Last week, I visited Culebra Island right off of Puerto Rico and experienced the best snorkeling so far while living in Puerto Rico! The clear waters of Flamenco Beach are truly breathtaking, and I’ve officially fallen in love with this tiny island.
However, Culebra was not love at first site for me, and I will tell you why here. This post is going to talk about:
- Getting to Culebra Island
- Culebra Island Transportation
- Recommended Time Spent in Culebra
- Best Culebra Snorkeling and Beaches
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Getting to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico
There are a few ways to get to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico, but the most common ways are to fly with AirFlamenco or take the Ferry in Ceiba, which is about 1 hour East from San Juan. The cheaper option of the 2 is the ferry, but tickets are released about 2 weeks out and sell out fast! AirFlemenco round trip is about $90 per person, or if you have a big group, you can charter a plane. The ferry takes 1 hour from Ceiba and flights take about 15 minutes.
I am going to elaborate on the Culebra ferry option in this post because I think it is a good option for large or small groups. We chose to ferry, so I have first-hand experience with it. When you type in the Ceiba Ferry Terminal into Google Maps, you will end up at Roosevelt Roads, which is an old Navy base. You can drop off a some of your group to wait at the ferry terminal with the bags while you park the car. Car parking is about a mile further (there are plenty of signs for directions), where you pay in cash based on the amount of days that your car will remain in the lot- $7 for 1 day, $15 for 2, and so on. A shuttle will drive you from the parking lot back to the terminal to meet back up with your group and board the ferry.
As far as facilities, there are porta potties at the parking lot, and the ferry terminal has a snack and coffee bar and restrooms.
**COVID Restrictions- You MUST wear a medical mask, not a cloth mask on the ferry. They have a pack of 10 for sale at the ferry terminal, but bring your own to expedite the process.
Present your email that contains your ferry tickets to the gate guard, and you are on your way. The ferry leaves promptly, so get there about an hour prior to departure like the tickets recommend. To be honest, they did not check our additional bag tickets, so if you are a stickler for rules, go for it, but I am not convinced that the additional tickets are necessary as long as you keep it to a reasonable amount of luggage. The seas can be rough depending on weather, so take some Dramamine the night before and sit on the bottom level if you are prone to seasickness. I personally LOVED the ferry ride as it was so peaceful. Passing nearby islands and being on the open sea for $2 plus tax is a steal!
You arrive at the Culebra Ferry Terminal, and depending on what mode of transportation you choose, your driver will be there waiting for you with a sign.
Culebra Island Transportation
For transportation around Culebra, although it is pricey for the day, I don’t know of many other options, especially during COVID closures, than to rent a golf cart or Jeep. There are 2 companies on the island, Jerry’s Jeep Rental and Carlos Jeep Rental. Jerry is the only one who will rent for 1 day and his website is more user-friendly. He will pick up only the driver from the terminal, and you can pick up the rest of your crew afterwards. I recommend having your group walk to the left, and up the hill, further out of the congested terminal area to be picked up. If they walk to the steep road that leads to Tamarindo Beach, you can pick them up and head straight to Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with the sea turtles!
Recommended Time Spent on Culebra Island
During COVID, just about everything is closed indefinitely or sporadically as far as restaurants go. There’s a to-go spot to the left of Kokomo’s at the ferry terminal, a convenient store up the hill, and Moncho’s Barbecue to-go. Blac Flamenco Coffee in town is open until like 10:30AM and Zaco’s Tacos is open some evenings. One lady gave me a flyer for her creole restaurant that sounded delicious, but it had no name or address, so if you see her handing out flyers at Flamenco Beach, ask her where her restaurant is located.
Basically, food should not be the reason you go to Culebra, and you should definitely bring a cooler with wheels to this island. Although it would be an early morning, I recommend taking the 7am ferry to Culebra and the 4pm ferry back to Ceiba, Puerto Rico. The reason I fell in love with Culebra was for the amazingly clear Flamenco Beach and the beautiful snorkeling of Tamarindo and Melones. The small, congested roads near the ferry were enough to make me wonder why anyone would live there, but the snorkeling is incomparable and is the very reason I would go back in a heartbeat!
I booked an airbnb, and rented a Jeep for 2 days for our group, and I just don’t see a need to spend all that money when you can snorkel and beach bum it out in a day, for about $300 cheaper. If you get a larger group to go, a longer stay would make sense as you can split the cost of car and lodging. Another cheaper option is camping at the Flamenco Campgrounds for $30/day, but they are currently closed and under construction.
Best Snorkeling in Culebra Island & Tour Guides
For sea turtles, head to Tamarindo Beach, which has grass straight out from the beach where sea turtles love to snack! I saw a stingray in the coral more towards the left of the beach, but the sea turtles were just a few feet from the beach. For the most beautiful coral, head to Melones Beach and swim right, towards the rockier area. Colorful coral and fish both big and small will wave all around you. Wear water shoes or fins as I saw more sea urchins than ever before in this water. Also be sure to check the weather before going into any water in Culebra or Puerto Rico. Rip currents are no joke here in the winter, but we did snorkel early February, and I did not feel a huge pull at Tamarindo or at Melones. At Flamenco, I felt a stronger pull when snorkeling, and the reef near the main beach entrance is not very colorful. The reef may be better near the beached military tank on the far left. Flamenco is best for just sitting in the white sand and floating in the shallow, clear waters.
There are a couple other beaches that I did not go to that are also known for snorkeling like Playa Carlos Rosario and Culebrita, which requires a boat transfer to get to. Once you are already on-island, companies also offer snorkel kayak tours. One of the easiest day trip options if you are more concerned with the clear blue water and snorkeling rather than exploring the island is to take a boat trip from Fajardo. They will take you to a Culebra beach, a snorkel reef, and will provide all gear, drinks, and lunch. That way, you don’t have to even mess with the ferry tickets, parking, renting a car, or anything.
In conclusion, you won’t believe your eyes when you visit the beautiful beaches of Culebra, filled with clear waters and abundant sea creatures. However, I think that you can cover what there is to see in the span of a day, unless you are really into snorkeling and want to see all of the beaches in one trip. Although most of the restaurants are closed, I still recommend visiting because you practically have all of the beaches to yourself, and Flamenco is the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico. I hope this helps you plan your Culebra excursion!