. One of the moored vessels is a 32-foot catamaran operated by Katarina Sailing, which offers day snorkeling charters or sunset sails with flowing cocktails if you’re looking to get some west-side sailing in.
Surf, snorkel, sunbath, explore
If you are interested in chasing waves, check out the Mar Azul Surf Shop in Puntas for quality equipment rentals. If you’re a beginner, ask Bobby, the owner, for his wise recommendations on local instructors and lessons to get you out in the water. If you’re more of an experienced surfer, please be respectful of others when surfing, and practice proper etiquette and water safety when surfing at unfamiliar breaks. When in doubt, don’t go out.
When the waves aren’t pumping, I enjoy jumping in the water at Steps Beach. Snorkeling in the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve will expose you to lavender sea fans swaying with the current, an assortment of vivid tropical fish, and endangered branching elkhorn coral. After working up an appetite, I usually cruise over to Jack’s Shack, a small food stand across from Pools Beach that stacks their delicious fish tacos with fresh caught grouper, pineapple salsa, and homemade tropical hot sauces.
There are so many different types of beaches on the west side of Puerto Rico, each boasting their own variations of natural beauty. If you prefer wider expanses of beach, check out the Balneario de Rincon, which is centrally located and hosts Zumba and yoga classes on weekday mornings. For those seeking tranquil crystal-clear water, travel 1.5 hours down to the southwestern corner to El Combate beach in Cabo Rojo, where you’ll find yourself living in a white sand postcard.
If you’ve had your fill of salt water, there are several waterfalls throughout the San Sebastian area that will delight your inner forest sprite, with gorgeous hikes through lush vegetation and serenades from native birds. Cascada Gozalandia is an easily accessible option for experiencing two different waterfalls with swimming holes for cooling down in.
I love ending my day by enjoying a phenomenal view of the sunset from the Punta Higueras lighthouse, located between Maria’s beach and Domes beach. Here you’ll find the Ola Sunset Cafe, an open-air bar serving mojitos the size of buckets, alongside pinchos (meat skewers, usually chicken or pork) and empanadillas (deep fried savory turnovers).
Downtown Rincon turns up on Thursday nights with the Art Walk that starts around 6 p.m. in the main town plaza, where you may stroll through the booths of local artisans sharing their finest handmade crafts, unique jewelry, and organic bath and body products. On Sunday mornings, there is also a small farmers market that occurs in the same location, where you will find amazing local produce, homemade kombucha, goat’s milk yogurt, and my personal favorite, adaptogenic mushroom granola.
You will see signs for Route 413 which is also known as “The Road to Happiness.” The road earned this title because it leads to the best surf breaks in Rincon; however, there is little doubt that you will find that the majority of the roads in Rincon lead to another version of paradise.
by Chelsea Co
Interested in chartering in the Caribbean? Check out our Newcomers Chartering Guide.