Your Guide To Luquillo, The Best Beach Day Trip From San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico is wealthy with beautiful beaches. You could hang with the resort crew in Condado or Isla Verde, or you could drive 45 minutes outside the city to Luquillo — the best swimming spot for a day trip. It’s an entire day’s worth of activities, from swimming in the calm waves to eating arepas to strolling along pristine sands to drinking the biggest mojito you’ve ever been served.
The Swimming Spots
Located on the east coast of the island of Puerto Rico, the main stretch of Luquillo Beach, Monserrate Beach, is enormous. It might be tempting to plop your beach bag down right after parking, but hold off while you trek a bit across the sand to the furthest point before turning a corner. It’s quieter and has a better view than anywhere else on the sand. The water is so extremely blue, with towering palm trees providing a little shade if you need relief from the tropical sun. We’d suggest just hopping in the water instead of heading for the shade, but make sure to wear lots of sunscreen.
Around the corner from the swimming area (and it’s roped off, so you can see what’s jet ski territory and what’s safe for floating), you’ll find a serene stretch of beach that’s perfect for wading. It’s the epitome of the romantic long walk on the beach trope. You could fall in love here. You’ll easily forget that you’re technically in the United States. Seriously, it feels like you should need a passport to access this level of Caribbean paradise.
If you’re looking for a surf spot, you want La Pared. Its waves are rougher than the extraordinarily calm waters of Monserrate Beach.
Where You’re Eating
Right outside the beach, there’s a strip of restaurants, bars and food stalls. From the outside, each stall looks a little ramshackle and dilapidated. There’s a lot of peeling paint, exposed metal and hand-lettered signs. But that’s what makes this dining experience so much fun.
You’ll find everything from Puerto Rican street food to Italian fusion dishes here. We sampled several different stalls but kept returning to Kiosko 52. It’s called “Mi Favorito” and we totally understand why. The arepas were perfectly seasoned — none of that bland cornmeal here. Seafood eaters, you have to try the octopus arepa. The camarones (shrimp) come in a close second.
However, it’ll be hard to go wrong here. Grab any empanadillas at just about any stall and you’ll be chowing down on fried dough delightfulness stuffed with cheese, meat, crab or, our favorite, guava and cheese.
What You’re Drinking
There are really only two good answers to your beach imbibing, and they depend on your budget. If you’re pinching pennies, we say pack a cooler of Coronas. If you have some money to spare, you’re getting a mojito. It’s a thing here. Now, this isn’t going to be the Instagrammable pina colada of the expensive San Juan streets. But the mojitos sold at the stands on the way to the sand are delicious, huge and pretty darn strong. You can choose from any number of flavors from ginger to guava in order to spice up your minty refreshment. They come in giant plastic jugs with a straw stuck through the top.
Beyond The Beach
If you want to make the trip a full day of adventures, you can visit El Yunque National Forest while you’re out. It’s slightly more inland than the beach but still on the way back to San Juan from Luquillo. Currently, you can only drive through certain sections of the rainforest, due to damage from Hurricane Maria. But it’s still beautiful, even if you can’t swim in every waterfall.
Want to extend your day trip into a couple of days on the beach? Continue along the highway leading to Luquillo to Fajardo and catch the ferry to one of Puerto Rico’s islands, Vieques or Culebra.