Rincón: A Complete Guide to the Caribbean’s Best Surf Spot
Untouched beaches, a laid-back vibe and world-class surfing, Rincón is the kind of place Puerto Ricans would love to keep secret.
Surfers first descended on this small Northwest beach town for the 1968 World Surfing Championships—and an infectious, live-in-the-moment ethos still prevails. With unique places to stay, eat and drink, every visitor to Puerto Rico (non-surfers included) should plan on spending at least a few days. Within easy reach, you’ll find some of Puerto Rico’s most captivating landscapes and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
The “Surf Capital of the Caribbean,” Rincón is known for its long, right-breaking waves. During the peak winter season, surfers of all levels are drawn to its consistent waves and epic diversity. You’ll always find dramatic swells at one beach or another. When the waves are smaller, beginners and intermediates can head to María’s Beach for long, clean rides.
Kelly Slater has regularly surfed fabled spots such as Domes Beach, Pools, Dogman’s Beach and Tres Palmas (also known as Steps beach)—recommended only for advanced and expert surfers. Experienced boarders can also check out Rincón Point, famed for its predictable waves all season long and distinct surfing locations (The Cove, Rivermouth and Indicator). There are many surf schools in Rincón where you can rent a board or sign up for classes.
There are over a dozen beaches in Rincón. North of town, past Domes Beach, paved coastal trails (great for running and cycling) lead to wild, rugged beaches with sea stacks, arches and caves offshore. Spanish Wall Beach is one of Puerto Rico’s most photogenic beaches. A swathe of palm-fringed golden sand—collecting sea-glass is a popular pastime here for beachcombers. At the area known as Trampa de Tiburon, you can take in panoramas of both the Atlantic and Caribbean. From January to April, beautiful Rincón Beach Park offers prime whale-watching. Córcega Beach’s shallow, calm waters (year-round) make it an ideal family-friendly destination for swimming and snorkeling.
Snorkeling and Diving
With a vibrant coral reef that runs parallel to the shore, Tres Palmas Marine Reserve is an accessible and rewarding snorkeling spot. This fragile ecosystem is home to Elkhorn coral, the healthiest in the Caribbean. It supports a colorful array of marine life, including large parrotfish, blue tang, turtles, snapper and lobsters. Dolphins are often spotted offshore. Be mindful that the waves can be strong here, so always try to snorkel in the morning when the water is calmer.
In the Mona Passage, 21km (13 miles) from Rincón, Desecheo Island is known (along with Mona and Monita island) as the Galapágos of Puerto Rico for its rare, endemic species. Often hailed as one of the best scuba sites in the Caribbean, this tiny island’s waters teem with life and seasoned divers can also explore fascinating geological features on the ocean floor. Tour operators in Rincón offer snorkeling and scuba diving excursions for all levels. Note that the island itself is protected as a wildlife refuge and visits are not permitted.
Day Trip: La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay
Less than an hour’s drive south of Rincón, La Parguera is known for its reefs—over a dozen—and abundant marine life, such as turtles, morays, manatees, barracudas and nurse sharks. Around 8km (five miles) offshore, La Parguera Wall is a pilgrimage for divers worldwide. It boasts over 25 dive sites, depths of up to 1,500 feet (457m) and impressive visibility, from 100 to 120 feet (30-37m). However, the main draw of La Parguera is its bioluminescent bay—a rare phenomenon that occurs when microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates converge with magical effect. A slight ripple from a hand or an oar causes the organisms to illuminate the dark waters. La Parguera is the only place in Puerto Rico where bio bay swimming and diving is permitted.
When to Visit
On a peninsula off Puerto Rico’s West Coast, Rincón is surrounded by water on all three sides. Surfing conditions are prime from late fall to early spring. That’s when huge swells form from multiple directions and from two bodies of water—the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The whale-watching season runs from January to late March, turtle nesting season is from April to June. Flight prices and hotel rates are highest from December to April and many hotels require minimum stays (at least four days). If you travel in summer, from June to November, you are more likely to have secluded beaches all to yourself and greater hotel, restaurant and tour availability.
Getting There and Around
The most convenient airport is Aguadilla, a 45-minute drive away. However, you can expect to arrive and depart at ungodly hours. United, JetBlue and Spirit offer direct flights to Aguadilla from New York and Orlando for around $225 return trip. Another option is to drive from San Juan (around 3 hr.). Going by the apt moniker of the “Road to Happiness,” PR-413 is the main access road for Rincón’s beaches.
To get around, renting a car is strongly recommended. There are several car rental agencies at Aguadilla airport, including Enterprise and Sixt. Note that car rental prices can be significantly higher at Aguadilla airport than in San Juan.
Where to Stay
Rincón has a wide selection of hotels, inns and Airbnbs across the budget spectrum. Many hotels offer yoga, surfing and snorkeling/diving packages through local operators. Always book well in advance during the peak winter season (December to April). Also, bear in mind that minimum stays (at least four days) are often required.
A local landmark for over 50 years, Villa Cofresi is the quintessential Rincón hotel. A playful tropical theme radiates through the public spaces and light, airy rooms. The main draw is the beachfront location with breathtaking sunset views. The inn’s restaurant is one of the best in town—La Ana de Cofresi. Also, excellent amenities include a large swimming pool, game room, gym and ping pong tables. Room options range from large standard/deluxe rooms to spacious family apartments. It’s worth splashing out on the deluxe rooms that have private balconies and ocean views.
A meticulously maintained, family-run inn, the “Three Mermaids” is a quiet, casual choice. Overlooking the ocean—and the calmest swimming beach—each of the five rooms is thoughtfully decorated with wooden furnishings, white sofas, crisp linens and terracotta tiles. As well as standard and deluxe rooms, there are two fully equipped apartments, each with a kitchen, living room, separate bedroom, additional loft and balcony. A full breakfast is included, served on the terrace. Previous (many repeat) guests rave about the inn’s warm hospitality and on-point service.
Right on the beach, Casa Isleña is a classic oceanfront boutique hotel with a relaxed ambiance and myriad amenities. Tastefully designed rooms are spacious and impeccably clean and are decorated in natural woods and fabrics. The best rooms are on the second floor. There’s an inviting pool surrounded by palm trees, plenty of lounge chairs, a small bar and a highly praised restaurant. Friendly, professional staff can arrange yoga and surfing lessons and all-inclusive yoga packages are available.
Perfect for large groups and families, the secluded Villa Playa María has direct access to María’s Beach. The two luxurious villas, equipped with all the necessary creature comforts, can be rented separately or together (for up to 24 guests). Set amidst manicured grounds with native trees and flora, the villas have all the trappings of a private retreat, yet are still within striking distance of Rincón’s main plaza and beaches. Amenities include a saltwater pool, a swim-up pool bar and plenty of outdoor living/dining space.
A 15-minute drive from Rincón, this sleek, upscale villa is divided into four apartments: two garden studios and (two) one-bedroom penthouses. Each impeccable unit combines modern decor with high-end furnishings and soothing neutral tones. Previous guests rave about its modern amenities, spacious floor plans and cinematic sunsets from the fabulous outdoor terrace and infinity pool (shared by all villa guests). Be prepared for steep, one-lane mountain roads to access the property. The entire villa that can sleep 10 guests is also available for rent.
Where to Eat and Drink
Part of the Villa Cofresi Hotel, the family-run La Ana de Cofresí restaurant is a local institution and everything here feels straight from the heart. Taking in the sublime sunset views while enjoying a signature Coco Pirata cocktail—a mix of rum, coconut and chocolate liquor—is something of a rite of passage. At the bar, there’s always a festive atmosphere with locals and visitors mingling over small plates and tropical libations—a more formal ambience prevails in the main dining room. The well-priced menu features inventive seafood, prime steaks and traditional comida típica—the house special is a mouthwatering plantain-crusted mahi mahi in cilantro cream sauce.
Hours: Daily, 8am–10pm
Price: Average entrée, $23
Opened in 2014, this casual farm-to-table restaurant with an outdoor patio is a feel-good lunch spot. The simple façade and odd location (next to the post office) belies a complex menu that showcases produce from local farmers and unique organic ingredients. An eclectic and constantly changing menu comes into its own with the creative pescatarian dishes—poke bowls, ceviche and fish tacos. You can also pick up wholesome baked goods, healthy green juices and fresh fruit smoothies.
Hours: Tues–Sat, 11am–3pm
Price: Average entrée, $12
At this classic Rincón bar-restaurant, you can revel in superb sunset views, gourmet cuisine and expert mixology. The fusion menu features grilled fish of the day with coconut curry, mussels with sambuca cream sauce, steak frites with chimichurri and pan seared duck breast with honey soy glaze. During Happy Hour, from 3pm–sunset, you can graze on innovative small plates, washed down with a signature cocktail. Try the Cucumber Fizz or Isleña Margarita.
Hours: Tues–Sat, 5pm–9pm
Price: Average entrée, $28
This characterful roadside shack specializes in Kansas City style BBQ. Locally produced meat is marinated with homemade BBQ sauce and then cooked over hard wood to infuse that irresistible smoky flavor. Every mouthwatering dish is prepared to order—slabs of ribs, mac ‘n’ cheese, pulled pork and brisket sandwiches and heaps of coleslaw. With hearty portions, budget friendly prices and a convenient location, it’s a go-to spot for locals.
Hours: Fri–Sun, 11am–6pm
Price: Average entrée, $8
A hidden gem with a colorful personality, Gylro has all the attributes of a perfect local’s joint–come-as-you-are vibe, innovative craft cocktails, live music and memorable food. Inside, there’s a quirky playful vibe to the place, with eclectic décor, irreverent design flourishes and an unpretentious vibe. The menu specializes in “Greek-Creole” fusion dishes with crowd pleasers such as signature gyros, classic sliders and “Greek-style fries.” Head out to the quiet, leafy patio before 9pm (when it starts to fill in) and order the signature house cocktail—an exquisite Moscow Mule, made with house made ginger beer.
Hours: Wed–Sun, Noon–12am
Price: Average entrée, $10