Puerto Rico is an excellent place to surf. The island has stunning tropical beaches and some of the best waves in the Caribbean.
Puerto Rico has world-class point breaks, reefs, and beach breaks that receive swell throughout the year. Northerly swells provide the largest waves on Puerto Rico between October and January. Prevailing easterly trade winds blow daily, creating messy afternoon conditions.
There are many great places to surf in Puerto Rico. The size and quality of the waves vary considerably depending on when and where you go. Here is some valuable information to help you get the most from your time surfing on this beautiful Caribbean island.
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Surfing On Puerto Rico: What You Need To Know
Puerto Rico is a surfers’ paradise. Lush rain forests and mountains cover much of the local terrain, and the 311-mile coastline has countless bays, coves, and beaches for surfers to explore.
Local Surf Conditions On Puerto Rico
The island is on the northwestern fringe of the Caribbean Sea, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its exposed location, Puerto Rico gets swell consistently, making the island the premier surf destination in the Caribbean.
There are surf spots dotted all around the main island. However, the north shore of Puerto Rico has the majority of high-quality surf spots. This part of the island is known as the North Shore of the Caribbean because it resembles the famed North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.
While Puerto Rico is most well-known for its heavy barreling reef and point breaks, there are also many beginner-friendly beach breaks.
It’s possible to score fun waves on Puerto Rico year-round, though the waves get substantially larger when north swells arrive from the Atlantic from October to January. The easterly trade-wind blows every afternoon on Puerto Rico, resulting in cross-shore conditions at many ocal surf spots.
Weather Patterns On Puerto Rico
Aside from a rainy season from April to November, Puerto Rico doesn’t have discernible seasonal weather changes and is always warm. However, the mountains that run along the center of Puerto Rico create cooler, wetter weather on the north side of the island, and hotter, drier weather on the south side.
The water is also pleasantly warm throughout the year. Wetsuits aren’t generally required when surfing on the island, though a spring suit might be worth having on the north shore in the cooler months (December and January), when water temperatures drop to around 76F.
Puerto Rico’s Beach Scene: Important Considerations
Puerto Rico has a well-established surf culture, and there is large contingent of local surfers, many of who are rippers. The line-ups get crowded, with intense competition for waves at the premier surf spots when conditions are good. However, Puerto Rico has more than enough coastline to find uncrowded waves.
All the beaches in Puerto Rico are open to the public. However, most beaches have closing hours, so it’s crucial to account for this when you head to the beach.
There is abundant marine life off the coast of Puerto Rico, including a few sea creatures that can pose a potential hazard to surfers such as urchins and jellyfish. There is also a healthy shark population in the local waters, so caution and common sense are needed when surfing in Puerto Rico.
When Is The Best Time To Surf On Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico provides for surfers’ needs all year. There are small but consistent swells from February to September, with the hurricane season providing some wind-swell from the south between August and October. Beginner and intermediate surfers will enjoy surfing in Puerto Rico at this time of year.
Seasonal Swell Patterns
The peak swell season in Puerto Rico is from October to January. During this time, large, long-period northerly ground-swells from the Atlantic north hit the Puerto Rico coastline. These north swells regularly provide overhead waves at the premier surf spots on the island’s north shore.
The primary swell season understandably brings the biggest crowds to many of Puerto Rico’s most well-known surf spots. However, the line-ups are usually manageable, and many of the surf spots have enough space to find a few waves away from the pack.
The timing of the daily trade winds that blow from a general easterly direction also changes the surfing conditions in Puerto Rico. The best time of day to surf in Puerto Rico is usually early in the morning or evening when the waves are generally clean and glassy when the wind drops off.
Roughly at midday, the easterly trade-winds pick up, bring messy, cross-shore conditions to many of the island’s popular surf spots. There are still fun waves at certain spots when the easterly trade winds are blowing, but local knowledge and some searching are needed to find clean waves during the windy afternoon hours.
The Best Surfing Spots In Puerto Rico
Having considered when to surf in Puerto Rico, let’s get to the exciting part—the surf spots! We’ll start at the far east of the south shore.
The south shore of Puerto Rico is not as famous as the north shore, but there are several excellent surf spots. Patillas is on the southeastern corner of the island and it’s the main surfing area on the south shore. Let’s take a closer look at Inches, one of the best surf spots in Patillas.
Inches is a super-fun left-hand reef break. This surf spot is in front of the tiny residential community of Recio. The reef is on the east side of a pebble beach in a small bay protected by a rocky headland called Punta Viento.
Inches is one of the best surf spots on the south shore. The reef is shallow (thus the name) and produces fast, hollow waves when the swell is one to five feet.
The take-off zone at Inches is about 150 yards from the shore and is accessed by paddling a short distance across a deep, calm channel that runs parallel to the beach.
Being on the south shore, Inches can be fickle. It doesn’t receive the big north ground-swells and works best on east-southeast hurricane swells from August to October. While Inches can be inconsistent, it has the advantage of being surfable on the prevailing easterly trade winds.
Moving from the southeast to the northwest of the island is the town of Rincon, which is one of the most popular places to surf in Puerto Rico. This beautiful five-mile stretch of coastline juts into the ocean. There are several excellent beach and reef breaks in Rincon.
Tres Palmas is a heavy big-wave surf spot at Steps Beach, about midway up the Rincon coastline. The reef is about 200 yards out from the stunning, palm-lined beach. Tres Palmas is a right-hand wave that prefers light east winds, and it needs at least a six-foot northwest groundswell to start breaking.
Less than a mile north of Tres Palmas is Maria’s Beach. This attractive, sandy beach is one of the most popular places to surf in the Rincon area.
In the middle of the beach, there is a mellow reef and sand-bottom wave that has super-fun lefts and rights. The waves are ideal when they’re between two and five feet and are perfect for beginners. This part of the beach is ride-able in most conditions, though northwest swells and northeast winds are ideal.
On the north side of Maria’s Beach is a big right-hand point break that works on larger, six-foot-plus swells. The waves are long and powerful, and not recommended for beginners. Like the inside reef, the point also prefers a northwesterly swell direction and northeast winds.
Domes Beach is at the tip of the Rincon peninsula, about 500 yards north along the shoreline from Maria’s. Named after the old nuclear reactor behind the beachfront, Domes Beach is another premier Rincon surf spot. The beach starts at the Rincon Lighthouse to the south and ends at a rocky headland to the north.
Domes Beach works on northwest swells and southeast winds. There are fun, rippable left and right-hand peaks that break consistently along the length of Domes Beach. Beginner and advanced surfers enjoy surfing here. The ideal size for this section of Domes Beach is two to four feet.
In the northern corner of the beach, there are longer, right-hand waves breaking over a reef and sand-bottom. This section of Domes Beach handles bigger swell than the rest of the beach and works best between four and six feet.
Aguadilla Bay is about five miles along the coastline in a northeasterly direction. The Aguadilla Bay area has several of Puerto Rico’s most well-known surf spots.
Crash Boat Beach
Crash Boat Beach is near the barrio of Borinquen on the northern end of Aguadilla Bay. This sandy beach is in a small cove with forested cliffs on both sides and an old and convoluted concrete pier structure in the middle of the beach.
Crash Boat gets hollow, four to six-foot waves during the northwest swell season (from October to January). During the rest of the year, Crash Boat has small but super-fun waves for surfers of all skill levels.
It’s often crowded here because of the quality and consistency of the waves. However, there is also enough space on both sides of the pier to get your fair share of waves.
It’s often crowded here because of the quality and consistency of the waves, but there is also enough space on both sides of the pier to get your fair share of waves.
Wilderness Beach is just outside Borinquen, roughly a mile north of Crash Boat Beach. It’s on an isolated and exposed stretch of coastline just beyond the protection of Aguadilla Bay. Getting to Wilderness involves a short drive along a sandy track.
Wilderness Beach has a consistent right-hand point that breaks over a reef on the north side of the beach. Its long, super-fun wave, with occasional barrel sections, when the conditions are right.
Wilderness Beach is not recommended for beginners. The waves are powerful here, and they get well-overhead during the northwest swells from October to January.
Middles is one of the premier surf spots in Puerto Rico. It’s a wide beach backed by dunes, and it’s in an area called Isabela. The waves at Middles are fast, hollow right that breaks over a shallow sandbank next to an exposed rock shelf in the middle of the beach. The waves at Middles are best when they’re four to six feet.
Middles offers the chance of scoring a once-in-a-lifetime barrel, but it is a heavy, unpredictable wave with potentially serious consequences. This is not an ideal surf spot for beginners but it’s one of the best places on the island for advanced surfers.
Puerto Rico’s capital city San Juan is on the north-eastern shore of the island, roughly 40 miles east of the Isabela area. Though not as popular as the Rincon and Aguadilla, San Juan gets some excellent waves at local surf spots like La Ocho and Aviones.
La Ocho is an exposed and super-fun sand-bottom wave at Escambron Beach, which is on the ocean side of San Juan port. The waves break in front of the paved shoreline, and the take-off zone is just inside a rocky outcrop.
La Ocho produces fast bowling lefts and rights. When the conditions are offshore, there are some make-able barrels. This surf spot is ideal when the swell is two to four feet from the north, though it can get overhead regularly during Puerto Rico’s north swell season. La Ocho is the cleanest with southerly winds.
La Ocho can get crowded due to its consistency and its proximity to the city. A reasonable level of courtesy, wave knowledge, and paddling skill is needed to get waves when the conditions are firing at La Ocho.
Aviones Beach is just outside San Juan, in the tiny community of La Torre. It is about 6 miles east along the coast of Los Ocho. Aviones Beach is in a sheltered cove, with a barrier reef and Maldonado Point to the north.
Aviones is a beautiful wide, long beach. It generally has mellow, one to three-foot lefts and rights that are well-suited to beginners. Aviones is a popular surf spot that gets crowded on weekends. However, there is sufficient space to get your fair share of waves.
While Aviones Beach has shelter from large swells, it’s a consistent surf spot because the cove juts into the ocean and is exposed to passing ground-swells. The waves at Aviones are ideal on a north or northeast swell.
While Aviones Beach is sheltered from large swells, it’s a consistent surf spot because the cove juts into the ocean and is exposed to passing ground-swells. The waves at Aviones are ideal on a north or northeast swell.
The wind direction is not a serious concern at this surf spot because it’s well-protected from strong winds. Nonetheless, southerly winds are preferred because they create the cleanest conditions at Aviones.
Puerto Rico has warm water and great waves all year. There are world-class surf spots with spitting barrels for experienced surfers, and mellow, fun beach breaks for beginners.
While some line-ups can get crowded, there is generally no problem scoring enough waves to make your trip to Puerto more than worthwhile!