Author: Jeff (---.178.30.71.dynamic.ip.windstream.net)
Date: 08-27-08 21:06
Trip notes to Culebra.
First time post. This forum was so helpful to me planning my trip, I owe it to the forum and future travelers to post results of a recent trip.
This was one of the most complicated trips to set-up just due to travel arrangements. I probably made it harder than it needed to be taking so much time to investigate different options.
We arrived at San Juan at 8:30 a.m. We rented a car to Fajardo with Leaseway. It is off the airport, closed Sundays, and limited working hours. It worked for this leg of the journey, but did not work for our return trip when we came back on Sunday. Coming back, we rented with Cabrera in Fajardo and dropped in San Juan. It all worked out. Good cars and all, but I was not impressed with the service. I had an early a.m. flight home on Tuesday, so had to switch to Budget for my last day to drive around San Juan to get a company that was open 24 hours. Cabrera would only take the car back from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. That obviously wouldn't work for a 6:30 .am. flight.
We flew Flamenco air from Fajardo to Culebra. Way more expensive than the Ferry, but worth the experience at least one way. We have dive gear, so we were charged $60 extra bucks for weight. Ouch. We got to the island about 1:00 p.m. Before the trip, I couldn't get ahold of the ferry reservations to save my life. The ferry office doesn't open until 2:00 p.m. for the 3:00 p.m. ferry, so the prospect of waiting in a hot line without moving led a last minute decision to catch the noon flight on Famenco.
Jerry at Jerry's jeeps was great. His jeeps have just the right character for this island. He gave us a personal tour of the main roads, warned us about tire damage and got us set-up with Taz, our dive captain. I'm sure it's personal opinion, but I wouldn't even consider going to the island without transportation.
We stayed at Casa Robinson. It was as advertised. The room was spartan, but very clean and updated. Only the kitchenette was aged. You could only see out the frosted windows when they were open. There was always a very nice breeze, so windows were open often. The view was very serene. Felt very private. AC was fantastic. Was quiet and strong. Fridge and microwave worked well. Sink was a little old and rickety. No stove. The room was furnished with some relaxing and comfortable chairs, a newer futon, and a nice queen bed. Shower was hot and strong. Dueno was cordial, helpful, but "out-of-the way". Wireless access was free and worked great, which was a great news for my two teenage travelling companions. They could still use Facebook :)
We dove with Aquatic Adventures every day. Taz is the man. He's the captain, divermaster, etc. We left at 9:30 returned about 2:30. We were the only three on the boat. We brought gear, but didn't need to. He had everything including wet-suits and the price of $80/diver/day included everything. His gear was in great shape, Scubapro stuff, so if we did it again, I'd probably only bring my dive computer and leave everything else at home.
Taz did all the set-up take-down and kept our gear all week.
He's a real nice guy, an experienced captain. His boat is a nice boat and rivals those from much bigger operations. Only suggestion to anyone that dives with him is to make sure you follow the buddy rules. He fins up in front and rarely checks back on your air consumption. Most dives were fine, but I've never been close to runnning out before and I actually did on this dive and my buddy was so intent staying on his heels that I could get his attention or Taz's.
Diving was pretty good depending on your comparison. My son, who had only done gulf diving thought it was fantastic. However, there was not a ton of fish-say in comparison to Bonaire, but enough variety to be quite enjoyable. Very little big stuff like in Amergris, but a few sharks and rays again kept it interesting. Good visibility, lots of very healthy soft coral. Relatively shallow (and safe diving). It was great for my young divers. The first dives tended to be in more exposed places and the entry to exit from the boat was sometimes rough. Second dives were always on leeward side after a very satisfying lunch. There was usually a current, but since the boat was anchored, we had to fight it for at least half the dive. But no where near as strong as Cozumel.
Very few restraunts. Some were closed. Mamacitas and Susies lived up to their reputations although I'd give Susies the nod for their steak over Mamacitas.
Bring mosquito repellant! I didn't have a problem, but my kids sure did.
Island is not really much of a tourist mecca. Roads were cut up everywhere due to sewer project. However, this forum accurately represented the island. It turned out to be the place we expected and we had a great adventure.
BTW, I can't imagine renting a scooter or mountain bike on the roads over there. Hopefully, they get the roads patched soon, but in their current conditions, it would be a dangerous proposition.
Grocery stores were very modest, but had essentials including toiletries. If you plan on doing your own cooking, you may want to bring some things.
Sunday, we caught the early ferry (6:30 .am.) Jerry worked with us on the jeep return. Thanks Jerry.
Ferry ride was a relaxing time. I recommend it. Particularly the early one since numbers were sparse and we caught the rising sun.
I strongly recommend the rain forest in El Yunque. Well worth renting the car in Fajardo (Leaseway, Thrify, or Cabrera) with a drop later in San Juan. I wouldn't waste your time or money on the welcome center. Bring good shoes!! The trails are very rough. We climbed El Yunque peak. Tough 5 mile hike, but well worth it.
Old San Juan castles are worth the trip to see them. Isla Verde by the San Juan airport is a nice stopping point for catching early flights. It's on the beach and has a Cancun feel to it.
Hope this helps someone plan a good trip. Thanks to all those on previous posts.