Balneario de Carolina
“The Best Beach Near San Juan”

Woman having a good time at the Balneario de Carolina, Puerto RicoPuer­to Rico is all about beach­es. After all, it’s an Island, so it’s sur­round­ed by water. Right? But that doesn’t mean that all beach­es are the same. For­tu­nate­ly, many of Puer­to Rico’s best beach­es are right next to you, like the “Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na”. That is, if you land­ed at Luis Muñoz Marín Inter­na­tion­al Air­port (SJU), and you’re stay­ing with­in the San Juan Met­ro­pol­i­tan Area. So if beach­es are your thing… then READ TO THE END!

In this arti­cle I’m going to tell you all about beach­es that are with­in a 10 mile radius of your hotel or Airbnb. But before I do, there are sev­er­al things that you should know.

First, the infor­ma­tion in this arti­cle is for gen­er­al knowl­edge and enter­tain­ment pur­pos­es only. Puer­to Rico By GPS, its rep­re­sen­ta­tives and/or ven­dors, make no rep­re­sen­ta­tion or guar­an­tee, express or implied. Your should use this infor­ma­tion sole­ly at your own risk. This arti­cle may con­tain links to oth­er con­tent or prod­ucts on or out­side this site, which we don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly war­rant, endorse, or assume lia­bil­i­ty for either.

Sec­ond, many beach­es in Puer­to Rico are known for their rip tides and under­wa­ter cur­rents. Fur­ther­more, there are peri­ods dur­ing the year in which these con­di­tions are more preva­lent and severe. That’s why the first thing that you’ll find on the top right hand side of our web­site is a weath­er wid­get. And right below it there’s a link to the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice where they post up-to-the-minute reports (in Eng­lish) about haz­ardous weath­er and marine conditions.

In Puer­to Rico there used to be a pub­lic ser­vice AM radio sta­tion that would con­stant­ly report the weath­er, but it was closed sev­er­al years ago and no one has filled the void.

Third, the video below will give you a gen­er­al notion about beach­es in Puer­to Rico. I sug­gest that you watch it in its entire­ty before con­tin­u­ing with this article.

There are three kinds of tourists that vis­it Puer­to Rico. The first kind arrive on cruise ships. Those nev­er get to expe­ri­ence our beach­es because their stay on the Island is usu­al­ly less than 8 hours long.

Then there are those that arrive by plane but buy a tour. Those play fol­low-the-leader for most of their stay and most­ly expe­ri­ence the beach­es that are by their hotel. Sad­ly, those beach­es aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the best Puer­to Rico has to offer.

Final­ly, there are tourists like me —and maybe like you— that like to trav­el with­out a pre-planned sched­ule of any kind. My wife and I have been trav­el­ing for over 35 years and we’ve nev­er been on a tour. We sim­ply plan our trips care­ful­ly, make a two-day reser­va­tion (just to arrive some­where and find our bear­ings) and make up the rest as we go. If we like a place we stay. And if we don’t, we leave.

Just so you know, when you land­ed in Puer­to Rico (assum­ing that you land­ed at Luis Muñoz Marín Inter­na­tion­al Air­port (SJU)), you actu­al­ly land­ed in the town of Car­oli­na, not in San Juan. That’s because the air­port is actu­al­ly locat­ed with­in the town­ship of Car­oli­na, which is the town east of San Juan.

That means that you’re in luck because Car­oli­na has some of the pret­ti­est beach­es on the Island. But let me set the record straight, at the expense of maybe mak­ing some ene­mies with­in the munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment of Car­oli­na. In my hum­ble opin­ion Puer­to Rico’s most beau­ti­ful beach is called Fla­men­co. It’s no acci­dent that it con­tin­u­ous­ly fig­ures among Conde Nast Traveler’s “Best Beach­es In The World”!!! Yes, it’s that good.

Fla­men­co is locat­ed on the small­er munic­i­pal­i­ty island of Cule­bra, off the east­ern coast of the larg­er island of Puer­to Rico (the main­land, if you will). To get there you’ll need to catch a pud­dle jumper or put up with a fer­ry ser­vice that’s sim­ply atro­cious. And this is com­ing from some­one that has lived in Puer­to Rico for close to 60 years and is try­ing to sell you on a trip to Puer­to Rico. But there’s one mot­to that you’ll find over and over through­out this site: “we tell it like it is”. If it’s good it’s good, and if it’s not, well….

The sec­ond best beach (once again, in my hum­ble opin­ion), is Luquil­lo Beach. But Luquil­lo is locat­ed about 32 miles to the east of San Juan and it will take a lit­tle over an hour just to get there. Addi­tion­al­ly, the last time I was there I wasn’t too enthused. Don’t take me wrong. The beach is gor­geous (just because God made it that way) but the facil­i­ties need­ed some work.

Balneario de Carolina looking west. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na look­ing west (click on image to see it larger)

Then there’s the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na, the best gov­ern­ment oper­at­ed beach (once again, in my opin­ion) in the San Juan Metro­plex. The Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na sits about two miles east of the Isla Verde Hotel Dis­trict along road 187.

The beach is clean, the surf isn’t too high and you have show­ers, gaze­bos, food con­ces­sions, life­guards, secu­ri­ty buoys, thou­sands of palm trees to keep the sun at bay and ample parking.

The Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na is quite a large beach with a coast­line that extends for close to two miles. The west­ern side is beau­ti­ful and the munic­i­pal­i­ty of Car­oli­na does a great job of keep­ing it in tip top shape. The east­ern cor­ner is anoth­er sto­ry. There the tides have done a num­ber on the beach and the ero­sion caused by ele­vat­ed sea lev­els, and sev­er­al hur­ri­canes, is rear­ing its ugly head.

Anoth­er sign of glob­al warm­ing and ris­ing sea lev­els that you’ll see through­out all of Puer­to Rico is the fact that the water is get­ting clos­er. Where there once was a hun­dred, or in some cas­es even two hun­dred feet of sand between the edge of the water and reg­u­lar land now there can be 75′, 50′ or in some cas­es even less.

This is no fault of the gov­ern­ment of Car­oli­na… or of any local gov­ern­ment, for that mat­ter. It’s just a sad fact.

To reach the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na just punch in the fol­low­ing coor­di­nates in your GPS and you’ll go straight to the front gate (18.447433, ‑65.998031).

The Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na is the only gov­ern­ment oper­at­ed beach in Car­oli­na. If you didn’t watch the video above this would be a good time to watch it so you’ll under­stand what that means.

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There are four addi­tion­al beach­es in Car­oli­na that are all with­in a three or four mile stretch. And they’re all great.

Pine Grove surfing area looking east. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

Pine Grove surf­ing area look­ing east.

The first one is Pine Grove and its fre­quent­ly used by surfers. So that will give you an idea of what the surf is like. It’s locat­ed a cou­ple of miles to the west of the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na fol­low­ing road 187. These are the coor­di­nates (18.443989, ‑66.012047).

One inter­est­ing fact about this beach is that it has a lot more sand. In oth­er words, the dis­tance between the edge of the water and reg­u­lar land is a lot greater than at the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na. The munic­i­pal­i­ty of Car­oli­na does a great job of keep­ing it clean and the sig­nage is excel­lent. How­ev­er, since it’s not a bal­n­eario, don’t expect to find show­ers, gaze­bos, food con­ces­sions, life­guards or secu­ri­ty buoys. Even the palm trees are few and far between so bring plen­ty of sunblock.

Anoth­er impor­tant point is that all of the beach­es that I’m going to men­tion from this point for­ward (includ­ing Pine Grove) are locat­ed in res­i­den­tial areas. That means that park­ing space is scarce. So plan accordingly.

Casa Cuba beach looking east. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

Casa Cuba beach look­ing east. (Click on image to see it larger).

A lit­tle to the west of Pine Grove there’s anoth­er beau­ti­ful beach that’s right in front of the Casa Cuba. Casa Cuba is a club house where many of our cuban broth­ers, that immi­grat­ed to Puer­to Rico dur­ing the 60’s, like to gath­er, enjoy Cuban music, cig­ars and their deli­cious cui­sine. Once again, park­ing in this area is a night­mare, but the beach is gorgeous.

Casa Cuba beach looking west. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

Casa Cuba beach look­ing west. (Click on image to see it larger).

Like Pine Grove, this beach has lots of beau­ti­ful tan sand and the dis­tance between the water edge and reg­u­lar land can be close to 200 feet. Here are the coor­di­nates (18.444679, ‑66.014027).

When I was a teenag­er (many moons ago) I use to take my female acquain­tances (wow, that sound­ed ele­gant) to a small hotel in the Isla Verde area called “La Playa”. We didn’t actu­al­ly go to the hotel, but to a board­walk right behind it called “La Playi­ta” where you had a spec­tac­u­lar view of the sea, great drinks and won­der­ful music. It was the per­fect hangout.

“Hotel La Playa” beach looking west. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

Hotel La Playa” beach look­ing west. (Click on image to see it larger).

Right in front of that hotel (yes, it still exists) is a won­der­ful beach that peo­ple also call “La Playi­ta”. The place is stun­ning, albeit glob­al warm­ing has done a num­ber on it too and the sea is about 100 feet clos­er than it used to be.

I was there the oth­er day and it’s still worth the vis­it. The surf isn’t too high, the water is crys­tal clear and the land­scape is breath­tak­ing. Like all the oth­er that I have men­tioned, except the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na, there are no show­ers, gaze­bos, food con­ces­sions, life­guards or secu­ri­ty buoys. How­ev­er, there are plen­ty of palm trees and oth­er veg­e­ta­tion to pro­vide shade. Park­ing, how­ev­er, is murder.

Here are the coor­di­nates: (18.446002, ‑66.016514).

By now you should prob­a­bly have noticed that these were my stomp­ing grounds when I was a young man. Like many oth­er young­sters I was a col­lege stu­dent, had a part time job and couldn’t afford expen­sive enter­tain­ment. So my week­ends most­ly took place at the movies and at the beach.

That’s why the last beach that I’m going to men­tion took me right back to my ear­ly twen­ties. We used to call it “La Playa del Alam­bique”. Twen­ty-five years lat­er my kids called it “La Playa de Hobbie”.

The reason for the name. The original “Alambique”. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

The rea­son for the name. The orig­i­nal “Alam­bique”. Claick on image to see it larger,

I’m not quite sure why they called it “La Playa de Hob­bie”, which means “hob­bie beach” in Eng­lish, but I can tell you why we called it “La Playa del Alam­bique”. It was because of a night club that used to be right where the “Life­guards of the Reef Cafe” is now. It was dur­ing the dis­co years, when poly­ester, high heel plat­form shoes and tur­tle necks where “in”. The orig­i­nal own­er was a guy named Sonny.

Oh, and in case you’re won­der­ing, an “alam­bique” is a “still”, like the ones that they use to make moonshine.

Well, I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that they’re once again call­ing the beach “La Playa del Alam­bique”. Maybe it has to do with the fact that there’s a small place called “El Alam­bique” a few doors down from where the orig­i­nal used to be. Of course, by now Son­ny is prob­a­bly in his 80’s and has noth­ing to do with the new place. But it cer­tain­ly brought back memories.

“El Alambique” beach looking east. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

El Alam­bique” beach look­ing east. Click on image to see it larger

Back to busi­ness. This beach is tricky. Some days it can have a very low surf and some days it can be down­right dan­ger­ous. I used to go there to body surf and on one occa­sion it gave me quite a tum­ble. The water is clear and the sand is quite wide. It’s also huge. It starts at the “Life­guards of the Reef Cafe” and ends close to the Puer­to Rico Memo­r­i­al Ceme­tery. That’s about a two-mile stretch.

“El Alambique” beach looking west. | Balneario de Carolina, The Best Beach Near San Juan | Puerto Rico By GPS

El Alam­bique” beach look­ing west. Click on image to see it larger.

In case you’re won­der­ing there are quite a few palm trees and no show­ers, gaze­bos, food con­ces­sions, life­guards or secu­ri­ty buoys. Park­ing is ter­ri­ble like all the oth­er beach­es, except for the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na. Here are the coor­di­nates: (18.443682, ‑66.021470).

So here’s my sug­ges­tion. If you’re stay­ing in the San Juan Metro­plex, and explor­ing the island on your own with a rental car, there are sev­er­al things you can do. If you’re going to the Bal­n­eario de Car­oli­na bring your car. There’s plen­ty of park­ing. If you’re going to any of the oth­er beach­es, catch an Uber or take a deep breath and find a park­ing spot.

Final­ly (and I can’t stress this enough), vis­it the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice web­site and check out their advi­sories BEFORE vis­it­ing any beach. I want you to return safe and sound to your love ones and come back many more times in the future.


If you liked this arti­cle, and you plan to vis­it Puer­to Rico —and the town of Car­oli­na— in the near future, you’ll find ample infor­ma­tion on this web­site. You can also book flights, hotels & car rentals at great prices through the wid­gets on the right hand col­umn .

And yes, they are affil­i­ate links. That means that I make a small com­mis­sion while you pay exact­ly the same that you’d pay any­where else. That way you get to return the favor with­out spend­ing an extra dime.

Orlando Mergal | Puerto Rico By GPS

©2023,Orlando Mer­gal, MA

Bilin­gual Con­tent Cre­ator, Blog­ger, Pod­cast­er,
Author, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er and New Media Expert
Tel. 787–750-0000, Mobile 787–306-1590


Dis­clo­sure of Mate­r­i­al Con­nec­tion: Some of the links in this post are “affil­i­ate links.” This means that if you click on a link and pur­chase an item, I will receive an affil­i­ate com­mis­sion. Regard­less, I only rec­om­mend prod­ucts or ser­vices that I use per­son­al­ly and believe will add val­ue to my read­ers. I am dis­clos­ing this in accor­dance with the Fed­er­al Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Con­cern­ing the Use of Endorse­ments and Tes­ti­mo­ni­als in Advertising.”

2 thoughts on “Balneario de Carolina
“The Best Beach Near San Juan”

  1. Orlan­do,
    I enjoyed look­ing at your site. My girl­friend and I vis­it PR every mid-Jan­u­ary for SanSe. When I saw your SanSe and Cir­co Fest videos I notice they were dat­ed near­ly 10 years ago, I thought that it may be a good idea to post upcom­ing fes­ti­val dates and keep vis­i­tors com­ing back to check dates and updates to their favorite fes­ti­vals. Not to wor­ry, oth­er web­sites I’ve vis­it­ed do not post cor­rect dates either.

    1. Sor­ry David. I pub­lish a pod­cast called “Hablan­do De Tec­nología” that takes up a lot of my time. How­ev­er, as of late­ly I have decid­ed to invest more time on Puer­to Rico By GPS. So you’ll be hear­ing a lot more from me soon.

      As for the “Fies­tas de la Calle San Sebas­t­ian” I’ve pret­ty much giv­en up on cov­er­ing local upcom­ing events. The rea­son is sim­ple. Local author­i­ties wait ’till the last minute to announce sched­ules and events. The rea­son being that they seem to con­tract tal­ent at the last minute to get who­ev­er’s avail­able free or cheap.

      I’m sure you could find out what’s going to hap­pen at next year’s Mar­di Gras, San Fer­min or Tomati­na if you tried. But not at San Sebas­t­ian. That infor­ma­tion is avail­able so late that tourists can’t plan accord­ing­ly. So I pre­fer not to be a part of that.

      This year I thought about announc­ing the San Sebas­t­ian Fies­tas and —once again— the infor­ma­tion still isn’t out.

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