Puerto Rico: a surfing treasure in Caribbean | Photo: LaShawn Pagan

Since the dawn of time, or maybe since surf spot hunting time, there have been countless of lists published on the best places to surf in Puerto Rico.

While most of those lists are fine, they generally, if not exclusively, mention beaches in the west of the island. Although beaches like Crash Boat in Aguadilla, to the most popular beaches in Rincón like Pools, Sandy Beach, Antonio's, Tres Palmas, Maria's and Domes, to Isabela's Jobos and Middles are amazing and should be recognized for their powerful waves and beauty - Puerto Rico has a lot more to offer.

To ensure we get this list right, we did the wisest thing. We consulted the local surfing, stand up paddleboarding (SUP), and bodyboarding veterans and newbie's alike, to see where they love to ride waves. Here are the results (in no particular order):

SAN JUAN/METRO

Playa Aviones (Loiza Carretera/Road 187 Carolina, PR 00772)

If you don't mind crowds, Aviones is the place for you. One of the most consistent beaches for great waves on the island, and with a five-star rating from Pelicano Bodyboarding, Aviones is visited by thousands of wave riders throughout the year.

Located between Punta Maldonado and The Beach Club Guest House, you'll most likely run into more than a few fellow tourists wanting to catch waves closer to the San Juan area.

But don't be discouraged, you'll also be able to meet friendly locals who will be kind enough to show you around and tell you where the best spots to eat are.

While some people have complained about the lack of showers and bathroom facilities, it still that hasn't deterred locals from screaming "Aviones!" when someone asks for surf spots near the capital.

La Islita (Off Road 37 Isla Verde, PR 00979)

Known, and loved throughout the local SUP community for "its best conditions" and for its several "paddle for the cure" events - La Islita will surely provide the perfect conditions for a great day of SUP adventures for an entire visiting family.

If you're the kind of traveler that likes to go off the beaten path, get in your rental car and drive to these fabulous places.

NORTHEAST

Kikita (Calle/Street 13 and Calle/Street Kennedy Dorado, PR 00646)

Dorado is called the "Paradise of Puerto Rico" for a reason, and this beach lets you understand why that is. Kikita is a long strip of beach that intertwines with private property and local secret spots.

It is still one of the pristine beaches of the island that a lot of people don't know about. Because of its location, Kikita is mostly visited by locals and a few visitors that come with those who live in the region.

Let's start with one part of the beach. Kikita's main opening leads to a zone called "Ojo del Buey" (literally meaning "bull's eye"). It's amazing to look at an area naturally closed off by huge sea rocks that break the waves before they touch the shore.

But that's not where the fun happens. If you walk a few yards through the forest area, you'll find a fantastic place where local surfers, bodyboarders, and SUP'ers go to have the time of their lives.

The area is where the waters of Rio la Plata meet with the ocean, so there is an incredible structure in the waves. If you're on the other side of the Kikita area, off Kennedy Street, you'll get a different taste to quench your wave riding thirst.

The strength of these waves are for no amateur rider on any given day, and being so close to the point of entry of storms, whenever there's one coming in, there's sure to be some crazy waves to satisfy any daredevil.

Cerro Gordo: a SUP paradise | Photo: LaShawn Pagan

Cerro Gordo (Carretera/Road PR690 Barrio Sabana Hoyos Vega Alta, PR 00692)

Cerro Gordo is not only a public beach, but a private beach, as well as a part of a national forest. The main entry leads to the public beach; to the left you can see the private area hosting a few large houses that use the beach as their back yard - that area is perfect for snorkeling, diving, and (sustainable) fishing.

The public beach area is great for SUP, if you don't mind crowds during the average summer day. But the surprise is up the steep hill, past the camping area, where almost all surfers of the Vega Alta/Vega Baja area got their start, such as world-class Drop-Knee champ Galdo Gomez and his brother Tavo.

Warning: Cerro Gordo is known for its rip currents, so when the advisory is up on the board, don't take it lightly!

Boca del Cibuco, or Cibuco (Carretera/Road PR692 Vega Baja, PR 00693)

This beach is where the likes of Edgar "Galdo" Gomez and his brother Octavio "Tavo" Gomez have competed at. With massive waves and deep waters, contests such as the Puerto Rico Triple Crown are hosted here several times throughout the year.

But surfing is not the only thing that can be done here; stand up paddleboarding has also been popular in this beach. SUP'ers have sometimes stolen a few waves off of competitors during contests while laughing for their wave-stealing skills.

Speaking about SUP: if you're looking for calmer waters to do so, you can drive about two minutes, or walk toward the neighboring public beach in Vega Baja, where the waters are much calmer.

Los Tubos: a spot for the pros | Photo: LaShawn Pagan

Los Tubos (Carretera/Road 686 Manatí, PR 00674)

For pro level waves, this beach offers medium-to-high swells on an average day. When storms are approaching, however, this beach offers anywhere from six-to-nine foot swells to the occasional 14-footer, depending on the magnitude of the incoming storm. This beach has been the host to a number of local competitions, such as the Surf and Body Boarding Challenge.

Non-surfers, don't be discouraged; you can still enjoy parts of the beach and its clean sand - if you're into it, even some snorkeling. Los Tubos is the site of a large coral reef restoration project, and is the home to a number of sea turtles and diverse marine life, making this one of the most precious beaches on the island.

After a day of surfing, you can healthily recharge your batteries with a filling and absolutely delicious Açai bowl at the Healthy Love Açai Bus/Bar. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a "food truck".

They offer a variety of healthy bowls and will both recharge and satisfy the hunger built from being in the water for hours. You'll have enough energy to either go back into the water, or keep exploring the island.

NORTHWEST

La Marginal (Avenida Victor Rojas, Carretera/Road PR680 Arecibo, PR 00612)

This pier-looking spot that's right on the highway gives way to amazing swells. La Marginal de Arecibo has some of the greatest waves in the island; it wasn't a coincidence that it was the host site to the Puerto Rico Triple Crown event, where South African-born and Puerto Rico's adoptive son Jared Houston have won titles in the Masters' Drop-Knee category.

The restored dock is also visited daily by joggers, fishermen, and photographers. They all enjoy this place, as well as the historic structures that stand around it.

La Marginal: the spot host the Puerto Rico Triple Crown | Photo: LaShawn Pagan

Playa Caza y Pezca (Carretera/Road PR681, Islote - Sector Jarealitos Arecibo, PR 00612)

If you're into decent sizeable waves surrounded by historical structures/sites, do stay in Arecibo, and venture about five minutes from La Marginal to Playa Caza y Pezca.

Here you'll find a nice little spot on the other side of the Arecibo Lighthouse (now an impressive museum), where everyone from bodyboarders, SUP'ers, and surfing clinics go to enjoy (or learn how to ride) the spectacular waves.

If you're up for it, stay all day for some of the most amazing sunsets you'll ever witness in your entire life.

SOUTH

El Marullo Inches (Carretera/Road PR53, Patillas PR 00723)

El Marullo Inches beach is a different type of beach for the Caribbean. Instead of white sandy beaches, you can find a blend of sand and rocks by the shore that gives way to some of the best waves in the south.

Here, anyone from SUP'ers, Drop-Knee riders, and bodyboarders can be easily spotted. This is the beach where many athletes from the south get their start, like local champ and rising star Lara Yamila Lebrón.

La Parguera (Carretera/Road PR3304, Lajas, PR 00667)

Located in the southwest of the island, La Parguera is the home to the world-famous bioluminescent bay. This beach is clustered by "islotes" or small islands that create a different and incredibly diverse experience to all who visit.

With winds ranging between 15 and 20 knots, it's also the perfect place for windsurfing. From sailing and fishing to easy access to the only Zoo in the island located in Mayagüez (20 to 30-minute drive), there is something for everyone.

Also, while at La Parguera, the opportunity to scuba dive, deepwater fishing and snorkeling should be taken. When you're there, be sure to look up Captain Mickey, a trained marine biologist and owner of the best local charters to take you around.

BONUS ADVENTURE

Lago Cerrillos, Maragüez (Bosque Estatal Cerrillos Ponce, PR 00730)

If you're into hiking and exploring everything in every way, Lago Cerrillos is the place you should go. Off of PR Road 139, this place will blow your mind away, as you SUP through the lake, in the pearl of the south that is Ponce.

This man-made lake was finished in 1992 by the U.S. Army Corps, and since then it has hosted Central American and Caribbean Games' canoeing and rowing competitions.


Words by La Shawn Pagán.