A Day at the Beach in Luquillo – Monserrate Balneario
2/11 update- With the new private companies working at this beach, it is just getting better and better- super clean with great facilities.
I go to this beach quite often (being it is the closest swimming beach to my house). It is one of my favorites too, just due to the scenery – it is a cresent of fine sand, with lots of mature palm trees for shade. And behind that, you have the Rain Forest – it’s picture perfect.
The Balneario, which has been designated a Blue Flag Beach. This means it meets lots of standards- from water quality, to facilities etc. The beach is gated – they charge $4 plus tax for parking. The walk from the parking lot to the beach, which takes you past the camping/picnic area, is kinda far, but it’s not too bad. The beach itself is wide, so there is ample room to pick your favorite spot. We try to get one in the shade because the sun is HOT and it is easy to burn quickly!
On this recent trip, we picked a spot in the middle, close to the lifeguard stand. There was only one lifeguard on duty sporadically throughout the day, but there were only about 10 other families on the beach, so it was not busy. In the summer and weekends, it is a different story, as Luquillo beach is very popular with the locals and tourists alike, and the beach can get really crowded.
On the beach, there are kiosks selling some typical foods (pinchos, empanadillas, etc). They taste pretty good and are only a buck or two. They have beer for $1.50 and yummy frozen pina coladas for only $4.00 with rum! There is also a kiosk selling souvenirs and beach stuff – towels, sunglasses, etc.
They have chairs and umbrellas for rent if you don’t have your own and you prefer sitting up out of the sand. We have our own, so we didn’t rent them.
The water was calm, since there is a reef way out that breaks the waves. The kids had no problem at all. Since it was not busy, we were allowed to use our boogie boards in the swimming area. I know when it is busy, it is not allowed. Because the sand is so fine on this beach, the water at the shore’s edge is not clear – each little wave picks up the sand. But as you go further out, it clears up. I like the water here because it has very little seaweed in it and it is kind of warm too. They groom and clean the beach, so the sand is clean. It is also perfect for sand castle building.
They have facilities. They have free outside showers for rinsing off (to the far right as you look at the water), but there is a nice “Bath House” offers clean bathrooms, showers and changing rooms for a fee. $1.00 per adult (50¢ per child) fee for the whole day to use the changing room with showers. They will give you a wrist band. They also have nice sized (about 1 ft wide by 2.5 ft tall) lockers that are $0.50 for the day in case you want to lock your stuff up instead of leaving it on the beach.
There is camping allowed on the grassy area. You need a permit to camp. I think it is $10 per night to camp. If you want to go camping on a quiet beach, DON’T go here on a summer weekend – the camping area is packed – every square inch has a tent (it is a very popular thing to do for locals)! The parking lot gate is locked at 5pm in the winter, so plan get there before that. In the summer, they are manned 24 hrs/day.
Just down the beach to the West, there is usually a guy that rents kayaks ($5 per person per 30 minutes) , and past that are the Luquillo Kiosks where there is a wider selection of food and drinks.
Down the beach to the east is the Beach without Boundaries. This used to be a great area where it was easy to roll a wheelchair right in to the water on a cement pad. The area in the water is now gone, but you can drive to this area and drop off someone in a wheelchair close to the edge of the beach (to avoid having to push them a long distance to through the sand).
Parking $4 for cars, $8 buses. Restrooms, showers and changing room are $1 for adults and 50¢ for children for the whole day. Sea kayak rentals are $5 per person per 30 minutes. They also have a transport vehicle that will take you and your “stuff” from the parking lot to the beach for a fee ($1/pp, $2 for “stuff”.
Balneario is open 7 days a week. 8:30am- 5pm. Closed only major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, 3 Kings Day etc. If the parking area is closed, you can park at the kiosks and walk in along the beach.
Play safely- They have flags out to alert you to water conditions- red and yellow flags mean it is not safe to swim.
You could easily spend the whole day at the beach, but allow a minimum of 2 hours. We find that a trip to Luquillo Beach is a great way to spend the afternoon after a morning of hiking in the Rain Forest.
Administration Office of the Balneario La Monserrate: 787-889-5871
Puerto Rico Tourism Company: 787-721-2400
From San Juan: Take Route 66 East (este) and then Route 3 East (este). Continue on Route 3 past the turn off for El Yunque / the Rain Forest. The beach is located just off Route 3 in Luquillo. Take the right hand “Balneario” exit just after you see the long row of food Kiosks on your left.
It is a quick 15 minutes from Coqui’s Hideaway in Rio Grande.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.