I go in search of the best beach in the west of Puerto Rico.
JOBOS BEACH, Isabela, Puerto Rico- I had a Jeep so figured I may as well use it. I was sitting on Jobos Beach on the verge of being done. I’m not really one of those people who can just sit in the same spot on the same beach all day long. No, I show up, walk around a little, find a spot, enjoy sitting in it for five minutes, go swimming, go back to my spot for five minutes, eat some beef jerky, and then ask “now what?”
It felt kind or premature declaring Jobos Beach the best beach without going to the others that were nearby. Maybe there were even better beaches around the rincon? I figured it was worth a look.
Crash Boat Beach
As I was leaving Jobos I began talking with a barbecuing Puerto Rican family who recommended that I go to Crash Boat Beach, which was right near the airport in Aquadilla around 15 kilometers away. They had the usual things to say about places that people like. “We would be there today but we like the shade.” So I drove over there to check it out.
Upon arrival, it was clear that this was the-place-to-be around here. There were multiple parking lots and they all were close to being full … on a Monday morning. I walked down to the beach to find the sands packed with people. They were hanging out under umbrellas, sunbathing, and walking on the long pier that separates one half of the beach from the another.
This beach has a history. Before being converted to civilian use, the Aquadilla airport used to be the Ramey Air Force Base. They also built a small port at this beach so that boats could quickly mobilize rescue missions when planes crashed at sea. Yes, this is how “Crash Boat Beach” got its name.
But eventually the area silted up around the pier, making it unsuitable for military usage but ideal for revelers looking to party on the beach. The beach to the north of the pier is now extremely wide and able to accommodate a massive amount of people. This is truly an MTV kind of beach. As I looked out over this scene it was difficult not to imagine a pop culture beach party with hot girls in bikinis and ab-y dudes dancing all over the pier and doing flips into the water and playing volleyball on the sands while a DJ cranked out hideous music from a grotesque large sound system. But on this morning the place was full of life, yet chill.
I walked down to the end of the pier which had a dozen or so stoned locals hanging out on it. I snapped some photos of girl who had a dog that looked just like her (why is it that people get dogs that look like them?). This place ain’t bad, I thought to myself as I looked out to sea and then back at a beach that really makes you want to drink a piña colada out of a pineapple.
I then went over the the big beach area and browsed what a row of vendors were selling. Unlike Jobos, there isn’t really any permanent structures here — no restaurants or bars — so the vendors just back their vans up to the edge of the beach and open the back doors. Some dude had a load of coconuts that he was drilling holes into and passing out to tourists … some with rum added and some without. At a table a little ways down a dude and his wife were selling pricey drinks out of hallowed out pineapples. Another guy operated out of a legit ice cream truck.
I made my way to the end of the beach, laid my bag of beef jerky and apples down in the shade besides a wooden row boat, and went into the water. I’m not sure if a human can feel better than it feels to swim out into the ocean, turn over onto your back, and just float in the waves while looking up at the sky. There is a reason why people seek out beaches.
Beaches aren’t the easiest places in the world to meet people. They’re a sub-divided-sector kind of place with a little too much vacuous space to casually strike up conversations. But I did hang out with a dude from Cleveland for a while. He originally planed to take the trip with his girlfriend but she bailed at the last minute because of work or something, so he came by himself — a fact that he didn’t really seem to mind. “There’s plenty of brown women here to keep me company,” he said. I redirected the conversation back to football.
My next stop was to a place that completely surprised me. I had read that one of the best nude beaches in the Caribbean was on north end of the beach at Añasco and I decided to try to mix things up a little. But if “nude beach” is synonymous with seclusion the report may have been right. I found myself at a broken down, almost completely abandoned recreational area that had definitely seen better days. The place was a massive park that sprawled down the coastline with picnic tables, grills, bathroom facilities, basketball courts, and camping areas but today looked like an apocalypse or two had passed through. Or maybe a hurricane? Whatever it was, something happened here. The entire place was reduced to ruins and nobody was around anywhere.
I tried to walk north towards the Rincon Beach resort, but the beach was chock full of seaweed and presented a bit of a treacherous — annoying — tramp, as my feet would occasionally break through dried foliage and into a festering pool of stagnant water below. It was high tide and the water was rising nearly all the way to the tree line, rendering the beach little more than weeds. I decided to retreat into the woods. In there, I found a path that lead in the direction I wanted to go and walked along it. At some point I realized that there wasn’t anything approaching a nude beach here and concluded that the author of the story that I read may have relied on hearsay, made it up, or was just plain wrong … or maybe I just wasn’t in the right place. Who knows?
Anyway, Añasco Beach was a wash. On to the next one …
Playa Doña Lala
After Añasco Beach I figured it was about time to get back on the beaten trail — or at least go somewhere where there’s other humans. So I looked at the map and it became apparent that this little tour wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Rincon. Rincon — which means corner — is just this nose-like geographic protrusion that sticks out from the west side of Puerto Rico with beaches on three sides of it. I didn’t really have any local intel on this area, so I just selected a promising looking beach at random and ended up at Playa Doña Lala.
“Can’t complain.” That’s basically how I’d sum this one up. Not good, not bad. The beach was mostly on the other side of a high wall from a resort and a string of housing complexes. While this doesn’t directly impact your activities on the beach — you’re not really doing anything on the non-beach part anyway — it does put a damper on the experience. Looking back from the water and seeing lush green hills, tiki bars, or a little town is a lot different than a massive concrete wall with condo towers rising up behind it.
I didn’t stay long.
To round out this tour I figured I should go to a legit surf beach, and no beach along the coast of Puerto Rico seemed as apt for this as the appropriately named “Surfer’s Beach.” It’s located right near the airport in Aguadilla, smack between a lighthouse and a power plant. But don’t let this inauspicious seeming location put you off from going here, especially if you surf.
True to its name, Surfer’s Beach has some of the best surfing in Puerto Rico, with six to eight foot waves and extended rights and short left breaks. The 1998 World Surfing Championship actually took place here.
But what I found most incredible was that the surfers here could actually surf. You truly don’t know how many times I’ve sat on surf beaches and watched dozens of people spending 20+ minutes paddling out to find a wave just to stand on their boards for .5 seconds before falling off and doing it all over again. Apparently, there was a legend of some guy who actually did it once. Maybe that guy was from here …
For us non-surfers, this beach is a good place to chill for a while. Most of the surfers are busy … well, surfing, so there beach is pretty uncrowded and you can get some shade from the palm trees and wooded area along the back side. Surfer’s Beach, however, is not the best beach for swimming. It’s reputed to be loaded with sea urchins and there are “Do Not Swim” signs warning of the undertow. But it is the starting point for one of the best beach hikes in Puerto Rico which leads to Survival and Tabletop beaches.
Back to Jobos
I eventually returned to Jobos in the early evening and ordered some salmon, mofongo, and a piña colada from one of the beach bars. I watched the start of sunset as I dined and realized that I may have been better off just hanging out here the entire day. No other beach that I went to even came close to Jobos. The difference was so stark that I began asking people — Puerto Rican locals and expats — whether my analysis was on point, and every time they fully agreed: Jobos is the best beach out there.
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About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii
May 19, 2023, 7:49 am
I like the sunset picture.