Once you see Culebra’s craggy coastline of hidden coves, private beaches, coral outcroppings, and cays, it’s easy to imagine why pirates liked to hide out here. Playa Flamenco is the island’s most celebrated beach, and rightly so. But there are many less populated and more remote beaches to be found for those willing to hike in.Once you see Culebra’s craggy coastline of hidden coves, private beaches, coral outcroppings, and cays, it’s easy to imagine why pirates liked to hide out here.If Playa Flamenco is too crowded, take a 20-minute hike over the ridge and bypass the first small beach you encounter to reach the more private Playa Carlos Rosario, a pleasant, narrow beach flanked by coral reef and boulders. It offers excellent snorkeling around the long, vibrant stretch of coral reef not too far offshore. Other great snorkeling and diving beaches are Punta Soldado (south of Dewey, at the end of Calle Fulladoza), which also has beautiful coral reefs; Playa Melones, a rocky beach and subtropical forest within walking distance of Dewey; and Playa Tamarindo, where you’ll find a diversity of soft corals and sea anemones.
Excellent deserted beaches can also be found on two of Culebra’s cays—Cayo Luis Peña and Culebrita, which is distinguished by a lovely but crumbling abandoned lighthouse and several tidal pools. To gain access, it is necessary to either rent a boat or arrange a water taxi. And be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and other provisions; there are no facilities or services on the islands.
At the far eastern side of the island at the end of Carretera 250 is Playa Zoni, which features a frequently deserted sandy beach and great views of Culebrita, Cayo Norte, and St. Thomas.
Playa Brava has the biggest surf on the island, but it requires a bit of a hike to get there. To reach the trailhead, travel east on Carretera 250 and turn left after the cemetery, and then hike downhill and fork to the left. Note that Playa Brava is a turtle-nesting site, so it may be off-limits during nesting season from April to June.
Like Playa Brava, Playa Resaca is an important nesting site for sea turtles, but it is ill-suited for swimming because of the coral reef along the beach. The hike to Playa Resaca is fairly arduous, but it traverses a fascinating topography through a mangrove and boulder forest. To get there, turn on the road just east of the airport off Carretera 250, drive to the end, and hike the rest of the way in.
Named one of “America’s Best Beaches” by the Travel Channel, Playa Flamenco (north on Carr. 251 at dead-end) is one of the main reasons people come to Culebra. It’s a wide, mile-long, horseshoe-shaped beach with calm, shallow waters and fine white sand. The island’s only publicly maintained beach, it has bathroom facilities, picnic tables, lounge-chair and umbrella rentals, and a camping area. You can buy sandwiches and alcoholic beverages at Coconuts Beach Grill in front of Culebra Beach Villa, as well as from vendors who set up grills and blenders in the ample parking lot. An abandoned, graffiti-covered tank remains as a reminder of the Navy’s presence. It can get crowded on summer weekends and holidays—especially Easter and Christmas.
Culebra more than makes up for its dearth of entertainment options with a wealth of diving opportunities. There are reportedly 50 dive sites surrounding the island. They’re mostly along the island’s fringe reefs and around the cays. In addition to huge diverse coral formations, divers commonly spot sea turtles, stingrays, puffer fish, angel fish, nurse sharks, and more.
Among the most popular dive sites are Carlos Rosario (Impact), which features a long, healthy coral reef teeming with sea life, including huge sea fans, and Shipwreck, the site of The Wit Power, a tugboat sunk in 1984. Here you can play out your Titanic fantasies and witness how the sea has claimed the boat for its habitat.
Many of the best dive sites are around Culebra’s many cays. Cayo Agua Rock is a single, 45-foot-tall rock surrounded by sand and has been known to attract barracudas, nurse sharks, and sea turtles. Cayo Ballena provides a 120-foot wall dive with spectacular coral. Cayo Raton is said to attract an inordinate number and variety of fish. And Cayo Yerba features an underwater arch covered in yellow cup coral, best seen at night when they “bloom,” and a good chance to see stingrays.
The island’s sole diving and snorkeling source, Culebra Divers (across from the ferry terminal in Dewey, 787/742-0803), offers daily snorkeling trips for $60. One-tank dives are $85, and two-tank dives are $125, including tanks and weights. Snorkeling and dive gear is available for rent. It’s also a good place to go for advice on snorkeling from the beach.
Kayaking and Snorkeling
Aquafari Culebra (787/245-4545) offers a kayaking and snorkeling tour of Culebra for $55-75 per person, including ferry fare from Fajardo. Culebra Island Adventures (Wed.-Sun.) leads kayak and snorkel tours of Culebra for $75 per person. Ferry and air packages from Fajardo, Ceiba, and San Juan’s Isla Grande airport are available. Turtles tours are $29.
Seabreeze Culebra Water Sports (Carr. 250, km 1.8, 855/285-3272) rents kayaks ($25-35 an hour), stand-up paddleboards ($25), a Sunfish sailboat ($65 an hour), and an inflatable mini powerboat ($125 an hour). Daylong sailing, snorkeling, and hiking tours run $125 per person.
Day & Night Boat Tours (787/435-4498) offers daylong snorkeling trips to Culebrita for $75 per person, including drinks, snacks, and gear. Custom fishing, snorkeling, and sightseeing tours can be arranged.
Culebra Bike Shop & Kayak Culebra (Hotel Kokomo on the Ferry Dock, 787/742-0589, daily 9am-6pm) rents kayaks for $50 a day.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Puerto Rico.