The main attraction when travelers visit San Juan is easily the coast. Shimmering sand beaches and swaying palm trees act like magnets for sun seekers and in San Juan there are no shortages of places to kick back and watch the waves roll in. I find however, that way too many visitors to the island only stick to one or two beaches in the capital and I want to show you that there is way more to San Juan than just Condado Beach.
Now, if you’re staying in San Juan, most visitors opt to stay in Condado which is an okay area, but not the best in my opinion. Almost all of the guests that stay in the resorts on the Ashford strip stay at Condado Beach or worse, the hotel pool (trust me, I asked around). What’s the point of visiting a Caribbean island only to soak in a bunch of chlorine? No thanks.
Other than Condado Beach, the capital of Puerto Rico offers more incredible places for you to relax, play sports, or explore coral reefs. In this article, I will be writing all about the 5 most stunning San Juan beaches. P.S. I promise you guys I had photos of all of these places but the second to last week that I was in Puerto Rico, I had my phone in my back pocket while playing frisbee and someone threw the frisbee in the ocean and like a fool I went out into the water to fetch it only to be knocked down by the wave. Needless to say I don’t have a phone and it’s taken me weeks to get a new one. Anyway, without further ado..
1. La Ocho
La Ocho is a great beach, relatively untapped by mass tourism. It’s located between old San Juan and the beach side resort called Escambron. Here, surfers rule the waters and there are usually locals carefully watching their friends ride the cool waves of the Atlantic. This beach is perfect if you want to learn how to surf too. The guys there are super friendly and if you have a board they will teach you and help you out in the water. There’s a surf shop called La 8 where you can rent surf gear. Their website isn’t updated so just give the store a visit for prices, board styles, and lessons.
2. Balneario Escambron
To get to La Ocho you’ll have to park and walk through the resort Escambron. Here there are quite a few beaches but you’ll want to know about the main part of this area. Escambron is protected by a coral reef which offers incredible snorkeling and swimming. Rows of palm trees offer some much needed shade from the Caribbean sun and there is a recreational park that’ll keep you very busy if you have kiddos. I mean, I like to play on jungle gyms too… There is a $5 parking fee to make sure that Balneario Escambron is always clean and services can always be provided like restrooms and changing areas so take that into consideration. There is free street parking a couple blocks away too if you don’t have cash. I’ve found sea glass here which is very cool and this beach area also serves up local food in the kiosks along the beach. If all that is already overwhelming, there’s one more feature to this beach resort. Escambron also has a bit of an old fort used by the Spanish built towards the end of the 18th century.
3. Laguna del Condado
This is probably my favorite beach in San Juan. The Laguna del Condado or Playita del Condado (same thing) borders Condado and Old San Juan and is nestled at the beginning of the bridge leading towards the old town. There are a few entrances or sides to this lagoon and you’ll find something different to do at each of them. At point A, you’ll find a chill beach with locals and travelers mixed. You’ll find THE BEST chicken pincho on the island, calm waves, and beautiful boulders to explore (just bring some water shoes). At point B you’ll find mangroves and manatees to swim with. On our last full day we finally spotted not only one but five manatees and Thomas went swimming with them. It was a magical experience and even though I wasn’t the one in the water with them I got super emotional. We were trying to find manatees since we first got back to the island in January and it so happened that on our last day we got that chance. #ThankYouUniverse. Point C is where you’ll rent kayaks or paddle boards to explore the lagoon. We rented two paddle boards for $30 for an hour. It was such a great deal we couldn’t pass it up! Our friends did the same thing and saw jumping sting rays and the manatees so if you like adventure and nature together this is perfect for you. Last but not least, at point D you will find sport classes in the lush city park, Jaime Benitez. Here, you can also bird-watch since this is a protected national park.
4. Ocean Park
Since this beach was one of the closest to me while I lived in San Juan, I visited Ocean Park the most. At this beach, you will find volleyball nets, kite-surfing, yoga, and almost always there are people playing soccer. Ocean Park is most definitely the party beach. As you stroll along the sand, speakers blaring salsa, reggaeton, or the new pop and hip-hop hits fill your ears. Beverage (beer) carts and vendors walk up and down offering cool refreshing drinks (beer) to keep you going and some even offfer empanadas to be washed down with your drink (beer). Are you visiting during a full moon by chance? Ocean Park has a full moon party with bonfires, drinks, probably something to smoke, music to dance to, and of course dipping into the cool dark ocean. I was also told that on La Noche de San Juan (Night of San Juan) on June 23rd, there is a huge beach party and at midnight you run into the water backwards for good luck. How neat is that?!
5. Playa Pena
For a gorgeous and natural beach, make your way down to Playa Pena. This beach was named after all of the rocks and boulders that make this beach so unique to the city. The bright blues of the ocean next to the rust colored rocks in the water are beautiful contrasting colors that will give you a great photo for your Instagram feed. Walk east, and you’ll find the ruins of an old Spanish fort and enough sea glass to make that one Pinterest craft that you’ve been dying to do. If you walk all the way to the end (I won’t tell you which end, it’ll be like a scavenger hunt) you will find a beautiful tide pool. The bottom is filled with polished white, brown, and black stones and is only about six inches to a foot deep depending on the tide. Starfish and other colorful fish make this tide pool home so it’s perfect for the sea life lover.
Please don’t limit your stay in San Juan to only visiting Condado Beach. Let me know if you’ve already visited one of these amazing places or if you’ll be adding them to your San Juan #bucketlist!