If you need a reason to hire a water taxi, Isla Culebrita (Culebrita Island) is it. This small island, just east of Playa Zoni, is part of the national wildlife refuge. With its six beaches, tide pools, reefs and nesting areas for seabirds, Isla Culebrita has changed little in the past 500 years.
The north beaches, especially the long crescent of Playa Tortuga, are popular nesting grounds for green sea turtles – you might even see them swimming near the reefs just offshore.
The Isla is also home to Faro Culebrita. Built in 1886, it was one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the Caribbean when it was shut down by the US Navy in 1975. Currently in ruins, it is earmarked for extensive repairs. A well-marked path leads you there – the lighthouse itself is off-limits but the vistas are picture-postcard perfect.
Bring a lot of water, sunscreen and a hat if you head for Isla Culebrita – there's little shade here. And don't forget snacks and snorkel gear!
How to get to Isla Culebrita
Unless you've chartered a boat (or have your own), round-trip water taxis from Culebra are the only way to see Isla Culebrita. These cost around US$65 per person, including beach gear, hammock and snorkel set.
There are a number of reliable water taxis who will take you to Isla Culebrita, but if they are booked, you'll often find captains along Dewey's waterfront.
H2O Water Taxi
Captain German offers round-trip boat service to Culebra's nearby cays. Beach and snorkel gear often included in his rates. Phone 787-685-5815 or email email@example.com.
Cayo Norte Water Taxi
Licensed Captain Louis Padrón offers tours and water-taxi services to Isla Culebrita, Cayo Norte and Cayo Luis Peña. Phone 787-376-9988.
Can I stay on Isla Culebrita?
As Isla Culebrita is uninhabited, there are isn't anywhere else to sleep on the island. The nearest hotels are on Culebra.
There are several beaches on the island, though most people will only visit one or two in a day.
This is where the majority of water taxis from Culebra Island will moor up. It's a lovely narrow stretch of twinkling sand on the west of the island.
Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach)
The diamond-dust sands of this crescent-shaped beach on the north coast is used by sea turtles as a breeding ground, hence its name. At the head of the beach are a number of rocks which absorb the waves and create warm tidal pools, known locally as the Jacuzzi.
Strong winds and undercurrents can mean that Trash Beach lives up to its name — it's where flotsam, jetsam, driftwood and plastic tends to end up if the conditions are right.
However, this isn't always the case. If you're lucky, it's a glorious stretch of isolated sand on the east of the island where the waves can boom theatrically.
Although it's close to Trash Beach, this smaller slice of paradise doesn't suffer from the same issues and has a decent pedigree among snorkelers. You'll also find two of the lagoons nearby.
This secluded stretch of shoreline is the least visited, but affords some of the best snorkeling.
Cayo Luis Peña
It may be less visited than Isla Culebrita, but Cayo Luis Peña can be a good, cheaper alternative. You’ll pass this small cay of peaks, rocks, forests and coves just a few minutes before the ferry arrives at Culebra’s dock.
This island is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge and has a collection of small sheltered beaches and snorkeling all around the island. Luis Peña is a short kayak or water-taxi trip (fares from US$40 per person) from Culebra.