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Playa Capitolio – Sand & Sea Glass in Old San Juan

Old San Juan Beach Sea glassLots of people visit Old San Juan hoping for a beach to enjoy close to the historic area. Well, there is a little beach that can be part of your day in Old San Juan. It is not the most beautiful, largest, cleanest nor even the safest beach in Puerto Rico, but it is close by, has some sand and an area with a small, protected cove, and it has large quantities of sea glass.

Personally, for a beach day, I would suggest you go a bit farther to the lovely Balneario Escambron, but for sea glass collectors, this little beach area is what you are looking for!

Old San Juan Beach Sea glass

I am not sure if the name of this beach is really Playa Capitolio, but I have seen it referred to as that elsewhere (one reader said the real name is “Bajamar” or Playa de Bajamar). The name is descriptive of where it is … on the north side (back) of the Puerto Rico Capitol Building.

There are steps leading down to the beach on the east side of the San Juan Bautista Plaza. There used to be showers on the east side of the plaza at the top of the stairs, but they were not working any time we have visited this beach.

Old San Juan Beach Sea glass

As you walk down the steps, you mainly can walk eastward. I would not go swimming in the water here as at times, I think it can be too rough. The water has some underwater coral & rocks that stop a lot of the waves from ripping into this north-facing beach. But you need to be very careful with rip currents, as these rocks have some openings (perfect for current formation).

If you walk to the west, climbing over some rocks, you will see a small protected cove. But there are lots of large rocks underwater, so wading out can be painful! The sandy area right by the steps is OK, but there is not too much of it at high tide. If you are a sun-worshiper, you could put down your towel and enjoy.

Old San Juan Beach Sea glass

If you walk down the beach to the east (wear shoes because there are rocks you may need to climb over, especially at high tide), you will come to the ruins of a small fort. If you climb the rocks to the west of the steps, you will end up below the massive walls of Fort San Cristobal.

But I did not come to this for the sun, sand, nor swimming — I came for the sea glass!

Due to hundreds of years of people discarding things over the huge city walls into the ocean, and more currently, street run-off, this beach has loads of beautiful sea glass. I was able to fill two quart-sized Ziploc bags in about 45 minutes.

Old San Juan Beach Seaglass

The glass was mainly greens of varying shades — from really dark green to bright chartreuse. There was also a lot of browns and clear (white). But I did find other colors, like blues, ambers/yellows, and even a sliver of red!

The pieces ranged in size from large to minute. But the quantity was impressive. I have never seen so much sea glass on one beach! I walked to the east, and it just got better and better the farther I went.

Old San Juan Beach Seaglass

Just west of the fort ruins there were lots of small pockets of pebbles with loads of glass pieces. And most of the glass is perfectly etched, I had very few throw-backs.

One day I went almost at high tide (bad timing) and yet still there was a lot above the high tide mark. I could see all the glass rolling around in the surf at the wave break line. At low tide, it is even better!

I have been to this beach on weekends when there have been a number of beach-goers enjoying the beach. Recently, we went mid-week and were alone on the beach.

Old San Juan Beach Seaglass

A word of caution I would give is think safety first and keep an eye on your surroundings. This beach and the area east of the steps is remote — the beach is not visible from the street above — and it is not in the best neighborhood. I would not go here alone, and I would not have anything of value on me.

Also local homeless seem to use the shrubs as their home (mostly to the east of the ruins). They didn’t bother us, but we didn’t stay around their area very long to chance it. Please go with at least one other person, and leave if you feel uncomfortable.

I was so into collecting my glass, I was oblivious to other people coming onto the beach from small paths through the bushes. Make sure someone is keeping alert to the area. We had no trouble, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Old San Juan Beach Seaglass

Playa “Bajamar” or Capitolio is about a 15-minute walk from the cruise piers in Old San Juan.

The “main” entrance to this beach is directly across the street from the Capitol Building in Old San Juan. On the weekend, you can park at the Capitol Building. During the week, you will have to park in Old San Juan (in a parking deck) and walk to the area (about a 15-minute walk from the parking decks on Recinto Sur).

If you go to this beach, please be careful as indicated above.

We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ... assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 18 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Thank you. I just visited last weekend. (May 18, 2018) We had to move a few rocks but did find plenty of sea glass. Another possible name for the beach is Playa Peña.

Comment by Julia on 23 May 2018

I guess you are right! I always only enter at the back. I will correct the article- thanks

Comment by Gwenn on 09 Jul 2016

Correction Bajamar Beach is at the BACK OF THE CAPITOLIO IN OLD SAN JUAN the front is at the FERNADEZ JUNCOS AVENUE.

Comment by shirley diaz on 22 Jun 2016

Playa Escambron has some sea glass on it.

Comment by Gwenn on 30 Jan 2016

Hi! Thank you so much for this article and the directions! I can't wait to use them in two weeks! I was wondering if there are any other beaches to explore in San Juan? Maybe not with the abundance of this beach, but still fun to beach comb. Thank you!

Comment by Katie on 30 Jan 2016

Took this advice & TOTALLY SCORED!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the hint ???????? There was a nice stairway down to the beach & we just followed the directons from there. It may have helped that we saw the lay of the land from above as we got a regular parking spot on the street near the Castle. We did see a homeless shack, but we left it alone & just did our thing. Thats all I have to add. Thanks again!

Comment by Leta F on 22 Jan 2016

We went in September and found sea glass to be plentiful. Often there was an older lady meditating by herself, and we also saw couples and small groups of young adults, and when the cruise ships were in we would see more people. We only saw the "homeless man" once - near his shed and without a stick, and the men coming in and out of the bushes were either fishing or more interested in each other than people searching for sea glass. They usually just said "Hola" and went on with whatver they were doing. We also saw much wildlife, sea anenomes, live starfish, lizards I think were blue skinks, large numbers of hermit crabs of all sizes and on two occasions a rat. After the first time I felt more comfortable and would visit by myself, but would still keep my eyes open and always carried a whistle with me just in case. Lots of beautiful sea glass and lots more that still needed to cook a little longer that we threw back out for future collectors.

Comment by Jerry on 25 Dec 2015

Yes, still there...big surfer area.

Comment by Gwenn on 02 Sep 2015

I remember as a kid going to a beach just past Escambrón (going toward Old San Juan). My mother used to call it "Playa de la 8", most probably because it must be in the vicinity of Parada (Stop) 8.

Comment by Robert on 02 Sep 2015

There is glass, you just need to walk along the waters edge and go eastward. But yes, I wouldn't go alone.

Comment by Gwenn on 09 May 2014

This beach is very easy to find, I got there by foot in no time from the cruise ship. Just keep on going up until you see a large building with a dome. The beach is right across it. Be aware, there is no bathroom or a place to rinse your feet when you are done. (Both out of order, no water) I would not recommend being there along. It’s completely covered from the city street. When I got there, I found a family with children and a dog leaving, there was a couple sunning on the beach and a couple of nice local girls. There is no sea glass there anymore! The water looked beautiful, but there was a lot of old and new trash in the trees area and the stairwell smelled of urine. I would say if you get to your ship too early from whatever you were doing all day, walk there for a few moments to take a last look at the beautiful water.

Comment by Natalia on 09 May 2014

Was there last week and found lots of sea glass. I happened to walk down the stairs and walked down the beach to find many different sizes and colours. Took some and left some for the next collectors. Had no idea that there was so much on that beach till I googles sea glass in San Juan when I got home, so was please that I had ventured down the stairs. True the beach is secluded and when I was there, there was one local family swimming and 3 women sun bathing. I walked all the way down to the broken wall on the beach and was going to continue, but became uneasy around the corner as I saw a couple of men in the bushes and thought it would be better to walk back to the stairs and continue along the road. Intuition is a built in protector and I always listen to it. So as many other people have mentioned, be safe on the beach and always watch your surroundings. I was lucky as I had many valuables on me and a camera with all of my holiday pictures which I would have been very upset to lose. Again great place for sea glass, but be very weary of going down alone, I was lucky.

Comment by Jeff on 07 May 2014

I have never seen anyone selling sea glass in bulk in PR. Most people who collect it use it to make jewelry or something.

Comment by Gwenn on 29 Apr 2014

If it is pretty too leery to go into the beach and collect sea glass because of the "homeless man" there guarding the beach away from beach collectors, isn't there a place that sell sea glass by bulk around old San Juan and Airport area??? We ladies will spend two nights there near the airport.. Please advise, thanks!,

Comment by Terri m on 28 Apr 2014

We went to this beach today.. It's really very beautiful beach. We didn't go further than the area just at the bottom of the stairs though, because there was a man (I'm assuming homeless) chasing people away with a long sharp stick. He was watching us for a while and once he realized we weren't coming his way he went back to his shack on the beach. We were warned by another group who had walked past, of his presence. I was bummed bc I wanted to see the ruins but didn't want to tangle with him. We were there just before sunset so perhaps earlier in the day one might be left alone. Just a heads up. We did find some sea glass and shells where we were.

Comment by Jen on 12 Feb 2014

Hello, For anyone visiting this beach, please take extra precaution. Within the last month of visiting, I had 2 friends on different occasions have their belongings stolen and just last week, I saw a man walking around with a large knife. Please remember not to carry too much valuable items to this beach & always be on the lookout.

Comment by Anonymous on 02 Jan 2014

Great info- I added it to article. Thanks! And yes- no need for people to be greedy!

Comment by Gwenn on 09 Nov 2013

Hi - just a note on the name of the beach. This beach has been known forever as "Bajamar" or Playa de Bajamar. The little "fort' you mention above are the ruins of the Bajamar Battery - part of the old city's defense wall system. I don't know where the Capitillo name popped out, never heard of it before. Maybe is just Capitolio (Capitol building) mispronounced. I grew up here, and never heard this beach referred to as Capitillo - only Bajamar and sometimes "La Peña". As for the seaglass - it used to be plenty of it, but most tourist from the USA see everything as an opportunity to make money and go there with plastic crates to take all the sea glass they can to sell on eBay. I wish people could just take a few pieces as a souvenir, but that may be asking too much from some greedy people.

Comment by Beach Stray Cat on 07 Nov 2013

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