Playa Sucia: a remote Puerto Rican paradise.

I am not ashamed to admit that when, in December last year, I hastily booked a flight to Puerto Rico for March this year, I didn’t actually know where Puerto Rico was. At the time I thought it was in Central America, though after a quick look on the map, I soon realised that it wasn’t the place I was thinking of (which was in fact Costa Rica, in case you were curious). Was I bothered? Nope.

It wasn’t like travelling to Puerto Rico was going to be a disappointment. I quickly swotted up on the island, which sits between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic. Reviews and recommendations on TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet helped plan my itinerary, leaving me wishing that I’d booked two weeks there instead of just one.

Puerto Rico is renowned for having some of the best beaches in the world, most of which offer secluded seascapes and great spots for snorkelling without being littered with sunbathers and their paraphernalia.

Unfortunately the one that most took my fancy was a 3-and-a-half hour drive from my hotel in Levittown. But no bother. With a scribbled down set of directions from Google Maps and a $2 map of the island from the gas station near the hotel, we set off in our rented Hyundai Accord in search of La Playuela, also known as Playa Sucia.

Getting to Playa Sucia.

After what seemed an eternity on the road, when we eventually spied the beach, we knew it was totally worth the journey.

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Voted one of the most breath-taking beach locations in Puerto Rico, La Playuela is a Caribbean-facing beach for nature lovers, located on the sleepy beach town of Cabo Rojo. Dramatic scenery, gorgeous water colours, natural bridges, unmatched Caribbean views, the most attractive lighthouse on the island, hidden caves, private coves to explore, dramatic limestone cliffs, bird watching and scenic hiking trails really had me itching to get there and start exploring.

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Don’t let the name of this beach fool you (“Sucia” actually means dirty in Spanish) – the waters are clean and glistening, with gorgeous tones of turquoise and navy blue. The sand is soft, fine and near-on white.

There are no ocean-front hotels or touristy services here. So make sure you pack a cool box with enough drinks and snacks for your visit. We went out of season, but apparently during high season, weekends and holidays, there’s a lady that comes around the beach selling ice cream. Apart from this though, there isn’t anything by the way of refreshments. For me though, this all added to the experience. It’s an area of unspoilt beauty, free of commercialisation and chaos.

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As already mentioned, it is a bit of a mission to get there – but the bumpy dirt track that leads you down to the bay is completely worth the effort (and actually part of the fun). You have to drive past the salt flats on Route 301, at which point the road changes from asphalt to packed dirt. There’s then a about a mile of potholes to contend with (which turned to muddy wallows after a tropical storm hit on the walk back). So make sure you have a spare, inflated tyre, just in case. Parking is also limited, so be prepared to walk if you can’t find a spot near the beach.

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The surf is playful and, depending on the weather, the waves can get a bit demanding – so only brave the deeper waters if you’re a confident swimmer. There are no lifeguards on the beach, and no safety buoys or markers, so you do swim at your own risk. There are some shallow spots nearer the shore for smaller children at both ends of the beach, however.

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My mum swam far out into the sea, while I walked up and around the cliffs, to then jump in and meet her, before both swimming back. I’d definitely recommend bringing some comfortable walking shoes if you plan to do this, as the rocks are pretty craggy.

The views are spectacular, so bring plenty of storage for your camera or smartphone. I also took a waterproof pouch that I bought before I left the UK, which I really put through its paces at Playa Sucia – I even braved it in the sea for about half an hour as I swam back to the shore. I was so scared I was going to lose a week’s worth of pictures, but it was bone dry inside, so a 5* rating and thumbs up from me.

Walking west on the hiking trails around the lighthouse facing the ocean there are beautiful limestone cliffs with hidden caves and natural bridges. After a 20-minute hike up the cliffs, there are unrivalled views of the Caribbean Sea uniting with the Atlantic Ocean.

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Mum and I testing out the selfie mode on the Samsung Galaxy S6, which was safe inside a waterproof pouch.

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Cabo Rojo Lighthouse and breathtaking views.

Located on top of 200ft limestone cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse marks the most south-westerly tip of Puerto Rico. Built in 1881 by the Spanish government, Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo as it’s known locally, uses the same building design as the Fajardo and Arecibo lighthouses.

While still a working lighthouse, you can go up inside. Unfortunately for us a massive tropical storm blew in off the coast, just as we got up to the lighthouse, so the viewing deck was shut to the public. We wandered around the cliff top for a while though, and I snapped these dramatic pictures.

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We were lucky to come here on a Monday, out of season. If you want to avoid crowds, get here during the weekdays in winter months when local families have school. Guide books suggest that during weekends and holidays La Playuela can get pretty full. You should, without argument, pay this natural haven a visit though.

The only current and unending argument is it’s name; some locals call it La Playuela and some Playa Sucia. There’s one thing that locals and travellers can agree on though; it’s unarguably one of the most breathtaking spots on the island of Puerto Rico.

*****

Fancy a trip to Puerto Rico? You can book flights in November with Norwegian Air from as little as £179. It’s definitely a country I’d like to go back to.

And in case you’re wondering what else I got up to while I was there, check out my posts on ziplining at Toro Verde adventure park, a tour of Casa Bacardí and meeting the cats of San Juan Old Town.

57 thoughts on “Playa Sucia: a remote Puerto Rican paradise.

    1. Puerto Rico is a great island, and has something for all the family – it’s quite a long flight though, so not sure how kids would cope with it… Have your two flown long haul before? x

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    1. Plenty of beautiful views in Puerto Rico, Sarah! It’s one of those places that not many people from the UK have visited (part of the appeal for me, I guess), so completely understand that you wouldn’t know much about the island – I didn’t know much until I realised it wasn’t Costa Rica 😉 x

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    1. Hahaha! Thanks for reassuring me that I’m not the only one who confuses the two!! I felt like such a divvy when I booked the flights then realised that it wasn’t the place I wanted to go lol – glad I went to Puerto Rico now though 😛

      Would definitely recommend the waterproof pouch I’ve listed in the article above – 100% reliable, even with a phone in it with 3 years worth of travel photos on! x

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    1. We pretty much did Danasia – those that were there were only locals. As I mentioned, it’s quite a trek away, and not very well known, but definitely worth the long drive there and back to see it. The water was amazing too! x

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    1. Those waterproof pouches are brilliant – I bought another for my recent trip to Mexico in fact (though only because I can’t find my other one in loads of boxes since moving back down south ha!), and managed to get some brilliant photos of the cenote when we were cliff diving! x

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    1. You should try and visit yourself if you can Rhian – it’s one of those places that not many people consider, preferring the resorts of Cuba and the Dom Rep. But if you’re into a bit of exploring and action and adventure, Puerto Rico is perfect x

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  1. Wow. I was enthralled from the first word and mesmerized by the scope and breadth of the pictures. No wonder Puerto Rico is so highly commended and I like that it is not a tourist trap because they would spoil its beauty for sure x

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    1. It really is a magical place Ana – I cannot recommend it enough. There’s something for everyone, from lush dense green rain forests to crystal clear waters and white sands. History and culture, art and colour. I absolutely loved it and would go back in a heartbeat 🙂 ❤ xx

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    1. Yeah, it was such a beautiful beach, and then when it came over all stormy and we got caught in the rain, the lighthouse appeared to loom over the bay. It made for some interesting photos, such a contrast in one day! x

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    1. Puerto Rico is one of those “undiscovered” places all over Donna, we just ventured a little further off the beaten track to an even lesser discovered place, to find this paradise x

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comment Tanya – yes, Puerto Rico is definitely one of those “undiscovered” places, as not many people I know have been there. It is simply beautiful though, and well worth the long haul flight x

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  2. Upon reading the title I was immediately a bit confused. A “playa sucia” and Puerto Rico just don’t fit in the same sentence! Glad to know and see that the name has no relation to such a stunning place. I have many Puerto Rican friends, but I’ve learnt so much more and seen so much more through your eyes. Thanks as always for such in depth info! xx

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    1. Ahhh thanks for your kind words Yaya :-* I know what you mean – “playa sucia” is definitely not a dirty beach, it is so confusing! If you ever get the chance to go and visit the “Island of Enchantment”, take it! It is so beautiful x

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    1. Thanks Savi – not sure if Norwegian Air are still doing flights to Puerto Rico, but if you manage to get one, GO! You won’t be disappointed by this magical country, I promise you x

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  3. This place is so relaxing that’s the perfect holiday destination if we need a little break far away from everyone and everything…. I loved your photos so elated i think you managed to catch the right atmosphere to show us around. Glad you had a great time! 🙂

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