Author: Nick & Michelle (---.bstnma.fios.verizon.net)
Date: 04-30-12 19:49
We are gearing this first trip report for the benefit for anyone considering a first time visit to this beautiful island. It is limited to our experience and others may have different experiences to add to it.
GETTING THERE AND BACK: We flew Jetblue direct from Boston and Vieques Air Link from Isla Grande airport to Culebra. The taxi ride between San Juan International and Isla Grande was about 15 minutes. There was no food when we were at Isla Grande, so if you think you'll be hungry, take food/snacks and water with you. On the way back, we had a tight connection, because we were flying back on a Sunday and VAL's earliest flight from Culbra was at 10:30 am. The combined weight of the passengers and luggage was too high, so they sent the passengers over on one palne while sending all our baggage over on another (even though we only had carry on). We were very fortunate to make our tight connection, because our cab driver got us to the other airpot quickly and we did not have to get an agricultural sticker because we only had carry on. Next year we are extending our stay by two days and will be returning on a weekday, when VAL has an earlier flight from Culebra, so we do not have such a tight connection window.
VILLA FLAMENCO BEACH: We stayed in one of six efficiency units, that was very comfortable and right on Flamenco Beach. The owners, Max & Esmeralda, made sure that our stay was a very pleasant one. The grounds are very well maintained and homey. Our unit had a vriable speed fan as well as air conditioning, with plenty of *all screened* windows (a plus that we have not encountered elsewhere in the Carribean). The fan and good ventilation helped us to enjoy the fresh air without having to use the ac at all. Walking right out onto Flamenco Beach was heavenly. Our only minor inconvenience was from Flamenco Beach Villas next door, which was extremelely noisey at night beccause it was the end of Easter & PR college vacation. However, we were able to use airplugs to sleep fine.
JERRY'S JEEPS: Jerry was very informative by giving us a map with his knowledge of the island to supplement the research we had already done. We referred to his information throughout the week to get a good lay of the land. We had a couple of minor issues with the car, which he promptly attended to during our stay. Our car was a solid hardtop Vitara, which we have liked driving in the more rural Caribbean islands like Culebra, since it is rugged and does well on inclines.
ORIENTATION: Jerry also helped us with some simple orientation by using the airport, the orange bridge (that connects the two islands comrpising Culebra), Ensanada Honda, and downtown (where the Ferry comes in) as reference points, when driving and asking for directions. We will be referrng to these as well as landmarks.
MAPS: Most stores have free Culebra maps published by http://www.resortmaps.com/ . We found it helpful to keep one map in the car and another one in our room for reference.
GROCERIES/PROVISIONS: There is a Fruit & Vegetable Truck, that comes on Fridays and is located just beyond the Junior/Senior High School on the right side driving away from the airport.
Supermarcado Costa Del Sol (M-Sat. 7 -7, Sun. 7 -1): Closest to the airport and also has an ATM inside. Look for the small gazebo on the main road and turn up the hill. You will see the store on the right. Watch out for the drainage ditches.
Superette Mayra: Largest selection of food and other items on the island. No parking lot so park on the one way street (going away from the orange bridge) as you start to go down the hill.
Colmado Milka (opens daily at 7 every day): After you go over the orange bridge, take an immediate right and it will be on your right. Second largest grocery store.
Calamado Genesis: On the road to Zoni beach (take left at airport intersection if going toward town), look for a white painted rock with red lettering and take a left to get to the store. Not as well stocked but one of the only places opened on holidays.
Note: There is no Pharmacy or drug stores on island - bring enough meds if you require them.
GASOLINE: We used Daikiti Gulf station (behind Susie's restaurant), which opens daily at 7:30. It is easier to maneuver in and out of than the gas station by the ferry dock.
LAUNDRY: We were able to rinse a few things out each day at the room. However, if needed, you can use Cathy's Laundry 787-742-0062 (left before Genesis). Cathy rents out bikes.
ATM's: Most places take credit cards. If you need cash, one ATM is located downtown outside the bank (on the left side of the street when driving to the ferry dock) and another ATM is located at Supermarcado Costa Del Sol (up a side street with a small gazebo on the corner and across from the airport).
CHAIRS: When going off to other beaches, if you do not wish to lay on the sand or rocks, you will need beach chairs. Some kiosks at the Flamenco Parking lot will rent them to you for the week. You can also purchase flimsy sand chairs at Suprette Mayra and at LaCava gifts (same street as Suprette Mayra going toward the airport). More elaborate/comfortable chairs are available for purchase at the Tent City kiosk off of the Flamenco Beach parking lot.
HOSPITAL: One of us could not drain the water out of our left ear after snorkeling one day, so we dicided to go to the doctor to get it flushed out. The hospital is just outside of town, and has a walk-in area and an emergency wing. There is one doctor on call so be prepared to wait, especially if an emergency comes in which takes higher priority. We had a 2 hour wait before we were seen because an emergency came in while were waiting. When it was our turn they were very efficient in helping us out.
RESTAURANTS: If sitting outside, it is a good idea to have some bug spray handy. We rotated between the four restaurants listed below:
Susie's (closed Mondays): We found Susie's the most creative, http://www.susiesculebra.com/Winter-Menu.html . Reservations are a must: 787-742-0574 (casayaboaculebra@ gmail.com). Susie, Jacinto and Kate run the place. Right down the street from Calmado Milka.
El Eden (6 pm to 9 dinner, call for days closed): El Eden sells sandwiches and liquor by day and does dinner at night with a varied menu. It's best to make a reservation. 787-742-0509, 787-617-8517. As you go down the road past Colmado Milka, make a left when you see the yellow tank in the distance (this is El Eden). We enjoyed El Eden a lot. The owners, Luz & Bill were very welcoming.
Zacos Tacos (closed Thur. & Friday): Mexican food, http://www.zacostacos.com/menu/. No need to make reservation. Park on the main road as you pass Suprette Mayra or you will have to back out of the road that Zacos Tacos is on, since you cannot turn around. Bring bug spray for their outdoor seating. We feasted economically on very creative Mexican dishes.
Mamacitas (closed Thursdays, opens at 6 pm for dinner): They do not take reservations and they fill up fast, so it is best to get there right at 6 pm to get a table if you want to avoid a wait. Mamacitas is very noisy on the weekends so we went during the week. On the one way street on the way to the orange bridge. We are looking forward to trying it again next year.
ICE CREAM (unpredictable hours): There is a small place next to Carlos's Jeeps that makes fresh waffle cones and has a good variety of flavors. The praline pecan was one of our favorites.
WINE: El Eden has a wide selection of wines (see restaurants for directions).
BEACHES: Some are accessible via road and others require a hike. Flamenco is the only beach with facilities.
Brava: Getting to this beach will be a test of physical endurance since you have to hike there. This beach has rough surf, so it is a favorite of surfers.
Carlos Rosario: About a twenty-five minute hike from Flamenco parking lot and does not attract as much crowd. There is very good snorkeling here right off of the beach and further up to the right side where there is an underwater coral wall. We are planning on taking a snorkeling excursion there next year, since it is such a hike.
Flamenco: It is shaped like a giant "U". Looking north, the left side has public parking, food and beach gear kiosks, facilities and camping. The middle is a wide expanse. The right side has old shark pens where you enter the water and snorkel on the reef to its right side. We spent the majority of our time here and were mesmerized by its beauty.
Melones: The closest to town of all Culebra beaches. You can park against the concrete wall. There is very little shade. The water is good for snorkeling, especially on the right side of the beach beyond the picnic table. You can enter the water by the picnic table tree, where is is more sandy area and float over the rocks to avoid hurting your feet. There is also another beach area to the left side before reaching the concrete wall.
Tamarindo: A terrific spot for snorkeling and we enjoyed it immensely. On the road coming from the airport, look for a yellow house on the left side and a Kayaking sign for the access road. There is shade and open area. When you look out at the water from the parking lot, you will see some mooring buoys. If you look diagonally out to the left, you can use two mooring buoys as a target. That area is where the turtles can be seen. They usually swim where the sand meets the underwater grass. You will also see stingrays and other varieties of fish. Luis Pena is across the bay and can be reached via kayak or water taxi. We will be ordering an underwater housing for our digital camera so we can take pics/videos next year of the beautiful sealife.
Zoni: Located on a path much less traveled on the extreme eastern part of Culebra (about a 20 minute drive from the airport, take left at airport intersection if going toward town). Bring snacks and lots of water. This long and narrow beach is adorned with palm trees and a good view of the lighthouse on the island Culebrita. There is a very steep road approach and limited parking. Most cars park on this steep access road making it even more difficult to turn around at the parking lot and come out. It is best to turn around and park at the top of the hill and walk down to the beach.
EXCURSIONS: We found out late in the week that Gammy's Water Tours offers snorkeling trips to Luis Pena, Culebrita and Carlos Rosaro. Grohlsen@yahoo.com, 787-423-2469. We will probably check him out next year, since we want to go to Luis Pena and Culibrita to snorkel.
Kayaks are available to rent at Tamarindo Beach.
Downtown by the ferry dock there are also snorkeling and dive places.
Tweezers: There can be small burrs under the sand, that leave little spikes on the underside of your feet. A pair of tweezers that will remove splinters will help.
Ear Cleaner/Flusher: One of us had to go to the hospital, after snorkeling one day, to clear out water that refused to drain from one ear. CVS and Walgreens sells something for "diver's ear" that will help avoid a long wait at Culebra's hopital (see hospital notes above).
Cellphone Reception: You will have to drive around to find enough bars for a call. We found the Flamenco beach area not good and airport better for reception.
PICS: Here are some pics of our week:
We hope that this trip report will come in handy to anyone considering visiting Culebra.
Next year cannot come fast enough:)
Nick & Michelle