The beautiful island of Puerto Rico is in an amazing and unique location in the Caribbean area. The Atlantic Ocean borders its north coast, and the Caribbean Sea borders its south coast. It has warm weather, no snow, and breathtaking views.
Even though Puerto Rico is considered an island, it’s actually an archipielago (a group of island close together). It includes 143 small islands, islets and cays. The islands of Mona and Monito are in the west, and Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, and Palomino islands are in the east.
The islands of Culebra and Vieques are bigger in size than the other islands. Both are towns, with municipal government. Culebra has a population of about 1,800 and Vieques has about 9,300 residents, according to the data of the 2010 Census. All of the smaller islands have no population. Culebra is smaller in size that Vieques, and it’s located north of Vieques.
I have to confess that I’ve never been to Culebra or Vieques. Yes, I intend to visit soon. As I keep learning about these two beautiful islands and their beaches, the more interested I become.
Okay, so how do we get there? Well, there are two ferries departing every day to both islands, one is a passenger-only ferry and one is a cargo ferry. The cargo ferry is for cars, but mostly for residents, because rental companies in Puerto Rico put restrictions on insuring cars taken outside the mainland.
To take the ferry, there’s a port in the town of Ceiba. Ferries used to provide service from Fajardo, but operations were moved to Ceiba in 2018. They travel about 4 times a day to both islands. There are also charter flights that go to both island, as they both have airports.
These two islands have some of the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, but also of the world. I have picked 10 beaches, 5 from each island, for this post. This has not been an easy task. All their beaches are beautiful!
Culebra is about 22 miles east of Fajardo. It’s best known as “la Isla Chiquita”. There are about 1,800 residents living in this island, according to data from the 2010 Census. There are about 111 named beaches on its coast. The coast is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The island has a small airport, and a port for ferry transportation by sea every day. To inquire about camping requisites and permits, contact the Culebra Conservation and Development Authority.
For more information, visit https://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/culebra-municipality/, information provided by the Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities. Also check this great article about Culebra’s beaches from The Travel Channel here https://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/articles/culebra-island-puerto-rico.
Flamenco Beach is the most beautiful of all of Culebra, and possibly of all of Puerto Rico. It’s in the northwest side of the island. It has been selected several times as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Its sand is of a light white color, and its water is crystal clear. It’s so clear, that a variety of blue-green tones can be seen throughout the day. There are restrooms and showers available. Camping is permitted in this beach (permission required).
Tamarindo Grande Beach is in the southwest side, very close to Flamenco. It takes about 20 minutes walking from one beach to the other. They’re separated by the Flamenco Peninsula, where the Culebra National Reserve is located. There’s a wildlife refuge in the reserve area, protected by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. This beach has some spots of sands that are of light white color and some spots that are of golden yellow color. There are plenty of pebbles throughout the beach, because of the abundance of coral reefs in this area. Water is crystal clear. The Luis Peña Bay is visible from this beach.
Datiles Beach is a hidden gem. It’s in the southwest side of the island. It’s not a popular beach, but it’s a beautiful one to visit. This one has a shallow shore, water stays mostly calm with almost no waves, making it perfect for kids to bathe. Sand is very light, almost of white color, and water is crystal clear. It’s also perfect for camping, but there are no restroom facilities here.
Zoni Beach (known also as Soni) is in the northeast side of Culebra. From Zoni, the islands of St. Thomas and Tortola are visible in the distance. It has plenty of tall palm trees to enjoy some shadow. There are no restrooms on this beach. There might be areas restricted during turtle nesting season. The waves here are more active than in other beaches, so swimming is not very safe. There are no lifeguards around, always proceed with caution.
Tortuga Beach is located on the northwest side of Culebrita, Culebra’s largest cay. Its named “tortuga” or turtle because of the many turtles that are spotted on this beach, from leatherbacks to hawksbill, coming here for nesting or feeding. The beach is beautiful, as all of Culebra’s beaches, the sand is light white and the water is crystal clear. There are no facilities at all on this cay. There is a lighthouse, that remains closed for repairs. There are many hiking trails open to public, but there are no lifeguards or safety personnel here.
Vieques is about 8 miles from Ceiba. It’s best known as “la Isla Nena”. There are about 9,300 residents living in this island, according to data from the 2010 Census. There are about 172 named beaches on its coast. The coast is bordered by the Caribbean Sea. There is also a bioluminiscent bay in Vieques, Mosquito Bay, which I’ll write about in another post. The island also has a small airport, and a port for ferry transportation by sea every day.
The US Navy had facilities, and bombing practice areas, in over two thirds of land in the island until 2003. That land is now the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All the beaches in that area still retain the names given by the Navy, including Red Beach, Blue Beach and Green Beach.
For more information visit https://enciclopediapr.org/en/encyclopedia/vieques-municipality/, information provided by the Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities. Also check this great article about beaches in Vieques, written by blogger Jeremy from Pittsburgh, PA, (in English) https://www.livingthedreamrtw.com/2017/01/vieques-beaches-to-visit.html.
Sun Bay Beach is a “balneario” (bathing spot) administered by the Puerto Rico National Parks Program. It’s located in the south coast. This is a beach with restrooms, showers, picnic tables, good parking space, and lifeguards on staff. Camping is only permitted on this beach (permit required). There are many tall palm trees all around. This beach has beautiful light white sand and crystal clear water. The beach has a roped area, to make it safer for visitors who want to enjoy the water.
Esperanza Beach is located in the south coast, to the west of Sun Bay Beach. This is a locals’ favorite, as kids love to jump off the pier nearby into the water. The sand, as Sun Bay, is of light white color and the water is also crystal clear.
Sea Glass Beach (also known as Cofi Beach) is located in the north coast, in the Mulas Bay area. It has some big rocks all around in the sand. It also has many beautiful sea glass pebbles, mixed with rock pebbles, all along the beach shore. The sand, mixed with the pebbles, is of golden yellow color. The water, as the other beaches in Vieques, is crystal clear.
Media Luna Beach is located in the south coast, to the east of Sun Bay. It’s called “media luna” (half moon) because of the shape of the bay where it’s located. This is another local’s favorite, and another beautiful beach. As the others, it has beautiful light white sand and crystal clear water. The shallow shore allows bathers to enjoy a nice day in the water.
Black Sand Beach is located in the southwest coast, to the west of Esperanza. What’s particular about this beach is that the sand is of a dark black color mixed with golden yellow. This is because the nearby Mount Pirata (peak) has volcanic material that gets washed to the sea when it rains. The sand then takes the dark color mixed in with golden yellow sand. To get to this beach, there is a bit of a hike. The water is crystal clear, but it’s not safe for swimmers as tide currents of the Caribbean Sea are strong here.
As I mentioned above, it has been a difficult task to pick only ten beaches, five from each island. If you have the opportunity to visit these beautiful beaches, take advantage of it! I have missed the chances, as I live in Florida and most of my travels to Puerto Rico are to visit family. Beaches are amazing places to admire nature, even if you don’t like to get in the water, or you don’t like beach crowds. There are still many secluded places that, I promise, will amaze you. I am dreaming of visiting soon. Time for my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en Español vea https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/08/04/mi-hermoso-puerto-rico:-playas-de-culebra-y-vieques/