Catch a wave and some of Puerto Rico’s best sunsets while enjoying the laid-back surfer vibes of Puerto Rico’s west region. Home to some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, the west region is the undisputed surfing capital of Puerto Rico — and the Caribbean — and features the best sunsets on the island. The feel on the west side of the island is different from the hustle and bustle of the San Juan metropolitan area. Towns here have a more laid-back, surfer vibe, which isn’t a coincidence since surfers flock to Rincón from all over to ride the waves at iconic beaches like María’s beach and Domes.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Known as the “Village of Cofresí,” a name that alludes to the famous Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí y Ramírez de Arellano, Cabo Rojo is located in the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, about three hours from SJU airport.
This coastal gem may not be widely known outside of Puerto Rico, but the dramatic landscapes and protected beaches of the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge make it quite popular among locals. Beyond sightseeing and outdoor activities for beach and nature lovers, Cabo Rojo is rich in experiences for foodies, offering local seafood mixed with Puerto Rican criollo (creole) traditions.
Los Morrillos Lighthouse is an elegant neoclassical building with green windows surrounded by impressive cliffs and a panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea. Constructed in 1882, this working lighthouse was the third built by Spaniards on the island.
Playuela, also known as Playa Sucia, a stunning crescent-shaped beach with white sand that is ideal for swimming and relaxing
Balneario de Boquerón is one of the top beaches for families, located in the Boquerón State Forest. Here you’ll find calm, crystalline water and an incredible tropical ambiance. It’s also a Blue Flag beach, a coveted award given to beaches around the world that meet strict standards of water safety and quality.
Known as both the “paradise of eternal summer” and the “town of friendship,” Guánica is located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico — the warmest and driest part of the island, with year-round temperatures hovering between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you enjoy venturing down unpaved roads to explore uncrowded (and nearly untouched) nature, Guánica is your perfect slice of paradise. It’s an example of the rich geographical and ecological diversity that the island offers, and is distinguished primarily by its hidden beaches surrounded with dense flora.
One of the truly wonderful places to visit near Guánica is Aurora Key, better known as Gilligan’s Island. This small mangrove key is surrounded by crystal-clear, shallow waters that are ideal for families with small children.
You can reach Aurora Key by a 10-minute ferry ride, and once there you can enjoy picnic areas near the water to admire the landscape. There are no restaurants on the key, so make sure to bring a cooler with food and drinks, or grab a hot meal to-go at the pier restaurant before the ferry journey begins.
If you go on the weekend, arrive early as trips fill up quickly. The ferry makes a round-trip every hour. On Mondays, the island is closed to visitors. Make sure to also visit the colorful Finca El Girasol, Guánica’s sunflower farm, where you can walk through a flowery garden and capture some incredible photos.
Guánica is home to the best-preserved dry forest in the Caribbean. Whereas El Yunque receives 200 inches of rain every year, the 1,000-acre Guánica State Forest — a United Nations World Biosphere Reserve — receives only about 30 inches annually.
Popular among families, couples, and solo explorers, the reserve is a habitat for more than 700 species of plants, of which about 50 are endangered and about 15 are endemic. The forest also features 12 hiking trails with varying levels of distance and difficulty. Follow these trails to stunning secluded beaches such as Ballena Bay (take Ballena Trail) and Tamarindo Beach (take the Lluberas Trail), where you can enjoy a day at the beach in a tropical paradise.
Meanwhile, the Fuerte Trail — about six miles roundtrip — leads to Fort Caprón, which was once an observation point during the Spanish colonization. En route to the fort, you will find spectacular views of Guánica Bay, as well as other shorter trails, in case you want to explore a little more.
The entrance to the forest is free of charge and it is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. It’s best to arrive early in the morning in order to make the most of all the sightseeing opportunities. Make sure to bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, snacks, and plenty of water, and wear light clothes and comfortable shoes suitable for walking on rocky trails.
Rincón is all about surfing and sunsets. Located about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Juan airport, Rincón is a place where visitors can enjoy laid-back vibes, beautiful beaches, and great places to eat. Known as the “town of beautiful sunsets,” Rincón is located on the westernmost tip of Puerto Rico and takes pride in providing the most breathtaking twilight on the island. During the winter, you might also spot migrating whales along its shores.
Tres Palmas Marine Reserve is ideal for snorkeling due to its beautiful corals and diverse marine species along nearby Steps beach. There you’ll find horn corals, sponges, mollusks, lobsters, bottlenose dolphins, and turtles, among other species. You might be lucky enough to spot a humpback whale during the winter months.
The Punta Higüero Lighthouse is a major attraction in Rincón. The original structure was built with bricks in 1892 but had to be demolished and rebuilt after the 1918 earthquake. Its intermediate light connects Punta Borinquen Lighthouse in Aguadilla and Los Morrillos Lighthouse in Cabo Rojo. Currently, the Rincón lighthouse is located in a park that offers visitors benches and viewfinders to enjoy panoramic sights of the sea. From there you can see Desecheo Island as well as Domes beach, where you can watch surfers catch waves. Stop by one of the kiosks to grab some tasty food, cocktails, or frozen drinks, as well as handmade local products.