Rincón, Puerto Rico

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/people/37244380@N00/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/people/37244380@N00/ [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Do your beach vacations usually include lots of lazy time? Sorry, we can use the term relaxation or decompression, if you prefer. Either way, you tend to spend your vacation floating in the pool, swaying in a hammock, and napping under a palapa. If so, Rincón is not the place for you.

Puerto Rico’s northwestern coast is wild, rugged, and stunningly beautiful. You won’t find big resorts or many pools up in “the corner.” Instead, Rincón is home to windswept beaches, laid-back waterfront bars, and amazing sunsets. Plus lots and lots of surfers. The area hosted the World Surfing Championship in 1968. Ever since, wave chasers have descended upon the small town each winter. Rincón is now known as the “Caribbean’s Hawaii” for its huge swells, which reach 25- to 30-feet high.

You arrive in Rincón and find the quiet Central Plaza surrounded by churches, galleries, pottery studios, and little restaurants. The roofs of old Volkswagens are piled high with surfboards. Everyone wears flip-flops and calls each other “dude.” A green dome can be seen around town. It’s a former nuclear reactor—Puerto Rico’s only one closed in the 1970s—that’s been turned into a rarely visited museum. An unmanned lighthouse, El Faro, stands near the western point. The focus is clearly is on the beaches.

Photo: Stacy Hall (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Stacy Hall (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Start on Domes Beach, which became one of the most famous surfing beaches in the world after the World Surfing Championship. It’s named for the dome of that old nuclear reactor, just steps away. By mid-morning, colorful boards and wetsuited surfers bobble like buoys among the white-capped waves. When they see a massive wave forming, they paddle toward it, catch it as it breaks, and ride it toward the shore. After watching them in a trance, follow the Domes Trail northeast to Spanish Wall Beach. The secret beach is quiet and littered with seashells. Pools, Sandy, and Antonio’s Beaches are farther north.

Heading south, you find rocky Indicators and Deadman’s Beaches. Watch the water closely, as migrating humpback whales pass through the Mona Passage this time of year. Even farther south, the calmer Caribbean side of Rincón has more snorkelers than surfers. Swim among lionfish, sea turtles, and fluorescent coral off Steps and Tres Palmas Beaches.

After spending all day on the beach—make that beaches—your stomach is grumbling. Tamboo is a bar and grill right on the beach. Watch the sky turn orange and pink from the rooftop terrace with a piña colada. Move down to the patio for baby back ribs with guava sauce or a corn-crusted grouper fillet under the starry sky. Then sip a strong mojito as the music gets louder and the dancing begins. The day ends, like it began, on the beach.

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