I went to Puerto Rico to photograph waves and surfers with Steven McLean and Jacob Marchese. I was very excited to get into warmer water since the previous surf locations I’ve shot were British Columbia and Outer Banks, North Carolina. I was also slightly nervous since it would be first time shooting over reef since I have always shot over sand. I knew I had to challenge myself, and that’s when I have the most fun photographing surfing.
Like most surf trips, it was a last-minute decision for me to purchase a plane ticket to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. So I carpooled with Steven and Jacob, and we made our way down to Orlando International Airport. I took a separate flight, and it got delayed by three to four hours (of course) and late into the night, which wasn’t fun, but we all made it to Aguadilla with no lost luggage or boards. When we arrived, we stayed at a friend of Steven’s place in Aguadilla, which was easy driving distance from the beach breaks. Here’s a few of the top spots from my trip to PR.
Jobos Beach, Isabela
Jobos Beach was definitely one of my favorite beaches during the whole trip. Not only can it produce great waves like a lot of the Puerto Rican beaches, but it has a fun scene with restaurants and bars. It is also a soft sand beach with some rocky coast that can be fun to climb around on. But be sure to bring shoes because the rocks are extremely sharp. There is also a cool rock/cave formation around the corner of the rocky portion called Pozo de Jacinto that allows for some cool pictures. We had the opportunity to watch the sunset from the rocks, and it was absolutely incredible.
La Cueva del Indio, Arecibo
An awesome spot I had the pleasure of seeing was La Cueva del Indio in Arecibo, which is a scenic rocky coast with massive caves. What I loved about the place is that you can either hike just a short distance or far down the beach, and you will have plenty to see. We hiked up close to the caves as we watched the waves crash up against the large rock formations. Along the trails there are unmarked holes big enough for a human to fall through, so needless to say, we didn’t look at our phones while we were hiking around the area. This spot requires a $5 entry fee, but the place allows you a full afternoon of exploring, so it’s definitely worth it.
Cueva Ventana, Arecibo
Cueva Ventana is a large cave with an absolutely breathtaking view. Not only did we get to enjoy the view, we were also guided through another massive cave. We learned more about the ecosystem regarding how the caves stay up and about the hundreds of bats above our heads. The only way to go through these caves is with a guide. The final spot on the tour is going to this cave with the view. Not only did we get a perfect unobstructed view, we were also very high up and had a great view the mountains and open green fields of Puerto Rico below us.
Gozalandia Waterfalls, San Sebastián
I would have to say this was my favorite spot in Puerto Rico because there is so much to do! In this hiking area, there are towering waterfalls to enjoy in the middle of the rainforest. What I like about the area is that there are barely any rules, which means people can climb on the waterfalls and interact with nature in whatever way they want! We first hiked down to the very end of the trail to a waterfall with the rope swings. There are also rocks to jump off under the waterfall. The water is chilly and similar to springs in Florida, but it feels nice given the hot Puerto Rican temperatures. After the first waterfall, we explored down the stream and hiked down the creeks to see what else we could find. After exploring around for a bit, we went to the other waterfall, which was probably three times as big as the first. This huge waterfall is climbable, and there were plenty of people freediving from different levels.
Middles Beach, Isabela
I had the most fun shooting surfers at Middles Beach in Isabela. The break was super easy to swim out to most days, and a lot of the surf broke shallow above the sea-urchin-laced reef. During our particular time there, the waves were way smaller than how they can normally get, but it is definitely a fun spot for surfers and photographers to get up close with nature. It’s also a great beach to chill out on with the massive soft sand beach. Further down the beach, there are some stunning rock formations that I had fun shooting around sunset.
I would say that Puerto Rico helped change me as a photographer. The U.S. territory provided me with so much to practice on with caves, waterfalls, breaking waves and rocky coasts. It also challenged me in many ways physically and mentally to get some of my favorite photographs. Whether you’re a photographer, surfer or simply a tourist looking for a little getaway, you will not be disappointed with all there is to see and do in Puerto Rico.
Words and Photos By Evan Hilton | Contributor