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Culebra, a 12-square-mile island in a corner of the Caribbean that was quiet even in mid-January, with news of the polar vortex reaching us like word from a distant, far less habitable planet. During the 80-degree days, my family and I had a choice of a half-dozen spectacular beaches, often sharing a mile-long stretch of sand with a handful of people or with no one at all. During the cool, breezy nights, from our rented house, we could see in the distance the lights of massive cruise ships approaching the nearby island of St. Thomas. We felt fortunate that we were instead taking in this low-key, slow-speed island, 17 miles off the northeast coast of Puerto Rico.

Some historians believe Columbus stopped by Culebra on his second voyage in 1493, and local lore says it was long a hide-out for pirates preying on the Caribbean trade. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge on part of Culebra and some of the tiny out islands that surround it. In recent years, lodging options have steadily expanded, including a campground adjoining Flamenco Beach, a growing number of small hotels and guesthouses and a large selection of rental houses.

Culebra Island is as laid-back as any place in Puerto Rico can be. This little island east of the big island of Puerto Rico offers naturally beautiful beaches, and a relaxed feel that many people love. It has a real Caribbean island feel to it.

Culebra offers white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water, healthy reefs teaming with sea life, and a tropical breeze that keeps you cool as you are watching the amazing sunsets.

But I don’t think that Culebra is for everyone. Even the title of this article runs contrary to the Culebra state-of-mind. Culebra may not be for you if you are the type of person who needs a to-do list to plan your tropical island get-away

Downtown Ponce is approximately 7 km to the north of the port, opposite an expressway. Some form of transport is needed to take visitors to the city's attractions. The municipality is building a new visitor wharf at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Street to hold two large cruise ships at once. 

Culebra a placefor relax and chill out. If you want 5-star resorts, casinos, a selection of gourmet restaurants, and high end shopping … then Culebra is not for you.

Culebra has basic accommodations, casual dining, and just a few basic-needs stores. And everything is laid back — businesses open and close with the comings and goings of the ferry … or when the mood strikes them.

If you are ready for this type of relaxed, basic vacation on a beauitful island, then you should look into spending some time on Culebra.

After some (short) beach time, we have been able to find just the right amount of active things to provide the perfect balance for a short trip.

Where you are docked
There is no cruise port but such as smaller size cruise ships such as Sea Dream Yacht Club visit this beautiful Island.
To book an all-inclusive luxury resort: They tried to build a fancy, high-end resort hotel in Culebra, and the project failed. In fact, you can still see the unfinished hotel from the town of Dewey. This island simply doesn't have the infrastructure for a mega-resort. For that kind of hotel, check out a place like El Conquistador.

To play a round of golf: This one should be fairly obvious for anyone who knows Culebra. It's way too small for a golf course. Here are a few better places to tee off.

Things to See and Do
Isla Culebrita is one of the top things to see in Culebra port of call. Located one mile of Playa Zoni’s east, the small island is part of Culebra’s wildlife refuge. It features an abandoned lighthouse, tide pools, beaches, reefs, and nesting places for seabirds. Sea turtles are also found in the area. 

On the other hand, an island less visited than Isla Culebrita, Cayo Luis Peña features coves, rocks, and forests that tourists can explore. A water taxi trip or short kayak away, the island also has several beaches for cruise passengers to snorkel and swim.  

For cruisers who want to learn more about the island, the Museum of Ildefonso, situated behind Department of Natural Resources’ office, presents historical photographs of the island as well as different Taino artifacts.

Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico. Ponce's attracts tourists for its refined historical legacy and striking architecture. The feel here is relaxed, a huge contrast to buzzing economic and nightlife zone of San Juan. Even as the island's major city, visitors will be surprised or disappointed to discover that Ponce's downtown is a standalone old-fashioned square with no nightlife.

One local calls Culebra an “island of nothing—no nightclubs, no casinos.” The beach is your best bet for entertainment. If Flamenco’s mile-and-a-half stretch of cinematic white sand and turquoise water grows old, try hiking 24 minutes to Carlos Rosario Beach, a premier snorkeling spot. An opening in the gate at the back edge of the Flamenco Beach parking lot takes you to the trail.

Culebra history museum, open only on weekends, and ended up spending well over an hour, watching a documentary in which old-timers recalled the days before electricity, the annual invasions of as many as 7,000 sailors (on an island whose permanent population even today is about 2,000), munitions accidents that maimed and killed islanders, and the successful campaign to oust the Navy. The residual effects persist more than four decades later; while we were there, a Navy team closed Flamenco for a day while it disarmed a bomb that had surfaced from the sand. (Culebra may be the only spot on American territory where the occasional car displays a “Nixon” bumper sticker, in gratitude for President Richard M. Nixon’s decision to end the annual military shelling.)
Brava Beach
Reserve the morning for a hike to Brava Beach. Lesser known and less accessible than Flamenco Beach, Brava Beach is also less crowded than its famous neighbor. To get here, you have to drive to the end of a residential road and then hike through a trail that goes from tall grass to cool forest. A trail to the beach leads off from the right of the main path, but it’s unmarked and very easy to miss, so keep an eye out for it. If you make the effort, your reward is a beautiful beach that is completely undeveloped. Note: the rough surf and no lifeguard makes swimming inadvisable.
Zoni Beach
Zoni Beach, on the windy north side, was great for wave-jumping in the white-sand shallows, then retreating to the shade of bushes and small trees to read. Playa Larga, also on the windward side, had bathtub-like sandy depressions in the shallow shelf of an old reef. Tamarindo and Melones had fantastic snorkeling, and we quickly learned the best patches for turtle watching, gazing at the electric blues and yellows of tropical fish, and exploring otherworldly forests of coral resembling giant brains and reindeer antlers. Several shops on the island’s only town (known on maps as Dewey for a long-gone naval commander, a name that appears rarely used) rent snorkel gear and stable ocean kayaks for reasonable rates., on the windy north side, was great for wave-jumping in the white-sand shallows, then retreating to the shade of bushes and small trees to read. Playa Larga, also on the windward side, had bathtub-like sandy depressions in the shallow shelf of an old reef. Tamarindo and Melones had fantastic snorkeling, and we quickly learned the best patches for turtle watching, gazing at the electric blues and yellows of tropical fish, and exploring otherworldly forests of coral resembling giant brains and reindeer antlers. Several shops on the island’s only town (known on maps as Dewey for a long-gone naval commander, a name that appears rarely used) rent snorkel gear and stable ocean kayaks for reasonable rates.
Snorkel or SCUBA dive — The west coast beaches surround the large Luis Peña Marine Reserve, with lots of healthy coral and marine life. Bring your own, or rent, snorkel gear and explore beneath the waves. If you’re carrying a SCUBA C-card, go for a dive with Taz at Aquatic Adventures or Culebra Divers.
Best Beach for Snorkeling: Tamarindo Beach
You are almost guaranteed to swim alongside a sea turtle just off the rocky end of Tamarindo Beach. And not just 1; they are often spotted in the waters headed toward Vieques, Culebra’s sister island, in the distance. That’s because much of Culebra was declared a protected wildlife refuge by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, and it is an important nesting site for 3 species of sea turtles. Kayaking Puerto Rico guides groups of gob-smacked snorkelers and kayakers here and at nearby Luis Peña Channel Marine Reserve. Or you can go solo, rent a paddleboard and stare down at the graceful creatures swimming with colorful fish in aquarium-like waters below.

Drive Around & Go Sightseeing — Rent a car, jeep, or golf cart and drive around the island. Stop in at the Museum of Culebra. The museum has archaeological material from ancient pre-Columbian peoples, remnants from the US Navy, old maps, pictures, and information about Culebra’s history. It’s open Friday to Sunday from 10am to 3pm (that or thereabout). Call them at 787.617.8517 to see if they’re open.

Bike Around the Island — Though people may go off-road for fun, I think you would have to stay on the roads to avoid popping your tires all the thorny trees and bushes that you’ll find off-road. This is for people who are into biking and are physically fit. Though the island is small, it is hot!

Go Out on the Water (via sail or motorized) — Hire a captain and go sailing, boating, or fishing for the day. Look up Pez Vela, Captain Dan, Snorkel SVI for charters. Or just take a water taxi to an out-island. KPR Adventure Shop also rents the underwater propeller scooter, to really zoom you through the water.

Take a Hike — While there are not a lot of hiking trails on Culebra, there are some. There are some on Culebrita, too. Or take a long walk on a beach and count sea turtle nests.

Go Bird-watching — You will see mostly shore birds, but there are also a number of other native and migratory birds on the island.

Go Kayaking — Take a kayak into the bays or around the mangroves. These are excellent places to bird watch. You can rent kayaks from the Culebra Bike Shop. Or take a snorkel/kayak tour with Kayaking Puerto Rico or Culebra Island Adventures.

If the ten square miles of Culebra are too vast, catch a boat to Culebrita—little Culebra—a wildlife sanctuary off the northeast coast with a nineteenth-century lighthouse. Find a water taxi or chartered boat to take you there by stopping in the tourist office on Pedro Marquez Street, around the corner from the ferry dock.

A journey to Brava Beach is guaranteed to make you hungry. Two good, but very different options for lunch are the Dinghy Dock Bar-B-Q Restaurant (787-742-0024), for hearty fare in a rustic, casual ambience (check out the massive tarpon swimming below the dock), and White Sands Restaurant for award-winning, nouveau ‘Rican cuisine in a pleasant, manicured setting at Club Seabourne.

Rent bikes from the aging hippies who own Dick and Cathie’s (787-742-0062; $17 per day) —they’ll pick you up at the ferry or airport—and ride six miles down Route 250 to Zoni Beach. It’s almost as nice as Flamenco Beach, but without the crowds and the vendors.

Heaven on Earth? Paradise? Nirvana? Flamenco Beach has drawn such comparisons from millions of open-mouthed visitors who come upon this place and think they've reached bliss. It's hard to argue with them.

Nearby Attractions 
Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) is a secluded island just off the coast where you can visit an old lighthouse, uninhabited beach stretches and a marked underwater snorkel trail. Ferries leave from the pier, weekends.

Half-dozen restaurants scattered around the little town offered excellent seafood and Puerto Rican specialties. Dinghy Dock had tables right on the water, with herds of three-foot tarpon lingering dockside for fish heads tossed from customers, and beautiful fishing bats swooping at the water after dusk. The lobster risotto at El Eden was especially memorable, as was the goat stew at Susie’s. Both were open only a few days a week, and we soon learned to call first. The laid-back Culebra attitude toward commerce was summed up by the sign painted on a gift kiosk that we never saw in operation: “Open some days,” it read, “closed on others.”
Expect a bit of a wait during the dinner hour at this popular Mexican eatery in Dewey, Culebra’s only town. Everyone seems to want to eat at Zaco’s Tacos, and why not? There are crispy tortilla chips for dipping in freshly made salsa or topping with pork and cheese. There are hefty burritos and burrito bowls for meat or veggie lovers. But most importantly, there are tacos, such as the delightfully fatty pork belly and the deliciously fried beer-battered fish tacos. Wash it down with a Medalla, the local brew, or a spicy margarita with cucumber and jalapeño.
Whether you are a local or a cruise ship passenger, Dinghy Dock is the best place to hang by the water in Culebra. Venture down the stairs and grab a table right on the dock along a channel leading into Ensenada Honda. Little boats covet this spot, too. Order a Partly Cloudy cocktail, the bar’s take on a Dark and Stormy, made with Puerto Rico’s golden rum and fresh ginger juice. If you’re hungry, order the catch of the day. After feeding your face, feed the tarpon lurking in the waters under the dock. Calle Fulladoza

Spend the rest of your time checking out Dewey’s shops. There’s not a whole lot here, but Fango (787-435-6654) and Paradise Gift Shop (787-742-3569), are among the more unique stores. Before you leave, snap a picture at Island Woman’s shack, one of the most photographed spots in town for its “open some days, closed others” sign on display when the place is closed.

The entire island of Puerto Rico has been successful in keeping the import taxes lower and have the VAT prices duty-free. Visitors looking collect wines and spirits, especially the famous Puerto Rican rum, this is the region to do it. 
Culebra cruise terminal is surrounded with a number of restaurants and bars to cater to the cruise guests’ different dining needs.

For those looking for a fine dining experience, Costa Bonita Resort restaurants, Bahia Marina, and Juanita Banalas are some famous stops. Those in search for a vegetarian option can dine in at Mamacita’s where meat and fish recipes are also presented in a menu handwritten in a blackboard. 

Heather’s, located at the heart of the town, serves good pizza, while Panaderia el Patio offers fresh and warm bread called pan criollo. Not to be missed, Pandeli, is one of Culebra’s destinations for pancakes and pastries. 

No matter how long or short the time you have to spend in Culebra, there is always something (sometimes, even when doing nothing) that you can enjoy in the island.

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