Balneario La Monserrate
Balneario La Monserrate, or Playa Luquillo (Carr. 3, east of San Juan, 787/889-5871, daily 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.), is the kind of place people dream of when they envision an island paradise. A thick grove of tall, shady coconut palm trees sways in the breeze over a mile-long wide crescent of pristine sand gently lapped by the Atlantic Ocean.
The only signs of civilization are a clean modern complex of bathrooms and showers, some covered picnic shelters, and a couple of snack bars serving fritters and piña coladas. Camping is permitted in a grassy area with picnic tables and grills on the western side. Rates are $13, $17 with electricity. Call 787/889-5871 for reservations.
The only drawback to this idyllic spot is that it gets packed with beachgoers on weekends, holidays, and during the summer, when beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent and lifeguards keep an eye on things. If you want solitude, visit on a weekday during the low season, and you’ll practically have the place to yourself.
On the far eastern side of the beach is Mar Sin Barreras (Sea Without Barriers), a staffed, wheelchair-accessible beach that caters to visitors with disabilities. In addition to a system of ramps that permits those in wheelchairs to roll right into the water, there are accessible bathrooms, showers, parking, and picnic shelters. The facility also rents special wheelchairs for entering the water.
Other Luquillo Beaches
Although Balneario La Monserrate gets all the accolades and attention, it isn’t the only beach in Luquillo. A newly designated nature preserve, La Selva Natural Reserve (Carr. 193, just east of Luquillo) is a 3,240-acre tract of land comprised of wetlands, mangroves, coastal forest, and pristine beaches ideal for swimming and surfing—just beware of the reefs. This is an important nesting site for leatherback turtles.
In the town of Luquillo along Carretera 193 is Playa Azul, a sandy crescent beach great for swimming and snorkeling. Parking is limited, and there are no facilities besides a few street vendors selling snacks. Farther eastward on Calle Herminio Diaz Navarro is La Pared, a great surfing spot adjacent to a picturesque seawall just one block from Luquillo’s central plaza.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition