State of the Beach/State Reports/PR/Beach Description

From Beachapedia

Home Beach Indicators Methodology Findings Beach Manifesto State Reports Chapters Perspectives Model Programs Bad and Rad Conclusion


Puerto Rico and the four main offshore islands of Vieques, Culebra, Mona, and Desecheo have over 1,000 miles of surfable coastline. Coastal population is rapidly approaching 4 million people, concentrated in the urban central north coast of metropolitan San Juan.

The coastline of the Puerto Rican archipelago has a length of 620.5 miles, of which, 377.8 are on the main island. According to Morelock (1971), only 68 miles are considered to have good beaches. The island beaches are relatively short, separated by rocky coasts or tidal lands populated by mangroves (DRNA, 1991). The vegetation, like the associated fauna, distinguishes these places and adds to their beauty.

Contact Info for the Lead Coastal Zone Management Agency

Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
PO Box 366147
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936
(787) 999-2200 x2719 or x2729

Ernesto L. Diaz is Director of the Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program.

Coastal Zone Management Program

Puerto Rico's Coastal Program was approved by NOAA in 1978 and is comprised of a network of agencies with authority in the coastal zone. The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources serves as the lead agency and is responsible for managing the maritime zone, coastal waters, and submerged lands. The Puerto Rico Planning Board serves as the primary agency for managing coastal development. Other Commonwealth agencies that are part of the Coastal Program include the Environmental Quality Board, Regulations and Permits Administration, Department of Recreation and Sports, National Park Company, Department of Agriculture, and Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. The scope or jurisdiction of Coastal Zone Management Program is defined in the Program Document as a strip 1 km inland, and additional distance necessary to include key natural systems of the coast. The marine component of the coastal zone extends three (3) marine leagues (9 nautical miles or 10.35 statute miles), the ocean floor under them, and all islands and cays within territorial waters. View map.

Puerto Rico contains approximately 700 miles (998 km) of coastline. The 2009 updated CZM Program document states that 41% of the coastline is beaches. There are 231 identified beaches, located in 42 of the 44 coastal municipalities. Of these, 97 have been classified as accessible or swimmable beaches. The Commonwealth features coastal ecosystems such as beaches, bioluminescent bays, coral reefs, and mangrove lagoons. Puerto Rico’s diverse habitats support an abundance of marine life, including a variety of threatened and endangered species. Challenges in managing its coastal program include sedimentation, erosion, coastal hazards, and illegal use of the island's maritime zone. Major economic activities involve shipping, tourism, and agriculture.

The original 1978 CZM Program document was revised and updated in 2009. This document incorporates sustainable development, the watershed as a planning unit, and non-point sources of pollution as critical issues.

Here's a nice fact sheet on the Coastal Zone Management Program FY 2011.

The Coastal Zone Division serves as Executive Secretary of the Climate Change Council of Puerto Rico, is actively involved in the implementation of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, in the work of developing strategies for the Guánica Bay watershed and for multiple programs and projects related to the development of coastal areas and island-wide resources. The Coastal Zone Division is also responsible for coordinating the development of the Caribbean Regional Alliance, Coral Reef Initiative projects and manages and maintains the Geographic Information System PMZC and the Interagency Committee for the Control of Sources of Pollution.

NOAA's latest evaluation of Puerto Rico's coastal management program can be accessed here.

Also available is the 2016-2020 Assessment and Strategies document.


  1. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999.
  2. Bernd-Cohen, T. and M. Gordon. "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores." Coastal Management 27:187-217. 1999.

State of the Beach Report: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Home Beach Description Beach Access Water Quality Beach Erosion Erosion Response Beach Fill Shoreline Structures Beach Ecology Surfing Areas Website
2011 7 SOTB Banner Small.jpg