Anyone that has ever been to Puerto Rico, and taken a random spin through a rack of postcards, has undoubtedly been captivated by the picture-perfect shots of Luquillo Beach with its crescent-shaped arc lined with an endless grove of coconut palms reigning over golden sands that trail off into vivid-colored waters. Trouble is, those aerial shots always from the brightest of days, set an expectation that could never be matched from ground-level experiences, or Mother Nature's cooperation. Yet bypassing a lazy afternoon at Luquillo would be missing out on one of the consistantly ranked Top 10 Beaches in all the Caribbean.
Luquillo's inland positioning, where the irregular northern coast starts breaking to the east, shields this immense bay from rough Atlantic waters making for placid, soothing conditions like soaking in a warm bath. Portions of the beach are sectioned-off with designated swimming areas watched over by lifeguards, but splashing around beyond the crowds is just as advantageous thanks to the gentle underwater slope. A person could walk forever in waist-high waters along the sandy bottoms; snorkeling not worth the extra effort with limited marine life, though visibilities are unhindered. At Luquillo, what happens on-land is the prime attraction.
Rains had subsided into overcaste skies during this last visit on a Sunday, and sure enough, the local contingency began turning out in full-force hauling coolers, grills and enough beach accessories to look like they were moving in for the day. Luquillo is a perfect family outing, and what travelers can't bring from home is readily available at a small store.
There's an official bathhouse, where entry with locker fee is $1, but a series of new restrooms and outdoor shower stations, make even that expendable. Everything has been redesigned as handicap accessible, and there were even some rather large flotation devices available as rentals for those with special needs. Other new additions included beach-side picnic shelters, recreational areas, and snack shack though Restaurant Row is at the far end of the beach within easy walking distance.
When pulling-up at the entrance gate, a new sign welcomes guests to Luquillo Montserrat Beach. I'd never heard of this being called Montserrat, so don't think you're in the wrong place.
There's a $3 parking fee at the entrance. If you're looking to save money, take a left when emerging from under the overpass, and park for free along the beach behind Restaurant Row. Always lock valuable in your trunk at either place.
Unless you like wallowing in the sand like me, bring your own blanket or chair. Luquillo's only shortcoming is an apparent lack of chair rentals.
Four of my five extended visits here have been earlier in the day with darkened skies which dull the tropical vibrancy. Mid-to-late afternoons seem to produce the most favorable weather conditions. Otherwise, tradewinds pushing in from the east tend to brew-up daytime clouds and showers from the Caribbean National Forest in the nearby Luquillo mountains.