How to: Rincon, Puerto Rico

By Ethan McAlpin |

Over spring break, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Rincon, Puerto Rico with 11 others for the entire week,  Sunday to Sunday.  The trip was more than just a typical college spring break on a beach. The getaway was full of exploring beaches with epic waves, adventuring through beautiful rocky trails, climbing cliffs overlooking crystal clear, reef ridden water, amidst the greatest group of friends to share the entire experience with.

To get the most out of your trip to Puerto Rico, and have as much fun as I did, follow these steps to guide you throughout your trip:

1. Go with friends.

I went with 11 of my friends, some closer than others, but by the end of the week, we were all one wacky, fun-loving, 12-person family, all living under one roof, sharing the same meals (typically based off of rice, beans, and whatever else was lying around the kitchen that was edible). Before, they were friends, some only acquaintances. Now, every person that was on my trip to Puerto Rico I am proud to consider my family.  Obviously, this can apply to many trips half-way around the world; however, I feel as though if you and 11 of your friends decide to take a trip, make it to Puerto Rico–the rest of my points should explain why.

The gang before a fun surf session: Jay, Chece, Parker, me (left to right)

2. Be ready for anything.

No day in Puerto Rico is like any other; however, each one had a similar pattern. This pattern consisted of waking up, then, either finding something to eat in the house or walking to a local café or smoothie stand. Then we would head down to the beaches and surf or lounge. Next, we would grab lunch, head back to the house to shower, and eat a nourishing “family” dinner before going out to the local bars (Casa Verde and Tamboo were always poppin’).  When you wake up in the morning, whether it is in your own bed or in the hammock on a local’s front porch, meet back up at the house and do it all over again.  As I said no day was like any other and the nights were no different.

Parker taking a break from surfing to overlook a cliff at Jobos Beach, Puerto Rico.

Me standing on some rocks at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico.

3. Realize how lucky you are to be where you are.

You’re going to be sick and tired by the end of the week (and possibly hungover many mornings), so you might as well forget about complaining and live while you’re in Puerto Rico.  When I say live, I mean wake up early and stay up late–don’t waste any of your day.  (Pro tip: to help with waking up early, sleeping on the roof will get the job done, as the roosters will crow bright and early, never missing a beat.) Don’t worry about missing a meal, but treat yourself some too.  Explore!  You’re in another part of the world, likely completely different from where you’re from, so take advantage of that.  Walk until your legs collapse and then crawl, feasting your eyes on the cliffs, the reefs, the trees, and the beaches.  Discover caves, drink from a coconut, and play with every single stray dog you see.  Even when you think the road ends in Puerto Rico, another adventure begins.  Look where you wouldn’t think to look.  Chances are, with all of Puerto Rico’s hidden wonders, there will likely be a dark cave to venture into, an astounding cliff to climb to the edge of, or a wild dog just waiting to guide you to your next adventure.

Me sitting on rock formations while exploring the coastline

Palm trees emerging from a cow pasture adjacent to Steps Beach, Puerto Rico.

4. The scenery is ridiculous.

While exploring, take a bunch of pictures. The sights and sounds are truly unforgettable, it’s very nice to be able to look back at specific moments weeks, months, and years later.  At the same time,  don’t become engulfed in your phone.  Your Instagram, Snapchat, and texts can wait. You’ll only be in Puerto Rico for so long, so make the most of it without getting caught up in how fire your next Instagram post could be or how lit you can make your snap story.

An old sea wall we discovered while exploring the coastline

5. Talk to the locals.

Getting to know the locals was one of the best parts of the trip.  Talking with one man who owned a local surf shop even allowed us to have access to his truck for the week.  Another man kindly gave us a ride from the beach to our house, twice, when others had the truck and we’d just begun the three-mile hike in the midst of the mid-day rain shower. Most of the Puerto Ricans are very open and approachable, not to mention nearly all of them know English in addition to Spanish. A language barrier shouldn’t be a problem.  The locals will tell you the best surf spots, the coolest trails to hike, and where all the best hole-in-the-wall café’s and taco shops are hidden.  If you get lucky, they might even let a member of your group sleep on their hammock in the wee hours of the morning until the sun comes up (yes, that really did happen, on multiple occasions).

And don’t forget about showing these locals some attention…


An easy solution to not risk falling into the temptation of the social media pits is to go surfing.  You won’t have your phone and you’ll have the time of your life.  In Rincon, Puerto Rico, throughout a week of staying there, the waves were good five of the seven days and especially good for three or four days.  There are only a number of surf spots around the world that are well known worldwide, Rincon being on that list. With numerous breaks within a couple miles of beach, some sandy shore breaks, other sharp reef breaks, there are waves for every skill level and every type of board. One break is home to long boarders gliding down the faces of smooth, glassy waves. A break 100 yards down the beach draws short boarders, carving up and down the faces of waves before pulling into the tube, getting barreled in heroic fashion. The waves in Rincon wore us out, causing me to skip lunch a couples times. However, it was a small sacrifice for the most fun I’ve ever had.

Parker doing a quick top turn to get back into the thick of things at Jobos Beach, Puerto Rico.

Jeremy smacking the lip, marking his territory at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico.

Chece bottom turning, about to smack the lip above at Domes Beach, Puerto Rico.

7. The only mistake that you shouldn’t make:

Rent a car or two big enough for your group, if possible.  Staying in Rincon is amazing. However, there’s so much more to see and do across all of Puerto Rico, which is home to the incredible El Yunque National Forest only three hours east. I was super excited to visit some vast, breathtaking waterfalls we had heard about roughly an hour away, but with 12 people and only one small truck, the trek was simply not feasible. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have access to a vehicle, as the experience can be enhanced through walking to the beaches and exploring on foot. This limitation, however, forces you to get out of your comfort zone and live simply.  Although, access to a vehicle can also make your trip equally incredible, giving you access to another geographic part of the country that you otherwise couldn’t have seen.

Aside from the exploration, bonding, surfing, and other experiences, incorporate your own passions and activities into your trip. This will allow you to have the most fulfilling and enriching experience that will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Still skeptical about why you should choose to visit Puerto Rico? I guess you’ll just have to go to find out for yourself. The feelings of warmth, comfort, and belonging that you’ll receive, even while thousands of miles away from home is why I recommend it.

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