Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Isla Culebra

We only spent a day (and no nights) on Culebra during our six nights in Puerto Rico, so we opted to take advantage of the airplane to get to and from Culebra. Flying to and from Culebra was part of the fun of visiting that island and is described in more detail in a different post.

We rented a Jeep from Jerry's Jeep Rental and fortunately their facility is directly across from the Culebra airport (Benjamín Rivera Noriega Airport, shown in the photograph above).

Carlos Jeep Rental appears to be the other significant source of rental Jeeps on Culebra. They have a desk at the Culebra airport, but their main facility is further down the street.

We had prearranged for a kayaking tour of Playa Flamenco and Playa Tamarindo, but the tour company had to cancel because the tour guides could not get a ride on the ferry (the risk of not making the ferry was a primary driver for us choosing to fly to Culebra). We used the description of that tour to help us choose to visit Playa Flamenco and Playa Tamarindo from among all of Culebra's beaches.

Culebra is a small island and it doesn't take long to get to any points on that island and it would be difficult to get lost given that there are only a few significant roads to get to most key points. We made the short drive from Jerry's Jeep Rental to the acclaimed Playa Flamenco using Puerto Rico Highway 251.

This beached lived up to the hype.

Because we had taken an early flight from Ceiba to Culebra and the ferry had not yet arrived, there were not many people on Playa Flamenco.

One of the unique characteristics of Playa Flamenco is the presence of tanks.

The island of Culebra is small enough that we decided to go from Playa Flamenco to the Culebra barrio-pueblo neighborhood for lunch.

Parking was scarce, but we found a spot and parked the Jeep.

The streets were on some steep hills in this section that declined quickly to the coastline.

While walking around looking at the strets and looking for a place to eat, we started talking to a guy from Wisconsin who has settled on Culebra. He recommended multiple restaurants (because several were still closed temporarily due to COVID-19) and we tried Moncho's based on his recommendation.

We were glad we took him up on the Moncho's recommendation. We needed to wait outside the small restaurant because they were strictly enforcing how many customers could be in that small area at one time, but it was worth the wait as we enjoyed an excellent and locally-oriented lunch.

There was no seating avaiable in Moncho's (part of the effort to keep the number of people small inside the restaurant), but a short walk took us to seating areas near where the ferry arrives and departs on Culebra.

There were no people there at mid-day and we had the ocean view to ourselves.

The other beach mentioned on our canceled Culebra tour was Playa Tamarindo and we headed there after lunch. The largest parking space was full, but we found another, smaller parking space just down the street.

We had to brave a flock of aggressive-looking chickens to park and start walking to the beach.

Playa Tamarindo was less sandy and had more rocks than other beaches on the island, but this meant clearer water.

There were multiple turtles here and even though I tried to give them space, they seemed to not be bothered by me and often swam toward me rather than away from me (probably because I wasn't chasing them and was floating calmly).

The ray and friend fish was also fun to see, but, unlike the turtles, they wanted nothing to do with us.

There was also a starfish among the grasses.

We had this section of Playa Tamarindo completely to ourselves and it was one of the best experiences I've had snorkeling from the beach.

We needed to fill our Jeep with gas before returning it and there was a short line of other Jeeps whose renters needed to do the same thing. We also drove by a couple other interesting locations on our way to return the Jeep and walk across the street and parking lot to the airport to fly back to Ceiba. The short low-flying flight back to Ceiba was a great way to top off a rewarding day on Culebra, but I wished we would have spent at least one night on that charming island.

Although "Culebra" may be Spanish for "snake," I will now always associate the Spanish word "culebra" with a fantastic little island with fantastic beaches, excellent snorkeling, a fun little downtown, and excellent local food.

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