Paddle Puerto Rico
There's something about Puerto Rico. Maybe it's the warm Caribbean water? Or the food? Whatever the draw, the "island of enchantment," offers incredible paddling options: great surf, downwind runs and flatwater touring. The white sand beaches, secluded surf towns and pristine reefs aren't bad either. The tranquil blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea beckon along the south of the island while the Atlantic Ocean provides plenty of waves in the north. It's also host to the largest annual stand up paddle race in the Caribbean each winter with a scenic course that steers racers around the Spanish colonial city of Old San Juan.
Downwind: Start in the protected waters of the Condado Lagoon and paddle out into the Atlantic. As you exit the lagoon you will be greeted with downwind conditions for the beginning of your adventure. The northeast trade winds blow year-round, providing great downwind opportunities for many parts of Puerto Rico. Paddling around the island you'll see the towering walls of the 16th century Spanish fort, El Morro, designed to protect the port from foreign invaders. After four miles in the ocean you'll make your way to the cruise ship channel where you can head straight back upwind to finish the circumnavigation of Old San Juan. The entire trip is about eight miles and can be done by beginner to advanced paddlers, depending on ocean conditions.
Surf: The entire northern coast of Puerto Rico is directly exposed to north Atlantic swells, making the winter months the most consistent. The northwest corner of the island features breaks with side-shore to offshore winds exposure. Most of the popular breaks are fairly crowded and not very standup friendly. However, there are dozens of less-known breaks where you can find empty, rippable peaks. Make sure you have a decent level of comfort SUP surfing before you tackle the jagged reef and urchin-covered bottoms.
Touring: The Cabo Rojo region in the southwest corner of the island is home to one of the most pristine beaches in Puerto Rico. Drive to the end of route 301 and you'll see the Los Morrillos Lighthouse. Built in 1881 over limestone cliffs that tower 200 feet above sea level, the lighthouse provides spectacular views out into the Caribbean. La Playuela beach just below the lighthouse is the perfect launching point for an exploratory paddle. From La Playuela you can paddle out of a tiny bay to explore the limestone cliffs and glowing blue water. Occasionally the trade winds bring up enough swell to provide a small wave that breaks in the middle of the bay. Pack a lunch and enjoy a day in paradise.
For SUP tours and rentals try Velauno Paddleboarding-San Juan (787) 728-8716 or Aquatica Dive and Surf-Aguadilla (787) 890-6071.
This article originally ran in our Spring 2013 issue.
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