Puerto Rico // Porta del Sol //

Punta Borinquen to Aguadilla

Best known today for its network of dreamy beaches, plunging cliffs and slamming winter waves, between 1939 and 1973 PUNTA BORINQUEN was occupied by Ramey Air Force Base, home to B-52 bombers and hundreds of US airmen. Since closing, most of the base housing has been sold off to locals and ex-Federal employees, creating a slightly institutional-looking community that retains the layout and road system of the old base.

Along the jagged coast between Punta Borinquen and the city of AGUADILLA there are many enticing beaches. Playa Crash Boat is the best and most accessible, with a festive atmosphere on weekends and some decent surfing. Despite a spate of beautification projects along its seafront in recent years, downtown Aguadilla itself has a justly unglamorous and gritty reputation.

Some of the wildest waves can be found at Playa Surfers, a classic reef break rather than a beach, on the rugged northern side of the old base. Surfers is sometimes compared to the legendary break point at Lower Trestles (in California), with a long right and a short, hard-hitting left, but unless things are unusually fierce, it should be OK for beginners. To get here, drive behind Ramey Shopping Center and Faro Suites on 4th Street, turn right on Cliff Road and pass Surf Zone: where the road appears to end at a residential estate, turn left through the metal fence and follow the road downhill.

The secluded beaches that lie west of the base offer some of the best surf breaks on the island, as well as the chance to laze on usually empty swathes of sand. To get here, take the unmarked narrow lane that cuts across the golf course from PR-107, just beyond the turning for the club house and opposite the airport runway – this winds through bunkers and sombrero palms before dropping steeply through the cliffs to the shoreline. As you near the sea you’ll pass a small turn-off to Playa Borinquen, a soothing carpet of fine sand – the water is ideal for swimming in the summer. The main road continues along the coast for a short distance until it’s replaced by an extremely battered dirt track laced with potholes. The beach here is known as Playa Ponderosa, and you should be able to spot the remains of Las Ruinas del Viejo Faro Españo poking through the scrub – the old lighthouse was constructed in 1886 but flattened by the earthquake and tsunami of 1918. The two breaks offshore are known as Ruinas and the hard-to-forget Shithouse. More intrepid (or well-insured) drivers rattle a little further along to Playa Wilderness, a solid long right pro surf beach where groundswells of 7m are possible. At the end of the track lies the equally challenging Wishing Well break, just north of Playa Crash Boat – you’ll have to return to PR-107 to reach the latter, however.