Some of Puerto Rico’s best surfing beaches lie along its northwest coast in the county of Aguadilla. Crash Boat Beach is by far the most popular, offering everything a beachgoer could want—surfing, snorkeling, swimming, restaurants, and even kayak and paddle board rentals. But if your beach-going requirements lean toward solitude, ditch the tourist crowds in favor of Aguadilla’s hidden gem beaches.
Go explore: Borinquen Beach
Underwater relics, sea caves and an old lighthouse set the stage for adventure at Borniquen Beach. The paved beach access and parking lot make it easy to get to, but you usually won’t find many other beachgoers here. Wiggle your toes in the pillowy sand as you explore the expansive beach. Ruins of the tumbledown lighthouse, Ruinas Faro Puntas Borinquen, raise empty windows that frame the setting sun. Enormous boulders appear to float on the water at the far north end, marking the opening to sea caves tucked into the rocky cliffs. Bring your snorkeling gear to explore the reefs at the cliff’s feet and look for underwater relics of airplanes cast off from the nearby Air Force base.
Tucked away: Pena Blanca
Stone steps lead from a small dirt parking lot down to the fine tan sand on Playa Pena Blanca, also known as Wishing Well Beach. The crescent-shaped beach hides below overhanging cliffs, its azure waters dotted with ironstone rocks. Go at low tide and snorkel among colorful schools of fish and other sea life in the crooks and crannies between the rocks. The beach is wide during low tide, but if you visit when the tide is high, you’ll have to pick your way over jagged volcanic rock to reach a small stretch of sand at the base off the. There’s no need to bring your beach umbrella to escape the sun’s rays here—undercut cliff faces and towering trees form natural beach shelters just steps away.
Hike to it: Cueva Survival Beach
Put on your hiking shoes and follow a winding path through an ancient forest to Cueva Survival Beach. Although the beach lies about 500 feet from the parking lot, the winding trail meanders about one-third of a mile before depositing you near monolithic boulders jutting from the sand. Wear sturdy shoes and ditch your picnic cooler in favor of a backpack. It’s easy to follow the well-worn trail, but you’ll have to navigate tree roots and smaller boulders to reach the water’s edge. Explore picturesque sea caves formed by the rocks and snap a few memorable vacation photos. East of these boulders, Survival Beach becomes a long strip of soft, tan sand flanked by shallow caves.
Under the banyan tree: Parque Colon
Bring the kids or release your inner child and romp the sandy shores at Parque Colon. A wooden boardwalk runs along the narrow beach, making it easy to transport coolers, strollers and shade umbrellas from the adjacent parking lot. There’s no shade on the beach, but you’ll find plenty on the opposite side of the boardwalk. Mature trees cover the park’s playground equipment, picnic facilities and a large grassy area where you can relax or play. The real star of the park is the tree house. Pretend you’re the Swiss Family Robinson as you climb wooden walkways leading to lookouts in an expansive, multi-trunked banyan tree. Colon Park commemorates Columbus’ landing here in 1493. A towering pillar in the park topped by a Spanish cross marks the spot.
Gem in the city: Estacionamiento Playa Rompeolas
When your legs become weary from sightseeing, head to Estacionamiento Playa Rompeolas in the downtown area of the city of Aguadilla. This kid-friendly beach is wide and sandy, sloping gently into the sea. It’s devoid of the jagged rocks that are so common along most of the Aguadilla coastline. Spread your beach blanket under the shade of one of the many palm trees that make picturesque substitutes for beach umbrellas. Arrive at low tide and let the kids splash in the water behind the protective breakwater. When the tide turns, explore the natural park with its lagoon just behind the beach. Hungry? Watch the waves roll in at Rompeolas Bar and Grill where you can savor traditional Puerto Rican dishes like mashed plantain or conch relleno.