When you visit Puerto Rico, you really do enjoy the best of both worlds.
A Spanish-speaking sunshine isle (well actually it’s a collection of islands) with breathtaking ocean views in the heart of the Caribbean sea, Puerto Rico is nevertheless an “unincorporated territory” of the United States of America, under the jurisdiction of which it has remained since the turn of the twentieth century.
Formerly a Spanish colony, this tropical paradise was ceded to the US in 1899 following Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War. Located about 1,000 miles south-east of Miami, a good way off the Florida coast, its positioning has allowed a unique identity to emerge and to flourish, with Caribbean, Spanish and American influences.
It enjoys an advanced and high-income economy exporting electronics, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals as well as being a popular tourist hotspot.
Puerto Rico has a population of approximately 3.3 million, of whom around 350,000 live in the capital San Juan.
Visitors Love to Play Golf Amid the Palm Trees of Puerto Rico
The archipelago is one of the regular locations on the PGA Tour, placing it within the big league of golfing destinations. It boasts public golf courses as well as all-inclusive clubs and resorts.
In total it hosts over twenty top quality golf courses, although Puerto Rico was particularly badly hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, closing one course and causing heavy damage elsewhere. Nevertheless it remains a destination of choice for so many golfers, both from the US and beyond.
Part of the reason will quite simply be Puerto Rico’s stunning scenery, but this fact should not be allowed to detract from the quality of the sport that is on offer.
One of the many benefits of course is that the weather is more appealing than in most parts of mainland USA. It is warm virtually all the year round, offering a more or less uninterrupted sporting experience.
It is well served by flights and there are no currency issues because the dollar is used.
Some of the Best Golf Courses in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico golf courses are kept in good order, offering good sport as well as fine resorts which provide a luxury experience. Under the circumstances it can be difficult to identify which are the best courses, but let us focus on the most well known, popular and prestigious:
- The Links at Royal Isabela. Situated on cliffs some 200 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, west of San Juan and on Puerto Rico’s north-west shore, the Royal Isabela has been likened to a Scottish golf course with palm trees. The famous 14th hole is known as the “Hidden Pearl” and plays along the cliff edge.
- St. Regis Bahía Beach Resort & Golf Club. With its wide fairways and fifteen of its eighteen holes bordering water, this somewhat challenging Robert Trent Jones Sr. course is recognized as being one of the top golf courses on the islands. Located at Rio Grande, St. Regis Bahia Beach emerges at the Atlantic coast and is cast against the backdrop of the El Yunque National Forest.
- TPC Dorado Beach & Golf Resort. An ultra-luxury resort just west of San Juan, the east course in particular offers some quite unforgettable sport at the TPC Dorado Beach Resort. Famed especially for its Sugarcane course, where water hazards and deep bunkers abound, Dorado Beach is home to the Golf Academy and, unusually, the course allows golfers to rent motorized scooters with a specially designed place for hanging bags.
- Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Golf & Beach Resort. The Ocean Course at the Rio Mar Country Club, designed by architects Tom and George Fazio, and the River Course by Greg Norman (which criss-crosses the Mameyes River), are held to be among the best in the Caribbean. At the 16th hole players may sometimes have the pleasure of playing out from the beach.
- El Conquistador Resort. In Fajardo, an hour east of San Juan, the Arthur Hills designed “El Con” occupies hilly terrain which provides hours of fun to golfers who appreciate a challenge. It also boasts its own hugely popular private beach, its own water park and four superb swimming pools.
- Palmas Del Mar. The Palm Course and The Flamboyán Course are the most well-known features of the Palmas Athletic Club. The Palm was originally by Gary Player, who included a few interesting traps and obstacles in the design. Located in Humacao, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea, its courses are noted for their characteristic large bunkers.
- Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club. Unusually this country club located in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second city, offers 27 holes negotiating no fewer than fourteen lakes along the way. Attractive packages for well-heeled visitors are available from the Ponce Hilton, located next door, which also boasts a casino.
- Coco Beach Golf Resort. Situated just 40 minutes from the capital San Juan, this prestigious golf resort abounds with water features and ocean views, and incorporates a superb luxury club house for the comfort and enjoyment of its members. This venue hosts the PGA Tour and the Puerto Rico Open Tournament. Now known as the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Golf Club, Tom Kite designed this quirky championship course where PGA Tour players return to do battle every season.
- Caguas Golf & Country Club. A budget golf course in the mountainous region which stands to the south of San Juan. Once again lakes proudly feature, whilst some of the elevations provide an interesting logistical challenge.
- El Legado Golf Club. This venue sits on the south-east coastal resort of Guayama, where unfortunately half the course is surrounded by highways and housing. The good news is that the other half enjoys some quite wonderful scenery, and it hosts some well designed holes making for some excellent sport.
When is it Best to Travel?
The climate in Puerto Rico is agreeable most of the year round, but between June and November there is a hurricane season which is typically followed by substantial rainfall. The plus side is that this is the time of year when the flights and accommodation are cheapest.
One shouldn’t necessarily be put of by the alarmist term “hurricane season”. Prior to Hurricane Maria in 2017 the last time an actual serious hurricane had struck the islands was in 1931. When they do arrive it is never without warning, so one is hardly likely to be taken by surprise whilst out on the fairway.
Winter, by contrast, is the busiest time of year for taking a vacation in Puerto Rico. From December until the middle of April it is a near certainty that the visitor will enjoy continuous sun and very little if indeed any rain. It can be crowded, and it can be expensive, but this is certainly the time to enjoy Puerto Rico in its absolute pomp.
The period between mid-April and June can be a sensible compromise. No hurricanes but also no crowds, and no excessive prices when it comes to flights or hotels.
In truth it really does depend upon what your priorities happen to be. One thing you can be sure of though is that whatever the time of year, the quality of the golf that is on offer will remain at a premium.