Puerto Rico had its big coming out in 2010 when Rip Curl ran their Search contest on the island, but this exotic US commonwealth territory has been a tropical destination for surfers in the know since the 1950s. Combining the stability of home with the novelty of a foreign culture, Puerto Rico might be one of the safest and most convenient overseas trips available to US residents—and in case you’ve been too busy searching elsewhere to notice, the waves are epic.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Puerto Rico – Surf Spot & Surf Camps. Photo thanks to Rincon Surf School[/caption]

The Surf: A mix of heavy reef breaks and more user-friendly beachies, Puerto Rico has spots that are great for beginners, but most visiting surfers are looking to surf intermediate to advanced waves.

Five Waves Worth Surfing:

  1. Middles: The location of the 2010 Rip Curl Search event, this bowly righthand reef offers up barrels, walls, and sucky launch pads, making it a good wave for just about every type of surfing.
  2. Gas Chambers: Puerto Rico’s best wave? If crowds and spitting barrels are any indication, then probably so. Although extremely fickle, when this righthand tube is on, there probably isn’t anywhere else in PR you’d rather be.
  3. Indicators: A shallow, hollow right that can offer up great barrels and is often less crowded than other nearby spots due to its danger factor.
  4. Tres Palmas: Puerto Rico’s token big wave spot—except that there is nothing token about this bombing righthand reef that can handle waves in excess of 30 feet.
  5. Pools: A great beach for lying out, Pools can also offer up rippable peaks and the occasional barrel, making it a nice place to spend an afternoon with your family.

The Water: Aside from Hawaii, Puerto Rico is the closest thing the US has to tropical paradise, and the blue Caribbean water does not disappoint. Surface temps vary seasonally from 79–84 F (26–29 C), so it almost feels as if you are surfing in bathwater.

The Season: While there can be waves all year, the best hurricane swells come in fall (August through November), the big wave season is in winter (December through February), and the wind is typically best in spring (February through April).

The Vibe: Heavy. Puerto Rico has a lot of surfers—and a lot of GOOD surfers. The talent pool here isn’t limited to big names like Dylan Graves, Brian Toth, Carlos Cabrero, and Otto Flores, and with a population of quality surfers comes a competitive and well-protected lineup. It is possible to score waves alone, but the best spots will be crowded and the vibes will be heavy.

Things To Do: Puerto Rico has long been called the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”—an indicator that you are in for a relaxing holiday in the sun. If you tire of lounging on the beach or in a hammock, the nightlife can be quite entertaining, with lots of rum, beautiful women, and salsa dancing.

Where To Stay: Hotels and hostels abound, so where you locate yourself will depend on your budget and what waves you intend to surf.

What To Bring: A shortboard and a step-up, plus a gun if you are coming in winter and intend to charge. Lots of board shorts, as that is what you will live in. Adequate sun protection, and any surf accessories you will need—although there are a number of surf shops available. Your favorite recipe for a rum-infused cocktail.

Getting There: Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is your main gateway into Puerto Rico, and is easily accessible from a number of East Coast cities. US visa rules apply. Airport code: SJU.