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Where's the Beach?

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The nearest great beach, and my recommendation, is Escambron, which is a long, lovely, clean, well maintained and policed, public (free) beach, dotted with palms for shade. It has lifeguards, showers and a bar & 2 restaurants: 1 indoor with AC, and one on the terrace outside overlooking the beach and ocean. Both are reasonable, and feature local food and fish. http://places.eyetour.com/whatToSee/san-juan/70/parque-del-tercer-milenio-el-escambron
It's either a 20 min. walk, or a10 min.cab or bus ride away. There are always cabs in the Plaza de Armas, 1 block from here, or you can call for doorstep pick up. Cabs charge by the trip, not by the # of people, so you won't be paying much. Busses are a few blocks further away.
It's a beautiful and interesting walk along the ocean, passing Fort San Cristobal, the Capitol building, and Parque Munoz Rivera. You can walk through the length of the park with it's sprawling trees and lovely band shell. There's a pedestrian bridge from there to the beach.

There's another beach closer, the Capitol Beach, directly across from the capitol building accessed from the plaza with the statue of our patron saint, John th Baptist. From the newly restored plaza there's a newly built stairway down to the beach. It's also called the Old San Juan beach because it's right at the edge of Old San Juan. This is a narrow beach, long, but not very pretty, The reef surrounding San Juan is exposed here, and the water before it is never deeper than 5 ft. There are lots of "critters" in & on the reef if you want to swim out there (25ft).you can walk around on it - good for snorkeling.
There are usually a few sun lovers & families down there, but you have to bring whatever you may want because there's no one selling anything.
In the 40 yrs. I've been here I've never heard of a problem there, but it is kind of desolate.

Continuing in the bus or cab another 10 min ride beyond Escambron, are the Condado hotel beaches. The beaches there are not as nice, there are no lifeguards or showers, and it's all tourists. You can get hot dogs or sodas from vendors with carts, but anything else is available only in the hotels - very expensive. From 1pm on the beach is in the shadow of the hotels.

Beyond Condado are the Isle Verde hotel beaches. Same as Condado, but further away.

There are plenty more beaches. You can go to a different beach every day.
If you want to go to the famous Luquillo Beach, that's beyond Fajardo, about an hour away. It's usually done in a tour, combined with the rain forest, which is on the way. It's pretty, but lifeless.

I would strongly recommend spending a day in
Piñones, which is in a wilderness on a separate road passing the marina next to the airport.
Piñones is packed on the weekends with locals. Traffic in the sand!

Particularly in the beginning, where there are lots of open air bars and restaurants in the sand, but sprinkled all throughout, are shacks with locals selling fried everything and fresh carruco and escabeche of sea food caught that morning, and basic drinks. Piñones is where Anthony Bourdain went on his episode of "No Reservations" about Puerto Pico, to find authentic local food.

It stretches from Isle Verde all the way to Loiza. The beach is continuous for over 10 miles. It is wider in some areas, and some areas are all craggy and look like the moon. Each widened section has a different name, and different people who favorite it. There are different levels of surfer beaches, family areas, and plenty of stretches ideal for lovers - the proverbial "deserted" beach, yet 20 ft away is the main road.
If you drive, you pull of the road, into the sand, up the embankment to your favorite spot, and that's it. (Do lock your car).
There is also a regular public bus that goes to
Piñones, that makes stops all through.
And, if you're a cycler, you can pedal from Old San Juan to
Piñones, or rent aq bike there. There's a great bike trail that criss-crosses from along the ocean to over the mangroves.
http://places.eyetour.com/whatToSee/loiza/9/pinones
Piñones is a magical place. A time warp! It was a federal national reserve; called Piñones because of all the pine trees, but the pines were decimated during hurricane Hugo in the 80's. It retained its status however as a protected area, and currently there are huge battles going on against developers who want to take over sections and put up resorts because the beach is so beautiful and the location - in San Juan, and near the airport.
This would be the end of the locals being able to go there, so the fight is between would be investors, and Ecology groups aligned with political "the beaches belong to the people" supporters.

The people who live there don't look like the rest of the people you'll see around San Juan. The beach is on one side of the road and the mangrove forests are on the other. During the days of the Conquistadors the escaped slaves used to hide in the mangrove swamps because it was impossible to find them there.
The people who live there today are their descendants. They are in favor of the hotels being built, for jobs now, during construction, but it will be the end of
Piñones, and their way of life in the long run.

bóveda   209 Cristo St., San Juan PR 00901 (787) 725-0263 10am-6pm