San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital and largest city, is an enticing tourist destination that sees travelers in their droves year on year. Known for its historical buildings, warm climate, and abundance of tourist attractions, this tropical city has earned its place on many a travel bucket list.
Situated on the Atlantic coast, on the northern part of the island, San Juan is filled with impeccable beaches that will take your breath away. This post will cover some of the best beaches in San Juan and guide you through picking the perfect one for your ideal beach day.
BEST SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO BEACHES
One thing about San Juan’s beaches (or playas) is that they are extremely varied. While some beaches are great for a traditional beach day, others are more appropriate for a sunset stroll and won’t do if you’re looking to swim in the ocean. That’s why you’ll need this comprehensive guide.
Read on for a breakdown on where to find the best snorkeling in Puerto Rico, San Juan, as well as the best spots for swimming, eating out, watersports, and more.
- Amenities: There are no bathroom facilities here
- Access: There is a staircase to the beach across from the Capitol Building
- Nearby accommodation: All hotels are more than a 10-minute drive away
- Tip: Better for a beach stroll than a traditional beach day
Just a few minutes’ walk from Old San Juan, Playa Peña is a fantastic beach if you want to escape the crowded tourist spots. Most of the tourist activity is at beach resorts, Ocean Park Beach, or Isla Verde Beach (more on that later). So you should enjoy relative peace and quiet at Playa Peña.
You can find the entrance to the beach across from the Capitol Building (El Capitol). There is a staircase next to the San Juan Bautista statue that will take you right down to the sand. Despite being the closest beach to Old San Juan, keep in mind that there is no on-site parking and no hotels nearby.
Puerto Rico boasts warm ocean waters year-round with an average temperature of 27°C (79°F). After laying in the sun for a few minutes, you’ll probably be desperate to take a dip in the ocean.
You can certainly go swimming at Playa Peña, but it’s important to note that there are no lifeguards on this beach. The water conditions can be dangerous at times as well, so swim at your own discretion and mind the rock formations on the shoreline.
If you’d rather not swim or the weather isn’t ideal, this beach is a great place to take a romantic walk along the shoreline. You can have a great time here admiring the view or simply enjoying a picnic on the sand.
If you’re looking for a beach that’s close to San Juan but has better amenities than Playa Peña, then Escambron Beach (Balneario El Escambron) is an ideal spot. Nestled in Puerta de Tierra, between San Juan and Condado Beach, Escambron boasts lush palm trees, soft sand, and an array of activities.
There’s a parking garage right across the street as well as bathroom facilities with a change room. If bathrooms are a dealbreaker for you, choose Escambron. It’s the only beach in San Juan with facilities!
Escambron is well-liked amongst tourists and locals alike. It’s commonly accepted as the best public beach in San Juan and even clinched the Blue Flag Award in 2020, one of the most renowned awards for beaches and marinas in the world.
Protected by a coral reef, Escambron is an excellent place to whip out your underwater snorkeling camera. The reef also keeps the strong currents out unlike other beaches in San Juan with choppy waters. The waters are fairly calm and there are lifeguards on duty, making this a great spot for families with kids.
If you want to go snorkeling, head to the Escambron Marine Park, a recreational park with plenty of activities to keep you busy. There, you’ll find Scuba Dogs, a local dive shop with all the equipment you need.
- Amenities: Umbrellas and beach chairs for rent, ice cream carts, limited off-street parking, and a parking garage across the street
- Access: Access via Ventana al Mar Park and all the way along Ashford Avenue
- Nearby accommodation: Walking distance from the Condado Plaza Hilton, Tryst Beachfront Hotel, La Concha Resort, and Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
- Tip: The tide here is often too strong for young swimmers. The beach isn’t quiet or remote; it’s alongside the bustling city
Sometimes called the Miami Beach of Puerto Rico, Condado Beach is one of the most popular beaches for tourists and is framed by seemingly endless high-rise resorts. The fantastic thing about it is that it offers so much, for a variety of different tastes.
You can live it up in style at a fancy hotel with an ocean view, or kick back and relax on the sand with good company. Condado is arguably the best beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The tide can get strong and rough on this beach and there are no lifeguards on duty. So, keep in mind that this may not work for a family beach day. That said, you can always dip your toes and return to the soft, white sand to catch a tan. Keep your eyes peeled for the ice cream carts along the strip, too. Nothing goes better with an oceanside view than some delicious soft serve.
You can also grab a seaside lunch at one of the many restaurants along Ashford Avenue. The Ola OceanFront Bistro, for example, is a mere 3-minute walk from the beach and serves excellent, authentic Puerto Rican Cuisine.
If you want something upscale, you can try the Vanderbilt Hotel’s fine dining restaurant, 1919. You can sip in a chilled glass of white wine, taste world-class cuisine, and look out at the magnificent Atlantic ocean from this fancy spot.
Playita del Condado
- Amenities: Food and drink kiosks and sun loungers for rent
- Access: Over the Puente Dos Hermanos bridge on Ashford Avenue
- Nearby accommodation: Walking distance from Condado Plaza Hilton
- Tip: Great for families. Don’t go without an umbrella, there’s not much shade
Cross the Puente Dos Hermanos bridge on the east corner of Ashford Avenue and you’ll find Playita del Condado or “Condado’s Little Beach”. This beach is a gem in San Juan and offers spectacular city views, sparkling blue waters, lush palm and almond trees, and a mellow atmosphere perfect for a peaceful beach day.
Playita del Condado is in a protected bay, so the water is much more kid-friendly than at Condado Beach. This is a fantastic place to bring your young ones to splash around in the aquamarine water while you lounge in the shade of an almond tree. If the shady spots are taken, don’t worry. There are kiosks on the beach where you can rent an umbrella.
Across the water, you’ll see a fantastic view of the Plaza Caribe Hilton and other high-rise buildings, not to mention the Fortin de san Geronimo. The remains of this small fort at the mouth of the Condado Lagoon date back to the 17th century! It’s not often you see an ancient fort hovering on ocean water, and that’s what makes this beach so unique.
If you’d like to explore the Condado Lagoon, come back at night for an unforgettable LED Night Kayaking experience. On this tour, you’ll get to see those immaculate city views twinkling under the moonlight, not to mention the sparkling waters through your clear-bottom, LED-lit kayak. This is a rare San Juan tourist experience you don’t want to miss.
Playita del Condado is also great for snorkeling thanks to the calm waters. You can bring along your snorkeling gear and admire the lionfish, tangs, kelp forests, and coral reefs.
There are even vendors traipsing along Ashford Avenue selling local delicacies like medallas (Spanish beer) and pinchos (a traditional Spanish tapas-style snack). You couldn’t ask for a better place to spend a sunny afternoon in Puerto Rico.
Ocean Park Beach / Playa Ocean Park
- Amenities: Ice cream vendors and a few options for eating out, but not many
- Access: Access the beach across from Parque Barbosa (Barbosa Park)
- Nearby accommodation: No fancy resorts nearby, but there are a number of inns and guesthouses if you walk ten minutes into town. Try the Andalucia Guest House
- Tip: Bring along your paddleboards or windsurfing gear for some fun watersports
Ocean Park Beach is a popular beach amongst San Juan locals and getting more and more popular with tourists, too. You can find it in Ocean Park, a quiet residential suburb in San Juan.
Commonly referred to as “Ocean,” this mile-long beach is located in front of numerous beach condos and houses. Unlike other beaches in Condado that are closer to the major tourist resorts. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this beach is the one for you. It’s also a wonderful option for couples looking for some downtime away from the crowds.
There are some small guesthouses, beach rentals, and guesthouses along this strip. But ultimately, Ocean Park Beach has a much more low-key vibe than, say, Condado Beach. That said, there’s plenty of room for you to have some fun. When you’re not frolicking in the water, you can lay back in the soft, white sand and simply enjoy the beautiful ocean views.
In fact, this beach is a popular choice for those looking to windsurf, kite-surf, and paddleboard in the water. There aren’t any gear shops nearby, so be sure to bring your own equipment or rent some in town before you arrive.
If you’d like to grab a bite to eat, you can get some local food from the vendors along the beach strip. There are often local vendors selling popsicles to cool you off on a hot beach day. You can even try a piragua, a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert with sweet and delicious flavored syrup.
- Amenities: Beach chairs for rent
- Access: Access via the walkways on Avenida Isla Verde main street
- Nearby accommodation: About a five-minute walk from the Ritz-Carlton San Juan
- Tip: This beach can get very crowded on the weekends. Bring some snacks along as there are no cafes or restaurants on the beach strip
Isla Verde Beach is located just east of San Juan in Carolina and is easily one of the best beaches near San Juan. It boasts beautiful water, soft sand, and a laid back vibe to boot. It’s super relaxed during the week, but you may find it more crowded during the high season or on weekends.
What most tourists don’t know is that this beach is actually made up of three beaches: El Alambique, Pine Grove Beach, and Balneario de Carolina. Balneario de Carolina or ‘Carolina Public Beach’ has excellent facilities, clean sand, and very calm waters if you’d like to take a swim.
El Alambique Beach is the closest to San Juan and has the most shaded areas thanks to its abundance of tropical palm trees.
Finally, Pine Grove Beach is ideal for snorkeling and watersports and is closest to the Ritz-Carlton if you want to be near the best resorts and hotels.
ENJOY THE BEAUTIFUL SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO PLAYAS
Whether you’re living it up windsurfing or relaxing on the sand, San Juan has so much to offer thanks to its incredible beaches. From Escambron Beach to Isla Verde, this amazing Puerto Rican beach destination is begging to be explored.
Hopefully, you get to enjoy all of San Juan’s best beaches during your vacation and see the best the city has to offer. Have fun and don’t forget your sunscreen!