Take a day off to let your mind unwind in Culebra
By Peter Martin
Feel the warm sand between your toes, let the gentle breeze cool you down, the crystal clear turquoise water refresh your soul, and the sound of the waves soothe you in a Zen state of mind.
Sit back, relax, and simply enjoy your time in Culebra, a rustic Caribbean island where your busy schedule, hectic daily life, and worries easily melt away.
Once you are here, you will begin to notice that things move slower than normal. Breathe in and out calmly, acknowledging that you are now running on Culebra time.
This small, secluded paradise off Puerto Rico’s east coast embraces a laid back environment, where punctuality of a watch is nonexistent and cell phone reception usually goes on vacation mode, as well.
If visiting for a day trip, here are some suggestions to make the best of your time.
Culebra’s main attraction is Flamenco Beach. A horseshoe shaped, white sand beach with hues of blue water that you’d think were photoshopped in between two undeveloped mountains and green scenery. There is a reason why this beach has stayed and has been voted as one of the top beaches in the world.
Flamenco is the only beach with a camping site, showers, restroom facilities, and food kiosks where you can taste some of the local cuisine and enjoy tropical drinks. Right across the camping grounds is the part of the beach to have fun with family and friends. There is a military tank used by the U.S. Army for target practice from 1903 to 1975 that you can explore and take some awesome pictures and selfies.
If you prefer more quiet, alone time away from the crowds, you can walk to the other side of the beach, where there are not too many people.
Other secluded beaches on the north side of Culebra that will also make your jaw drop in a-mazement are Zoni, Playa Brava and Resaca. They are just a little harder to get to, no kiosks or facilities and you do have some hiking to do in order to appreciate their beauty.
Zoni is the farthest one out to drive to. It’s located on the northeast side of Culebra. You will know you are getting close because the view opens up as you begin to go down a hill, letting you see Cayo Norte, Culebrita, and on clear days, St. Thomas far out. Make sure to keep your eyes on the road or pull over, since this spectacular view can take your attention away.
Once down hill, you can park and with a couple of steps, you will be feeling the warm. Take a walk down the beach and find a good spot to relax. If visiting between April and July, please be mindful and help protect the Leatherback sea turtles’ nesting areas.
Playa Brava and Resaca are the most complicated to get to since maps don’t really explain the way and the road that leads you to each one, has no signs guiding your path. The fun part is the 20 to 45 minute hike that takes you there, depending on your physical condition. Once you arrive though, a great reward awaits.
Brava has the easiest hike. It’s more like a walk along a dirt road surrounded by trees.
Resaca is a treacherous one. You are going over and around boulders down a steep hill. Plus, you have a maze of identical trees with numerous branches to get by before reaching the sand. There are some neon color cloth strips tied up to the branches guiding your way. But it can get confusing since everything looks the same, but it’s lots of fun if you are up for an adventure.
Perhaps you may not want to completely bake under the Caribbean sun. Maybe you prefer to swim with turtles without touching, caressing, kissing, or tickling them? You can simply float, swim, and see our friendly sea turtles, in their natural environment at Tamarindo Beach.
There are two certified companies Culebra Island Adventures and Kayaking Puerto Rico that offer, with a reservation; a kayak and snorkeling guided tour that includes a visit to a gorgeous reef to explore Culebra’s marine life and the chance to swim with the turtles.
If you are left with a desire for more after getting a taste of Tamarindo Beach, you can visit Carlos Rosario which holds one of Culebra’s finest reefs. This is a snorkeling site for those who have more experience due to the location of the reef, depths, and currents around the area. You can access this beach from Flamenco’s parking lot, walking along a ¾ of a mile dirt path. It will be the second beach, the one on the right hand side. Bring your own equipment and take something to eat and drink, since you will be away from everything.
Want to scuba dive or simply enjoy other remarkable beaches most people don’t get to experience while in Culebra, than pay a visit to Honeymoon Beach, located at Luis Peña Cay. It’s a mini Flamenco Beach with a white, sandy beach, extra crystal clear blue water and far away from civilization. With an incredible view of some of the surrounding cays and the horizon, this beach was meant for relaxing and escaping from it all.
The other dreamy spot is at Culebrita. A smaller island off Culebra’s east coast. Here you pretty much get it all: the sandy beach with the shades of blue clear water perfect for snorkeling, and it gives a chance to see some turtles and marine life, and there is a trail to hike that leads to what was the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean up until 1975.
There are two ways you can get to Culebra, by ferry or plane.
When you take the ferry, it becomes part of an adventure. The 1 hour and 30 min. drive to Fajardo from San Juan in heavy traffic, the line to purchase tickets (sometimes an ordeal in the summer) and the 45 min. journey to get here. The upside is you only pay $4.50 per person for a round trip ticket. Some tour companies do provide a ticket once you make a reservation with them to ease your day.
If you prefer peace of mind and enjoy marvelous scenic views from above, fly to Culebra either from Ceiba or Isla Grande in San Juan for about $105 roundtrip.
Take advantage of a fun, full day in paradise. It will be worth it!