You don’t come to Puerto Rico to learn to surf.
At least, you can come to Puerto Rico to learn to surf, but there are easier places to build your confidence and get your board legs. Puerto Rico is more suited to those who’ve got some surfing under their belt and know how to handle themselves when faced with some big, powerful, hollow surf and some reef breaks.
These are elements of surfing in Puerto Rico that can take the unwary by surprise, so don’t be the unwary – come when you know your business, and you’ll have a much better time in Puerto Rico’s almost magical surf.
But when is the best time to catch the waves in Puerto Rico?
Ideally, not in the summer. Let’s not beat around the bush here – summer in Puerto Rico can be brutal.
It can be hot and unpredictable, and July and August particularly are months of very little fun in Puerto Rico surfing terms. You’re looking at air temperatures of 82 F, water temperatures of 84 F, and only 50% consistency of swell – the lowest consistency you’ll get all year in Puerto Rico.
What’s more, you’re also likely to get swells of only about 4 feet. Sure, that can be appealing to some surfers, but there are 5 and 6 feet swells to be had at better times of the year.
Also, July/August is one of the two most crowded times of the year (the other, oddly enough, being January/February). Great if you’re going for the sheer buzz of humanity. Less great if you’re going to catch your perfect wave.
So when are the best times to go surfing in Puerto Rico? You’re really looking at that chunk of time between late fall to early spring, including the whole of winter – which is great if you’re coming from a place that has its best surfing during, say, late spring or summer, because it gives you access to great waves at a time when you wouldn’t have them anywhere locally.
In September, things start to get lively in Puerto Rico, and interesting in that way that only surfers understand the word. It’ll still be fairly crowded, because – news flash – it’s Puerto Rico, it’s never less than fairly crowded, but whereas in July and August, you’d get peak swells of around 4 ft, in September and October, you’re looking at peaks of around 5 ft – which means there’s somewhere for the less experienced surfer to have fun on days either side of the peak too.
Air temperature will still be around the 82 F mark, but at least the water won’t be unnaturally hotter than the air in September and October – though it may well match it. And importantly, the consistency of swells goes up a whole 10% in these two months over the July/August average.
Higher swells with 60% consistency can give you some great surfing, with enough of a challenge to keep you alive and awake moment to moment on your board.
From November-March, it’s more or less daredevil season in the Puerto Rican surfing calendar. You can be looking at some treacherous waves then, which is why we say if you’re coming to Puerto Rico to surf, it’s better to come when you know your stuff.
Strong currents, rip tides, barrels over shallow reefs, you name it – when the winter swells in the Atlantic start to get frisky, Puerto Rico has it all. It can be enormously invigorating, to be sure, but you only want to feel alive, not to run the risk of being actually dead.
In November/December, you’ll regularly get swells of 6 ft, with a consistency around the 70% mark – another 10% increase, simply for being later in the year. And while, as we say, Puerto Rico never dips below being fairly crowded, you probably won’t run into the same insane level of crowding as you’ll get at the high surf seasons.
For that, you’ll have to come during January/February. You’ll still get your 6 ft swells, and you’ll get them with the highest consistency of the year – around 80% consistency – but because of this combination of factors, along with slightly cooler water temperatures than most of the year (around 79 F average), you’ll find that January/February is among the most crowded times in Puerto Rico.
That means you have two peak surfing seasons in Puerto Rico, and you can choose the one that suits you best. Slightly less of a people person but still want the high swells with an impressive degree of consistency?
Surf Thanksgiving weekend away in Puerto Rico – the November/December period will give you most of what you’re looking for to jumpstart your surfer’s heart, while also letting you experience the wilder ride of Puerto Rican surfing when the winter swells are starting to get brisk.
More of a people person, or want the absolute peak of swell consistency available? Start your surfing year off right in Puerto Rico – you’ll get 6 ft swells, 80% consistency, and the coolest water temperatures of the year, though you will also share the waves with every surfer who can get there.
Between March and July, you have a relatively mellow surfing season in Puerto Rico. In March/April, your peak swell height will fall off from its winter high-point, but you can still get swells of 5ft with 70% consistency – and the crowding eases off too.
May/June is similar, with only a reasonable amount of crowding, but the swells drop down to their summer lull of 4 ft. On the upside, the consistency of the swells in May/June is still around the 60% mark, before they crash to their midsummer trough in July/August.
Essentially, Puerto Rico can give you what you need whatever level of surfer you are – midsummer will give you the easiest ride, but it will also be baking you alive along with every other surfer who wants to say they’ve surfed Puerto Rico despite only having 4 ft swells.
The late fall, winter, and early spring season are when Puerto Rican surfing comes alive with complexity though. During those seasons, especially between November-March, you need to be able to handle yourself and your board, and be prepared for some of the very specific challenges that surfing Puerto Rico can throw at you.