Puerto Rico // The north coast and karst country //

Playa Los Tubos and Playa Mar Chiquita

The stretch of coast north of Manatí is graced by some of the most memorable beaches in Puerto Rico. Heading west along PR-686, the first is Playa Los Tubos, a thick, beautiful wedge of sand with a big car park and basic amenities. Los Tubos gets some heavy surf in winter, while for the week of July 4 the beach plays host to the International Playero Los Tubos de Manatí Festival, featuring a series of concerts by well-known artists from Puerto Rico and all over Latin America.

Beyond here the road follows a narrow strip of beach known as Playa Tortuguero, enticing on weekdays when the lack of people means you can simply pull over and stake out your own private stretch. Keep driving west along PR-685 and you’ll come to PR-648, the road to stunning Playa Mar Chiquita. This cove is an almost perfect horseshoe shape, hemmed in by jagged arms of coral on both sides and lined with a silky strip of sand. The water here is calm and perfect for swimming in summer, though in winter bigger waves surge through the narrow gap into the lagoon. The beach remains wild and undeveloped, with no facilities or food on site, though you’ll be sharing it with the usual hordes on weekends and holidays.

To find two much quieter beaches, return to PR-685, turn right and make the short drive to the right-hand turning for PR-6684. Bear left at the next junction, then follow the road around 2km to where it dead-ends. Walk across the fence at the end of the road and turn right at the sign for the Reserva Natural de Hacienda La Esperanza: you should reach Playa de Las Golondrinas in around five to ten minutes. This is home to La Cueva de Las Golondrinas (Cave of the Swallows), a small tunnel at the edge of the beach, cutting through the rocks to the bay on the other side. You’ll find Playa La Poza de Las Mujeres is off to the right, with no actual well (poza), but a tiny, sheltered cove.