Puerto Rico: so easy to get to, a super sailing scene, great nightlife. Its a huge surprise that it doesnt get more crowded here than it does. But, thats a good thing. Windsurfing in PR is a throwback to the 80s. Everybody knows everybody else, the conditions are great, the locals are excellent sailors, and there are no crowds. No doubt, the island offers variety you wont find in any other Caribbean destination: killer wave sailing, excellent free-riding spots and tons of racing action.
When to Go
The best time to go to Puerto Rico really depends on what youre after. If its waves, December through April; for fun, anytime except the fall; and for flat-water blasting or racing, April through August.
The wave-sailing season starts off with the Christmas winds in December and tapers off in mid-April. Winds are somewhat inconsistent in the 15- to 25-knot range, blowing side-off to side-on, starboard-tack jumping. Waves up to mast high are usually generated by frontal systems coming off the East Coast of the U.S.
The North Atlantic high generates the trade winds that blow during late spring and summer at a steady 15 to 18 knots. The water gets flat, and the racers come out in full force.
There are no customs hassles, no funky currency exchanges and a language barrier that can be overcome with a little ingenuity. No excuse, really.
There are NO Rentals in the Island, bring your own equipment, contact local shops for more information.
Where to Sail
The entire northwest of the island is teeming with superb surfing and diving beaches and is rich with good wave-sailing spots. Our most famous is Shacks, located in the town of Isabela. Conditions range from inviting to threatening and can change daily. Its windier here than anywhere on the north coast. If you only had one sail, it would be a 5.0.
Although Shacks might get by as an intermediate spot when the waves are small, its definitely an experts-only break when the place goes off. The wave is hollow and pitches over a shallow and sharp coral reef. To the non-windsurfing members of the family, the reef offers incredible diving and snorkeling when calm. This is the only spot on the whole island where you can rent a place right on a wave-sailing beach overlooking the break. Imagine yourself waking up in a nice apartment at the cliff in Hookipa, and thats basically what you get at Shacks (minus a few sailors). If youre not renting there, youll have a hell of a time finding a spot to park.
Beach, just west of
Shacks on the north side of the military base in Aguadilla, is an easy-access spot that goes off often, and
its very sailable in northeast winds. The beach is easy to
find once inside the base if you ask for directions. Its flat,
rocky bottom is a lot more forgiving than
but the downwind shoreline is jagged rock and nasty. If you get caught on the
inside and can’t get out, get ready for a painful walk of shame. This beach is
popular with surfers. Show them the respect they deserve to guarantee your good
Just east of Shacks is Jobos. This beach is perfect for less experienced sailors. The access is easy and the reef is gentle. The east part of the beach is a bathing area protected by a rock outcropping. Surfers take off just off the rock on waves that peel left and right. We sail more toward the middle of the bay. There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the sand hill overlooking the beach. Happy Bellys is the best of the bunch. They serve a killer chicken quesadilla and have the coldest beer at a great price.
The Punta Las Marias in the San Juan metro area must be the most underrated windsurfing area in the Atlantic. The northwest has to be really going off to get the spoiled locals to drive out of town to la Isla (out on the island.) A 4-mile-long barrier reef about a half-mile out provides some of the best wave sailing in Puerto Rico, with fantastic and uncrowned little breaks. The most popular sail size is 5.8.
A good launch from which to explore the wave-sailing possibilities is the east corner of Park Boulevard Street, about 3 miles west of the airport. It offers beachfront street parking, a rigging area and easy access to several of Puntas clean breaks. The leftmost break, Sunset, is hardly ever sailed because its so far downwind. It has a deep-water peeling right wave and holds a very big swell with ease.
Dominoes is popular only with the best sailors because its very shallow. When it goes off, its hollow and fast. This peak breaks both ways, just like Waimea, a break within easy reach directly in front of the launch. Waimea would be the perfect training wave spot if it werent so far out. This gentle, forgiving wave breaks over a fairly deep reef that youll never reach with your feet.
Puntas is the easternmost reef and the most popular. Be sure you understand how the reef breaks before you go out. The inside part of the take-off is dry reef, and local knowledge is critical. The protected area inside the reef provides great free-ride cruising year-round. Its best in the summer when the locals trade in their wave boards for slalom equipment to enjoy powered 6.0 free-riding.
The hard-core racers choose to cruise upwind about a mile to the Caballos. Caballos, the best big wave break in the PR, is located off the beach next to the San Juan Airport. This offshore wave will peel to the right up to double-mast high and end in a huge bowl that will swallow you alive if you dont kick out early! Luckily, it has a channel that allows you to get out in all but the biggest waves with almost no wind at all. This reef is a long (very long) swim back if you break down. Launch near the San Juan Plaza in Isla Verde.
The south coast is fairly well known to local sailors but largely ignored by visiting windsurfers. With more than 60 miles of beaches, its a pity because the sailing can be very rewarding to those willing to explore a bit.
On the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, youll find La Parguera. This gorgeous area features dozens of mangrove islands and sand cays spread over 5 miles of shallow, clear water. The winds are a steady 15 to 20 knots just about every day. The access difficulties will be a small price to pay to sail among the unspoiled, stunning charm of these islands. A floaty free-riding or course-racing board will make exploring easy. The local shop is Ventolera (phone 787-808-0396), and they can point you in the right direction to the launches, nightspots and places to stay.
15 minutes east of La Parguera you will find the quiet, scenic little Pueblo of Guanica. Heading south, out of picturesque Guanica Harbor (road 333) takes you into the coastal, Bio-Reserve zone of the Guanica Dry Forest, (as in “cactus forest!). 5 to 10 minutes of stunning forest and ocean views brings you to the residential promontory of Punta San Jacinto, just past the Copa Marina Beach Resort.
Other famous sport just 40 minutes from San Juan at the south coast is Jauca, ask local Puntas Sailor for direction.
Wining and Dining
People in Puerto Rico love to party, and any reason is good enough to get out and do it. The partying in San Juan is pretty intense from Thursday through Saturday nights. It goes off around 11 p.m. and cools down just before sunrise. At Puntas las Marias, Mangos Café is the place, offering the best reasonably priced food until 11 p.m. and a great bar to hang out till 3 a.m.
Old San Juan has so many bars, restaurants and clubs that it needs a whole separate story. My advice is to take a cab and explore on foot. Solei, in Piñones, is the best beach bar on the island. Friday nights are a furious scene of people and music. Its very windsurfer-friendly and often has windsurfing videos playing.
Theres nothing to buy in Puerto Rico that you couldnt get cheaper at home, so go ahead and leave home without your American Express. However, you will find a friendly and welcoming population, warm, clean water and nice trade winds. While the water action can be intense yet inconsistent, there is nothing inconsistent about the nightlife. Come check it out while you can still have it mostly to yourself.
Car rentals are easy very important to drive around the island and visit as many spots as possible.
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