Culebra: An island hopper’s get-away

ABOUT 17 miles east of Puerto Rico is a famous strip of an island with beaches so pristine and white and waters so clear that it has become an island hopper’s must-stop in these parts of the Caribbean.
A few months ago my travel buddy and I hopped on a small plane from the Isla Grande Airport just across from the San Juan port for the 30-minute trip to Culebra.
If it’s your first time in a small plane you’ll be nervous but I’ve had so much practice flying in small planes in the Northern Mariana Islands.

The short flight presents you with the most stunning views of the famous horseshoe-shaped Flamenco beach with fine white sand and azure blue waters bordered by a lush green forest. Prepare for a breathtaking landing—literally. The plane will spin in a hairpin twist so close to the mountains before landing in a small fenced airstrip.
Isla Culebra has several names but the one I like most is Isla Chiquita or Little Island because that’s what it is—little and laidback.

Culebra has no giant shopping centers, luxury resorts, casinos, theaters, or nightlife which means no crowds or traffic but it is packed with so many island attractions. It is where you will see chickens crossing the street all the time and cars pull horses behind. It is an island where everybody knows everybody, where you can wait for the ice cream car that drives around at the end of the day or drink and sing your heart out at any of the bars.
Getting around the island is easy with very cheap taxis but we went for the most practical method and rented a golf cart.

Flamenco Beach is one of the most popular destinations in the Puerto Rico cays. Despite its popularity, Flamenco Beach is usually never crowded. You can have your own private nook with the option of going out to meet other beachgoers when you feel up to it.
A restaurant offers an assortment of seafood, sandwiches, salads, and drinks at reasonable prices. Don’t miss the tropical Piña Colada. I didn’t try it, which means you should!

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Check out the other beaches in Culebra including the Playa Tamarindo, Carlos Rosario Beach, Dakity and Soldier’s Point, Playa Melones, Brava Beach, Resaca Beach, West Beach, Trash Beach, and Playa Tortuga. From the Zoni beach, you can see the island of St.Thomas in the US Virgin Islands 19 miles away.
Culebra has been used for US Navy/Marine Corps military exercises until 1975 so don’t be surprised if you see military relics like tanks around the island. Driving around the island from end to end.

We took the ferry to Puerto Rico on our way back a couple of days later. The ferry trip is about an hour and a half and docks in Fajardo, about 60 miles from Old San Juan. The ferry fare is only $2.50 per person but the lines are so long. Buy your ahead of time or go to the pier early.
Get your taste of this Caribbean delight for day trips to snorkel, dive, drive around or just soak up a dose of Vitamin sea in any of the “postcard-perfect” beaches with soft white sand, beautiful views, and crystal clear waters. If you want to stay longer, there are numerous hotels, vacation rentals, and BnBs to choose from.
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Published at the August 2018 issue.

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