By: Mikael and Thrillism
Images: Lucas Moore / Rincon Surf School
20 minute read
Last updated June 5th, 2020
It’s undeniable that Puerto Rico is one of the best surfing destinations in the Caribbean. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie surfer or you consider yourself a pro, somewhere along the Puerto Rican coast there’s a wave that’s calling your name.
Nicknamed the “North Shore of the Caribbean”, travelers gravitate to this unincorporated US territory for more than just the Puerto Rico surf. The tropical laid-back vibes along with the stunning backdrop of swaying palms and white sand beaches are enough reasons to book a flight ASAP.
Many travelers come here with no intention of surfing at all and then find themselves riding a board within days of arriving. There are plenty of easy-to-ride waves for beginners as well as more challenging barrels for experienced surfers.
Whichever category you fall into, use this guide on Puerto Rico Surfing as something of a Puerto Rico Surf Bible. Here you’ll learn everything about traveling to the country, including where to find the island’s best surf spots and the best places to book a Puerto Rico surf camp.
Puerto Rico is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the continental United States. This is why so many Americans plan vacations to the island – along with the fact that US citizens do not even need to bring a passport for entry.
Whether you’re traveling from the US or somewhere else, you’ll be flying into one of three international airports on the island. The largest and most accessible one, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, is located in just east of San Juan.
Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, it holds the same standards for providing safe drinking water. Drinking the tap water here is completely safe. You should have no trouble at all with Puerto Rican water, but if you’re feeling iffy about it, feel free to buy bottled water at the local supermarket.
Spanish is the dominant language of Puerto Rico, but many of the local people also speak English. Traveling to the island without Spanish speaking skills is not a problem. You’ll get by just fine with only English.
Internet access has improved drastically in Puerto Rico within the past decade. Part of the reason for this is the concept of digital nomadism that seems to be taking over the world. In 2019, nearly 85% of Puerto Ricans have access to mobile broadband services.
You should have no trouble at all finding a solid internet connection during your time here. Whether that means connecting at your hotel or hostel or walking to a nearby cafe is up to you. The other option is to purchase a SIM card with preloaded data from one of the local cellular providers, like Claro.
Puerto Rico plugs are the same as the plugs found in all of North America. They use 120V and 60Hz. If you’re traveling from the States, Canada, or most parts of South America, there’s no need for a power adapter. Citizens of other parts of the world, though, will need to look for an adapter/converter that comes with a surge protector.
We already mentioned that if you’re from the US, there’s no need for a Visa, it’s not even necessary to have a passport (just a form of government ID). For those of you from other parts of the world, you will need to bring a passport and potentially apply for a visa ahead of time. The requirements for entering Puerto Rico are the same for entering the US.
Puerto Rico uses the USD, which is yet another reason that so many Americans travel here. Getting cash out is simple enough, just use an ATM. If your normal form of currency is the USD, you won’t be charged any international transaction fees and you won’t need to visit a currency exchange.
Puerto Rican healthcare is held to an extremely high standard, but the medical treatment you receive depends a lot on your location on the island. There are dozens of hospitals throughout the island, but the most reputable are located in San Juan.
Travelers have the option for either public or private healthcare. It’s no surprise that the more preferred choice is to visit a private clinic or hospital. The wait times at a private facility will be shorter, and the care is likely to be much better. Plus, nearly all private facilities accept medical travel insurance.
Even though the Caribbean is considered one of the safest destinations for tourists, Puerto Rico is no heaven on Earth. We’re not saying that it’s a dangerous island, only that crime does happen here. Most criminal activity is related to drug trading and trafficking, which makes complete sense since the island falls between South America and the US mainland.
Incidents of violent crime are fairly rare, but it’s still important to always remain aware. The most common crime committed against tourists is theft and mugging, and it’s usually because a tourist is flaunting wealth. When exploring the island, always leave your valuables back in your hotel room or locked away in your hostel.
The other helpful tip for avoiding crime is to learn a bit of Spanish. This makes you more relatable to the locals, plus it helps when communicating with local law enforcement. It’ll be easy to learn a few helpful phrases while exploring local Puerto Rico surf spots.
For travelers spending time in San Juan, a huge perk of exploring the city is that it is extremely walkable. It’s possible to walk nearly everywhere in touristic parts of the city, like Old San Juan and Condado. If walking isn’t for you, there’s a free trolley service that visits the main Old San Juan attractions. That’s right – it’s completely free!
There are many airports throughout the island, so flying to all the best destinations for surfing in Puerto Rico is another option. Of course, this isn’t’ the most cost-effective way of getting around, but it gets the job done. More affordable alternatives for exploring the island are trains, buses, and públicos. The options for getting around in Puerto Rico are essentially endless.
Another reliable option is to whip out your smartphone and call an Uber. Most Uber trips within San Juan cost around $10. For longer journeys, an affordable and comfortable option is to take a público. This privately-operated shuttle bus makes stops along the way, but it’s a great way to see the local areas of the island.
Puerto Rico is not the most affordable island in the Caribbean, not by a long shot. The main reason for this is that everything that is imported here must first go through the US mainland. This increases the cost of goods significantly. That said, certain parts of the island are more budget-friendly than others.
The cost of lodging in Puerto Rico depends on two main things: the area of the island and your taste preferences. Staying in San Juan can cost anywhere between $40 and $300 per night. In low season, it might be possible to find a dorm bed in the city for $15 a night, but consider yourself lucky if you stumble across a deal this good.
The better option for visiting the best surf spots in Puerto Rico is to start the search for an all-inclusive surf camp or resort. Many people say that the most reliable waves happen along the northwest coast, so start your search there. We’ll get into the details on the best places to stay for a Puerto Rico surf trip later on.
It’s possible to find a casual local meal for around $5 to $10 in most parts of Puerto Rico. For a nicer sit-down restaurant, expect to spend between $20 and $25 for each meal. For a surfer on an extreme budget, cooking is always the way to go. But keep in mind that since everything is imported, the cost of groceries isn’t cheap.
Now for the fun stuff. Budgeting for adventure activities is something that all travelers to Puerto Rico should do. Of course, there’s plenty of fun free activities throughout the island, like meandering around San Juan or lazing around on the beach. But for organized tours, you’ll have to pay. Many of the popular natural attractions require an admission fee.
Although Puerto Rico isn’t the most ideal destination for budget backpackers, it’s possible to set a budget and stick to it. The best way to do this is to visit during the low tourism season, which is actually perfect for surfers. The price of lodging (and everything else) will be at its lowest from May to November.
Another helpful hint is to opt for snacks throughout the day rather than sit-down meals. Instead of spending $15-$20 on lunch at a sit-down restaurant, browse around local food kiosks in the area. These mainly sell bite-sized snacks, but you’ll feel just as full afterward for around $5.
The best time to visit Puerto Rico depends on what you’re looking for. Peak tourism season happens from mid-December to mid-April, mainly because travelers from the US and Canada are looking to escape the cold wintertime back home.
In terms of the Puerto Rico surf forecast, the best time to visit the island is from mid-April to June. This is right after the busy winter season, but right before the heavy rainfall of the summertime. In addition to less crowded waves, the cost of accommodation during this shoulder season is much more affordable.
Looking at a Puerto Rico surf map, you’ll see pins for amazing surf spots all along the northern coast of the island. There are a few Puerto Rico surfing beaches near San Juan in the northeast, but the real action happens in the northwestern waters.
For those of you who do choose to stay in or near San Juan, some of the best waves are found at Playa La Ocho. This beach offers both left and right breaks, but many surfers agree that La Ocho’s left break is better. Playa Aviones is another year-round surfer’s paradise, and it’s easy to access since it’s located a short drive from the San Juan international airport.
For something relatively close to San Juan but not right in the city, take the 45-minute drive west to Manatí. Even though it’s pretty easy to get to, some travelers consider it an off-the-beaten-path destination. It’s way less congested than San Juan, offering big swells from the northwest. Unfortunately, there are no surf shops here so you’ll have to rent a board from San Juan or bring your own.
To truly experience Puerto Rico surf, making your way to the northwest coast is a must. Rincón is a well-known Puerto Rico surf spot – there’s even a statue of a massive statue of a surfer in the middle of town. The best surfing beaches catering to intermediate and experienced surfers are Domes, María’s, Tres Palmas, and Sandy Beach.
For anyone new to the watersport, head to the northwest Puerto Rican destination of Isabela. The beaches here cater to all skill levels and it’s a great place to seek out surfing lessons in Puerto Rico. Laid-back Middles Beach and the livelier Jobos Beach are the two most-visited surf spots in Isabela.
Rincón Surf School is right in the thick of things when it comes to the best surf in Puerto Rico. This is the most well-known surf school on the island, partly because it offers new surfers the opportunity to learn from the best. This is the longest-running surf school in Rincón with a well-established reputation among both locals and traveling surfers.
“At the Rincón Surf School, we like to specialize in creating surfers, whatever your goals are we have a coach or a guide that can get you there. Our ultimate motivation is not just to get you standing up but to have you walk away with a better understanding of the sport and a fast love for riding waves. We will see you out in the water.”
– The Team at Rincón Surf School
The main goal at RSS is not just to teach you how to stand up on a board, but rather to give you a complete insight into all aspect of surfing. The school offers plenty of options for learning how to surf, including group and private lessons as well as guided adventure tours. Travelers have the option to stay at the Rincón resort or book lodging elsewhere.
Unless you book during a preorganized tour, there are no all-inclusive packages. You’ll have to pay for lodging, food, and surfing all separately. For those of you who do end up booking a weeklong camp, the price you pay will include lodging, two daily meals, surf coaching and equipment, and transportation to and from surf spots.
Surfers from all over the world are saying that signing up for a retreat at Surf787 is one of the best ways to spend time in Puerto Rico. As one of the leading Puerto Rico surf resorts, visitors of Surf787 are given the chance to connect with and enjoy nature. Surf787 believes in complete immersion into Puerto Rico’s natural surroundings, both on and off the water.
“Surf787 provides our guests with a limitless surf experience and offers an opportunity to connect with nature in the water and on the shore.”
– The Team at Surf787
The surf is located in the heart of Rincón near tons of famous surf spots of Puerto Rico. These are the beaches that are visited by Surf787 instructors and students regularly: Maria’s, Indicator, Domes, Sandy Beach, Pools Beach, Little Malibu, and Tres Palmas. There are also quite a few popular spots within a 30-minute drive of the school, like Bridges, Crash Boat, and Aguada.
Signing up for an all-inclusive retreat at Surf787 means that you’ll have access to a variety of activities in addition to surfing. This includes yoga, swimming, hiking, paddle boarding, and even exploring the nearby waterfalls of the island. It’s even possible to build your own retreat to fit your exact vacation needs.
Even though Rincón is by far the most popular location for new and advanced surfers traveling to Puerto Rico, it’s not the only place to test out your skills. Another great option is Aguadilla, which is located slightly northeast of Rincón. The best surf school in the Aguadilla area is without a doubt PR Surf Adventures.
“Travel to parts unknown, explore new waves, go surfing and experience a new adventure in Aguadilla!”
– The Team at PR Surf Adventures
PR Surf Adventures was started by a North Carolina native that goes by the name of Pig. Pig and the rest of the team are committed to giving visitors the ultimate experience, whether that includes surfing or not. PR Surf Adventures is strictly about offering up the opportunity for adventures throughout the island, like surfing, snorkeling, hiking, and paddleboarding.
There are no accommodations offered here, but instead, you’ll find a variety of surfing and sightseeing adventures. The cost for a full day of surfing and other activities with PR Surf Adventures is $250, and half-day is $150. For those of you who have never put a board to water, sign up for a lesson at $50 per hour.
For those of you looking to stay in the San Juan area of Puerto Rico, the top surfing provider is Spectrum Surf School. Similar to PR Surf in Aguadilla, Spectrum does not offer accommodations. The Puerto Rico surf school is all about teaching new surfers all about the watersport and helping more advanced surfers improve their skills.
“We welcome those who seek an exciting experience among the island’s waves. Group surf instruction or private surf lessons are available.”
– The Team at Spectrum Surf School
Spectrum specializes in private surf lessons, but they have a few unique options for experiencing the best of Puerto Rico surf. Either sign up for a 1-on-1 lesson, save some cash on a group session, or sign up for a daylong private beach tour. The other option is to simply rent a surfboard from the school, which costs either $20 per hour or $60 for the full day.
Instead of heading west from San Juan to Rincon or Aguadilla, it’s time to look to the east. Surfing Puerto Rico in Luquillo is a top pick for those wanting to stay away from the crowded waves of Rincón. Luquillo is a small town that’s easy to access – just 45 minutes from San Juan. It’s home to some of the best beginner-level waves on the island.
“We make it easy by providing a great opportunity for visitors to our Island to learn how to surf.”
– The Team at Surfing Puerto Rico
This school is not meant for advanced pros, but it’s more geared towards newbies and children. Family travelers love signing up for sessions with Surfing Puerto Rico since the school accepts children as young as 8 years old. The school doesn’t offer accommodations, but there are plenty of guesthouses and hotels nearby. The other perk of choosing this school is that it’s located just minutes from the nature of El Yunque National Forest.
Surfboard rentals in Puerto Rico run for about $25 per day or $150 per week. You might be able to find a better price than this, especially during the low season. If you have your own board, feel free to bring it along to save on daily rental fees. Just be sure to research the airline’s cost for checking a surfboard.
Bringing a board is completely your call, but no matter what, pack sunscreen and other necessary sun protection, like a hat and rashguard. You’ll be able to find things like sunscreen, bug spray, and toiletries on the island, but these don’t come cheap.
The weather in Puerto Rico is tropical all year, and this means that tropical storms do happen. No matter the season, it’s a good idea to bring a rain jacket. Another helpful item to pack is a portable power bank. This is an island, and it is prone to power outages every now and then. Of course, these outages usually last for a few minutes but bring a power bank just in case.
Although this isn’t a tangible packing item, always always always purchase traveler’s insurance before visiting Puerto Rico. The heavy breaks make for a fun ride, but they can also be very dangerous. Before embarking on your adventure, invest in a travel insurance provider that will keep you covered in the event of a surfing accident.
It’s no surprise that fresh seafood is a main staple of the island. Anywhere you go, there will be a selection of fresh fish at almost every food establishment. Even if you’re not a fan of seafood, you certainly won’t starve during your time here.
If you consider yourself a healthfood freak, Puerto Rico is not the place for you when it comes to food. The island is all about deep-frying everything, so just try to let loose and not worry about getting your daily dose of greens.
Mofongo – This dish deep-fried plantains with sauteed onions and garlic typically comes with fresh shrimp served on top. Don’t you like seafood? Order it without shrimp and substitute it with pork or veggies.
Pastelón – Pastelón is another typical food of Puerto Rico that has the main ingredient of plantains. It’s an interesting combination of sweet and savory, with sweet plantains layered with savory ground beef. Maybe it doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but you’ll change your mind after the first bite.
Sancocho – This hearty beef stew typically contains a variety of starchy vegetables, like potatoes and yucca. It is the perfect meal after a long day on the water, especially during Puerto Rico’s wet season.
Pernil – Pernil is a delicacy for the local people that is usually only served on holidays and special occasions. This slow-roasted pork shoulder is often compared to the turkey of American Thanksgiving. It might be hard to find a restaurant serving Pernil, but if you do, hurry up and order it before it’s gone.
Some budget-weary travelers freak out when they see the high cost of tour operators throughout the island. As it turns out, there’s no reason for your bank account to take a hit. There are plenty of free things to do in Puerto Rico, like hang out on the beach or embark on a hiking adventure. Here are a few of the top things to see and do, some of them completely free of charge.
Spend Time Chilling at the Beach
This is by far the most popular activity for travelers, and not just because hanging out at the beach doesn’t cost a penny. There are so many beautiful beaches lining the coast, including popular spots like Flamenco Beach and Condado Beach.
If you’re hoping to swim but also have access to the best surfing in Puerto Rico, check out Isabela’s Jobos Beach. Just be aware that there are no lifeguards here, so swim at your own risk. Other popular beaches for catching up on sun and surf are Luquillo Beach, Sucia Beach, and Isla Verde.
Explore El Yunque National Rainforest
You might hear this natural attraction called the Caribbean National Forest, but the official name of Puerto Rico’s most popular natural site is El Yunque. This lush rainforest is located just 35 miles east of San Juan. It’s the best place on the island to explore Puerto Rico’s great outdoors. There is a fee for entering, but it’s just $4 for adults.
Visit One of Puerto Rico’s Famous Fortresses
Puerto Rico is home to some impressive fortresses, specifically the one called El Morro. This massive fortress was built in the 1500s to fend off sea attacks coming from the north. The wall juts out from the San Juan harbor and it is one of the most-visited tourist attractions on the island. Adults wanting to explore El Morro have to pay just $5 for entry.
Shop at Calle del Cristo
Calle del Cristo is the shopping center of the island. It’s located in the prime location of Old San Juan, so even if you don’t want to spend money, it’s a cool area to visit. Travelers can find everything from large outlet stores to local artisan shops lining the cobblestone streets of Calle del Cristo.
Experience the Nighttime Magic at Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay
Visiting the south Vieques Beach called Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay is a popular bucket list item for travelers in Puerto Rico. During the daytime hours, it looks like your average tropical beach. But at night, something magical happens. The bay waters glow with bioluminescent microorganisms, giving off the appearance of stars in the night sky.
Thanks to its diversity of powerful reef and beach breaks, Puerto Rico is more suited to surfers with some experience under their belts. Even so, there are still some beginner-friendly beaches along the coast. Your best bet for learning how to surf is to sign up for a Puerto Rico surf school.
Set your sights on surf camps in Puerto Rico that are located along beginner-friendly surfing beaches. These include popular spots in the northwest like La Peinilla in Dorada, Bridges in Aguadilla, and many beaches throughout Isabela.
The good news for surfers is that the high tourism season is different than the high surf season. The Puerto Rico surf season is technically year-round, but the best and most consistent waves happen during late fall, winter, and early spring.
This does overlap a bit with the peak tourism time, which happens from December through April. The best time to come would be right before tourists flock to the island, like in October or November. This is when you’ll be able to find the lowest rates for a Puerto Rico surf resort or hotel and when the surf in Puerto Rico is at an all-time high.