Culebra Island

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Here are a few tips and experiences for the benefit of whoever is considering visiting this beautiful island in the east of Puerto Rico. First of all, the main attraction of this island is the Flamenco beach, which is considered by several travel magazines as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is a coral white sand beach that is smooth and has zero rocks or other small pebbles, making a barefoot walk absolutely pleasant. The water is calm and you can walk nearly fifty feet from the shore to the water and the water level will remain like at only 3 or 4 feet high.

Camping
We went with our backpacks and tents and settled in the official camping grounds of Culebra. Conveniently, they are located a few feet away from Flamenco beach. In fact, you can see the beach right from your tents if you choose section C. We recommend you look for section C and setup camp in the area where there is a wide opening with view to the beach. The reason for this is that, 1. You get a very beautiful view all the time, but more importantly, 2. You get a strong wind that will help you fight off mosquitos.

Which gets me to another recommendation: bring Deep Woods Off, mosquito repellent. These suckers are strong and only strong Off will repel them – so don’t bring any weak insect repellent, because it won’t be enough.
We heard camping was about $20 per day, per tent, but for some reason nobody came to charge us while we were there. We also passed by the office when we were leaving, but it was a Sunday and the office was closed.

Staying at a Villa
If camping isn’t your thing, staying at a Villa is  the best way to enjoy the island. After many years of visiting Culebra, there is only one place where I stay – Culebra Beach Villas. These are the only property on Flamenco Beach. All other hotels and guest houses are a drive away from Flamenco Beach. In Culebra Beach Villas, some of their villas are actually waterfront with spectacular views of the white sandy beach and with the relaxing sounds of the waves.

Warning: Watch out how you make your reservation. Although the entire place is beautiful, the way it works is with independent brokers promoting the different villas at Culebra Beach Villas. In the past I’ve had unscrupulous brokers trick me into reserving a waterfront villa, and then sending a confirmation for a different villa. After insisting on the waterfront villa, they claim the villas are damaged or unavailable. Try these numbers for Culebra Beach Villas – (787) 767-7575, (787) 754-6236, Toll Free: (877) 767-7575.

Transportation in Culebra
Because of the island’s small size (11.6 square miles), any drive is a five minute drive. It is very popular among tourists to rent a Jeep or move from point to point by paying for local taxis that charge around $3 per person, per destination. Recently, they started renting out golf carts, which is what we decided to rent.

The golf cart goes like 10 miles per hour max, so be patient! However, the experience of adventuring the island with the golf cart is loads of fun. We drove to several other beautiful beaches around the island. My favorite was Zoni beach, where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. It is very natural and few people go there, because it is more known between the locals. When we arrived there, we were the only ones there.
Getting to Culebra
To get to Culebra, you can go by a ferry boat which takes about 1.5 hours to get there from the Fajardo, Puerto Rico port and costs about $3. If you are bringing a cooler or other heavy things, let the person know, because you will have to pay a few dollars more for those. Otherwise, you can go by plane from either the Fajardo area (about $40) or directly from San Juan (about $80 – 100). The plane from Fajardo will take you about 30 minutes, and the one from San Juan about 50.

We went by ferry boat. They are no longer taking reservation of tickets by phone, so you have to go physically to the ferry boat ticket center to get your tickets. They won’t sell them much in advance either, so you have to get them at earliest one hour before the ferry leaves. Warning on ferries: if you go on weekends, you might not get a ticket! So, go there early, be patient, and plan in case you don’t get tickets for the first ferry. It’s much more probable that you will get tickets for the ferries leaving in the afternoon than the ones in the morning.

We took a 4 wheel cart, where we stacked up all our backpacks and coolers and we suggest you do the same if you are travelling with a few heavy things. The trip is so much more comfortable if you carry everything in one or two of these carts.

Getting Fresh Fish
We brought a bag of charcoal with us and all the condiments to cook in our camping. So, we wanted a taste of the local fish and went searching for a place to buy fresh ones. We found a fisherman in the center of town, right in front of the Pentecostal church and the local deli. You will see a magic marker board with the names of the fresh fish they have available for that day. We bought the yellow tail snapper and it cost us about $15 for 5 pounds of fish!

There are also a few supermarkets around, where you can get condiments and spices for your cooking.

Time to stay
We recommend you stay at least two nights. If you are in a hurry, one night, or even a same day visit will suffice, but if you really want to experience Culebra and enjoy its relaxing environment, a two night stay will be just perfect.

Picture by Bryan Vincent