Caribbean

A journey east to Puerto Rico's secluded islands of Culebra and Culebrita

Ema Bakalova

Feb 13, 2023

Url copied!

Secluded islands and Beaches of Culebra and Culebrita in Puerto Rico
Secluded islands and Beaches of Culebra and Culebrita in Puerto Rico

Visiting Culebra put a unique spin on our trip to Puerto Rico. While a popular weekend spot for locals familiar with Puerto Rico, it might not be as widely known for others. Often overlooked, Culebra, as well as Culebrita, are both hidden gems off the east coast of Puerto Rico. These two little islands surpassed all expectations and actually proved to be the best part of our whole trip. Here is our experience getting to, and visiting Culebra in Puerto Rico.

Flying to Puerto Rico
Flying to Puerto Rico

From San Juan to the Culebra ferry dock

We took an afternoon flight from NYC to SJU, a quick flight that takes just under 4 hours. Travel days are always long, even if the flight is under four hours. When we initially chose to spend the first half of our trip in Culebra, we were aware that our travel time would double to reach the little island off the east coast.

Our plane landed at 4 pm in San Juan, and with just an hour to spare before the 5:30 ferry departure to Culebra, we had to grab a taxi and quickly drive to the ferry terminal on the east side of the island. The taxi ride itself was beautiful. We travelled down a highway lined with tropical greenery, and you could see the silhouette of El Yunque, one of the largest tropical rainforest in the Caribbean in the distance.

From San Juan to the Culebra ferry dock
From San Juan to the Culebra ferry dock

Taking the ferry to Culebra

Once we got on the ferry, we left our luggage on the first floor and made our way up to the upper deck for the better view. However, because the ferry travels through open waters to reach Culebra, the turbulence during the ride was pretty extreme. The 45-minute journey to Culebra had us gripping the guardrail for dear life – luckily, we hadn't eaten much food earlier that day.

As we approached Culebra, the sun was setting behind us. We arrived shortly after sunset so we had to find a taxi quickly before dark.

On the ferry to Culebra

Ferry Schedule

Check the ferry schedule ahead of time. It only comes at certain times and if you miss the last ferry there is no other way of getting to the island.

Palmtree on Culebra

Taxis on Culebra

There are some taxis waiting at the ferry dock when you arrive, but if you arrive after dark, there are very few options. Some taxi numbers you can try are: Jayleen Transportation: (787) 514-9205, Xavier taxi: (787) 463-0475, Eddie taxi: (787) 206-8405

Palmtree on Culebra

Taxis on Culebra

There are some taxis waiting at the ferry dock when you arrive, but if you arrive after dark, there are very few options. Some taxi numbers you can try are: Jayleen Transportation: (787) 514-9205, Xavier taxi: (787) 463-0475, Eddie taxi: (787) 206-8405

Culebra, Puerto Rico
Culebra, Puerto Rico

Making our way to Flamenco Beach

Thankfully Claudio speaks Spanish so after a few unsuccessful taxi calls, we caught a taxi ride to our cabin north on Flamenco Beach. We booked a tiny villa on Flamenco Beach, because we had been told that it was one of the nicest beaches on the island. We arrived around 9pm, it was completely silent and completely dark, and the temperature outside was perfect.

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Good to know

If you can, try to arrive during daylight hours rather than after dark. We had a very hard time finding a taxi, but it helps if you know how to speak Spanish.

Mornings in Culebra

Culebra is known for its unspoiled beauty and low-key atmosphere, generally featuring buildings and villas that blend well with the surrounding nature. Many of the beachfront villas near Flamenco Beach were strategically positioned to provide the best views of the ocean or direct access to the ocean. Our villa featured an open-air design with large windows and terraces blurring the lines between the inside and outside spaces (taking full advantage of the great weather and scenery on the island). There was no service by Flamenco Beach, and the wifi was not working in the Airbnb either, so we unintentionally got a fully remote experience.

You will likely wake up early in the morning to the sound of roosters crowing and the sun rising behind your cabin. To the east, the sky softly lights up with warm colors, gently signaling the beginning of each new morning. Stepping outside, the air carries a comforting warmth, and we were surrounded by peaceful stillness.

Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico

The villas at Flamenco Beach

The architecture on the island of Culebra incorporates lots of vibrant Caribbean colors and natural materials such as stone and wood construction. Most of the villas were painted in shades of pastel blues, pinks, and yellows, blending well with the tropical vegetation, blue waters and beige sands.

As opposed to an experience you might have staying in Turks and Caicos, our villa in Culebra was more of a traditional design, focused on comfort and practicality rather than luxury. We spent the majority of our time on the large outdoor terrace space than inside the villa.

Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico

A boardwalk leading to the beach

There was a long wooden boardwalk that paved the way between the palm trees to Flamenco Beach. Every morning, we would walk to the beach to watch the sunrise. Although you cannot actually see the sun rise at Flamenco beach, but you can catch the glow of the sunrise lighting up the clouds in the most beautiful shades of pink and orange. We were the only two people at the beach most mornings, and it felt it was just us two on the edge of the world.

Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Colder waters

The water felt much colder than it usually does in the Caribbean. Perhaps it was because we were further east, off the coast in the middle of the open waters.

Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Flamenco beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Finding coffee

If you are like me, and cannot live without coffee, the first thing you’ll do when you wake up somewhere new is search for the coffee shops in the area. Since we didn't have service, and we always like to start our mornings with some kind of exercise, we decided to go on a run toward the ferry terminal (the "downtown" of Culebra) in hopes of finding coffee. Only a short 3.5 km into the run, we ran into The Blac Flamingo.

The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico

The Blac Flamingo

There are only three cafes on the island, The Blac Flamingo, Culebra Coffee and Kokomo Cafe. Blac Flamingo ended up being the best coffee shop on the island, and I highly recommend coffee and breakfast here over the others.

The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico

On island time

The coffee shop operates on island time, which means that even with a relatively short line, we found ourselves waiting for about 20 to 25 minutes to place our coffee order, and another 15 minutes or so for it to be ready. This is definitely not what we're used to.. but the slow mornings were a nice change from the fast paced grab-and-go coffee culture in New York. We waited in the garden outside the cafe and spent about two hours there, enjoying a good conversation, planning our day and even ordering a second coffee.

The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Roosters at The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Roosters at The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Cats on the island of Culebra

Coffee shops and cats

Roosters, chickens, cats, and dogs were our constant companions on the island. If you're a cat lover, Culebra is paradise—hundreds of strays roam freely.

Cats on the island of Culebra

Coffee shops and cats

Roosters, chickens, cats, and dogs were our constant companions on the island. If you're a cat lover, Culebra is paradise—hundreds of strays roam freely.

The little moments

One reason why I love to travel to obscure islands so much is because I feel so much closer and more in touch with myself, nature and the outdoors. I love disconnecting and being far away from everyone and everything for some time, being able to interact with animals, seeing different landscapes and discovering special little moments in new places. Sometimes you can find so much joy in the smallest moments, and places like Culebra give you the opportunity to pause, embrace and feel those moments.

Playing with dog at The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Playing with dog at The Blac Flamingo coffee shop in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Renting a car in Culebra

We quickly realized that without a car, it would be very difficult to make our way around the island. Having a car was much more convenient for exploring the island, although not as mountainous as some neighboring islands, Culebra still features hills and some steep, rolling terrain. I highly recommend you rent a car, it will give you the flexibility to make your way around the island much quicker.

Carlos Jeep Rentals in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Carlos Jeep Rentals

They have a limited amount of vehicles available online for pre-booking, keeping a percentage of their vehicles available for in-person bookings only. We had no issues booking in person.

Carlos Jeep Rentals in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Carlos Jeep Rentals

They have a limited amount of vehicles available online for pre-booking, keeping a percentage of their vehicles available for in-person bookings only. We had no issues booking in person.

Sunrise at Zoni Beach

The next morning we got in our car and headed to Zoni Beach on the east side of the island to catch the sunrise. Zoni Beach is known for its pristine and secluded beauty, and is much less crowded compared to some of the more popular beaches on the island. It is definitely not the best beach for snorkeling, or even swimming, but it is a great place to watch the sunrise.

In addition, you can sometimes see the US Virgin Islands (particularly St. Thomas), from Culebra due to its proximity. This means that on a clear day, you can enjoy beautiful views of these neighboring islands across the Caribbean Sea.

Driving to the Sunrise at Zoni Beach
Driving to the Sunrise at Zoni Beach

Morning runs after sunrise

Most mornings, after catching the sunrise, we would go on our morning run. Starting from Flamenco Beach, it is approximately 5 km to the ferry dock and 5 km back to our villa by the ocean. Mid run, we stopped to take photos of the view at Melones Beach before turning around to run back. The run down the empty roads by the edge of the water was beautiful, especially at sunrise or shortly after.

Running through Culebra

Running routes

You can see my runs on strava.

Running through Culebra during sunrise
Running through Culebra during sunrise
Running through Culebra during sunrise
Running through Culebra during sunrise
Running through Culebra during sunrise
Running through Culebra during sunrise

Sunset at Melones Beach

The island of Culebra has beaches for everything. Beaches to watch the sunrise, beaches to watch the sunset, beaches to snorkel with fish, turtles, stingray, and beaches to see the coral reefs. For example, Tamarindo Beach is known as a nesting site for sea turtles, particularly loggerhead and green turtles. As the day was coming to an end, we decided to watch the sunset at Melones beach, the beach known for the best view of the sunset on the island. It's not far from the ferry terminal, but you need to take a long, winding road to get there. The sunsets were always beautiful—you could see the neighboring island's silhouette in the distance against the sky, the sea was always calm, the air was always warm, and there was a gentle breeze.

We came here most nights. Some nights we came just to see the sunset, and some nights we picked up some food along the way.

Sunset at Melones Beach
Sunset at Melones Beach
Sunset at Melones Beach
Sunset at Melones Beach

Discovering Culebrita

Culebrita Island, translating to "Little Snake Island," is a small, uninhabited, yet romantically secluded island off the east coast of Culebra. It is a small part of the Puerto Rico Archipelago.

The way you get to Culebrita is by catching a boat tour or water taxi from a meeting point that is less than a 5 minute drive from the ferry terminal in Culebra. You can catch a water taxi service (H2O water taxi service) that will take you to and from the tiny island. We happened to go on February 14th, so there were four other couples joining us on this adventure. The day that we spent on Culebrita was probably the highlight of our entire trip, so I can't recommend enough trying to make a day trip out there if you can. However, it is worth noting that Culebrita is quite remote, making it an easier place to visit if you're already staying in Culebra. The tour guides drop you off on the shores of Culebrita, and return 4 hours later to pick you back up.

It's worth mentioning that Culebrita is completely uninhabited. There are no bathrooms, no garbage bins and no infrastructure whatsoever. Make sure to bring whatever you need with you for the day - a small cooler for food and water and an extra bag to store your garbage.

The island of culebrita
The island of culebrita
The island of culebrita
The island of culebrita

Culebrita is known for its pristine beaches, including Playa Tortuga (Tortuga Beach) and Playa de la Caleta. The beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. Playa Tortuga is known for its sea turtle nesting sites.

Undoubtedly one of Puerto Rico's most beautiful hidden gems, the beaches on Culebrita offer excellent snorkeling, vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life (including places to spot sea turtles).

The island of culebra

Pricing

We paid $55 per person to take the taxi to Culebrita. We had to rent our snorkel gear separately, which was about $11 per day. You can rent it by the ferry terminal.

Things to do on Culebrita:

Hike to the Lighthouse

Walk to the Culebrita Lighthouse, built in 1886, for panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.

Visit the Natural Jacuzzis

Near the lighthouse, you'll discover natural tidal pools, otherwise referred to as "Jacuzzis." These pools are created by the waves and have formed a unique bathing experience.

Snorkel and Dive

The crystal-clear waters around Culebrita are ideal for snorkeling and diving. Explore vibrant coral reefs, colorful fish, and possibly spot sea turtles and other marine life.

Walk to a few beaches across the island

It is about a 10 minute hike across the island from the west-side to the east-side of the island. Both beaches are in pristine condition.

The island of culebrita
The island of culebrita

Back in Culebra - Little local discoveries

After our long day on the island of Culebrita, we went to pick up some food for dinner from D's Garden. They sell fresh fruits and vegetables, along with smoothies and great acai bowls.

While we were there, I learned a few random, yet interesting facts about the avocado. I came across two different types of avocados; the more familiar small dark green ones (Hass avocado) and the large light green ones (Fuerte avocado).

D's garden in Culebra

D's Garden

Local fruit and vegetable garden. It is very small and has limited options.

Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico

Fun fact

Apparently, 95% of avocados eaten in America are the Hass avocados. The fuerte avocados are primarily grown in Florida, and are much more common in the Carribbean supermarkets. They don't darken as they ripen, and are considered to taste much sweeter and fruitier than the Hass.

Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico

Fun fact

Apparently, 95% of avocados eaten in America are the Hass avocados. The fuerte avocados are primarily grown in Florida, and are much more common in the Carribbean supermarkets. They don't darken as they ripen, and are considered to taste much sweeter and fruitier than the Hass.

Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico
Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico
Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico
Comparing different avocados on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico

Disconnected dinners

Back at the villa, there was still no service or working wifi, so our main companions were each other and the regular visits from the island cats.

I really liked how our villa blended right in with the other villas by the beach, the palm trees, and the surrounding greenery. The outdoor deck was my favorite. It was set up in a way that encouraged you to sit and stay outside. It was fully equipped with an assortment of outdoor furniture such as tables, chairs, benches, swings, and hammocks. They were all strategically arranged to promote outdoor "togetherness" while also creating pockets for relaxation, resulting in a good balance between personal space a social setting.

Villas at Flamenco Beach
Villas at Flamenco Beach
Villas at Flamenco Beach
Villas at Flamenco Beach
Villas at Flamenco Beach
Villas at Flamenco Beach
Cats at the Villas at Flamenco Beach
Cats at the Villas at Flamenco Beach

Returning to San Juan: From Culebra, to Ceiba terminal in Puerto Rico

On our way out of Culebra and back to San Juan, we picked up a coffee, returned our snorkel gear and waited for the ferry. If you want to grab a coffee right at the ferry dock, the best option to do so is at Culebra Coffee.

Once you arrive at the Ceiba terminal in Puerto Rico, you'll see plenty of taxis ready to take you to the city center. Just remember that this usually only happens during the day. If your travel plans go into the night or early morning, it's a good idea to arrange your ride beforehand because the ferry terminal is quite far from the city center.

Returning to San Juan: From Culebra, to Ceiba terminal in Puerto Rico
Returning to San Juan: From Culebra, to Ceiba terminal in Puerto Rico

Sign up to receive

notifications about new posts!

Sign up to receive

notifications about new posts!

Through this blog, I hope to inspire you to seek out unique traveling opportunities, spark your love for travel and discover beautiful architecture. If you liked this article, sign up to get notified whenever a new post gets published!