Culebra is a small island located approximately 10 miles (17 kilometers) east of the mainland of Puerto Rico. It was ceded to the US by the Spanish at the end of the Spanish–American War, and in 1901 Theodore Roosevelt established the Culebra Naval Reservation. With the start of World War II, Culebra became a gunnery and bombing practice site, and evidence of that can still be seen. Nowadays, Culebra is every laid-back beach bum’s dream vacation spot.
The beaches of Culebra are considered to be some of the most beautiful in the world. Just take the 20-mile (32.2-kilometer) trip by ferry out of Fajardo. Flamenco Beach is 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of gorgeous sand and water that is perfect for snorkeling. You will also see evidence of the naval base in the form of old tanks on the beach. There are picnic tables under the shady trees, restroom facilities, and showers, and you can rent beach chairs and snorkeling equipment. Do not worry about getting to the beach once you depart the ferry; taxis will take you where you want to go and usually cost a flat rate of about $10.
For an island that is only one mile (1.6 kilometers) long, there is so much to do and see on Culebrita. You can access it by kayak or private boat, and water taxis are available from Culebra. Sink your toes in the sugar-white soft sand and stroll to the beautiful blue waters of one of the six beaches on Culebrita. There are wetlands, lagoons, and tidal pools to explore, as this tiny island is part of Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Take the hike to the lighthouse, which is one of the oldest in the Caribbean.
The limited development of Culebra has left the reefs and coastline impeccably maintained for snorkeling and SCUBA diving. Some of the best spots for snorkeling are Flamenco Beach, Luis Peña Channel Natural Reserve, Melones Beach, Tamarindo Beach, and Zoni Beach, and there are many more. Check with the local dive shops for your equipment needs and for more information about snorkeling and SCUBA spots.
Culebra is very bike-friendly, and biking is encouraged as yet another effort to keep the island pristine and to maintain the laid-back lifestyle. There are a number of places from which you can rent bikes. If you are staying on the island and biking is a must for you, check with the owners of your accommodations to find out if they provide bikes or have them available for rent. There are some mountain biking trails, but you will want to check their maintenance before committing to a trip.
Culebra is all about recentering and relaxing, so consider trying some yoga on the beach. There are a couple different places that offer this.
After yoga, why not relax with a massage? This too can be done on the beach. Why be indoors and listen to wave sounds when you can feel the ocean breeze and hear the waves crash just a few feet away? Ask the locals who they recommend.
This museum is small, but it is packed with information. The curator will provide histories and answer your questions, and there are many displays and audio and video that explain what has occurred on this little island.
Parts of the Culebra archipelago were designated as a wildlife reserve in 1909 by order of President Theodore Roosevelt. The lands were looked after by the US Navy and several of the archipelago’s islands were used for military purposes such as bombing and gun practice until the Navy left in 1976. Nowadays, about a quarter of the archipelago belongs to the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.
As with the mainland of Puerto Rico and its other small islands, Culebra offers everything from roadside food stands to gourmet dining. The happening place to go is Dingy Dock, or you can try the seafood at Caracoles Restaurant then head to Mamacita’s Restaurant for homemade key lime pie. Do not leave Culebra without trying the chocolaty coconut goodness of a Bushwhacker, the island’s signature drink.
The number one priority of Culebra is relaxation. This is a rare chance to get away from it all and slow your life down to island time. Lessen that pace, let things roll and just be.