Author: Jen (---.ugo.com)
Date: 03-07-06 14:12
[WARNING: Long post ahead!]
We just returned to NYC after 4 wonderful days on Culebra. After a couple days in San Juan, we flew Air Flamenco from Isla Grande ($50/person), great views from that point! We rented a car from Jerry's Jeeps. All the forums about Jerry's friendliness, helpful map and generous intro to the island are all true, he was great. Watch out for the barbed-wire like bushes all over the island, those things will destroy tires.
We stayed at Casablanca Condo. It was a nice little 1-bedroom condo with a small kitchen and bathroom (shower only, we couldn't get the water hot, but it was never ice cold), and a/c units. Not the most posh of accomodations, but we didn't come to Culebra for luxury, so it was fine. Only a few blocks from the airport, so if you could do without a car. Bikes would be suffficient to get you to Flamenco Beach and around town, but I would not recommend riding to Zoni Beach (more on that later).
Town of Dewey (where the bulk of the stores & restaruants/bars are) was within walking distance, about a 10 minute walk. Everything about the island has a small-town feel, after a couple of days, you know your way around and start recognizing people. It's very charming. There are roosters everywhere, no need for alarm clocks! Mosquitos everywhere too (mostly at night), so if you are like me and popular with the little draculas, bring some good repellent.
We spent 2 leisurely days at Flamenco Beach, definitely one of the prettiest beaches I've ever seen (I'm originally from CA, have travelled to Hawaii, Thailand, Bahamas), and during the week, not crowded at all. Then we decided to get a little exercise and rent bikes. Dick and Cathie's is a great service, they dropped them off at our place, but the bikes are old, and the one I had wouldn't hold a gear on the hills. This made our goal of riding to Zoni Beach nearly impossible under the blazing sun. I don't recommend this unless you are in pretty good shape AND you have a solid bike. However, once you get over that last (super steep) hill, the views are amazing. Zoni was even less populated than Flamenco! The road to it is rather steep though, so a car (or scooter) is the way to go.
We also went snorkeling at Soldier's Point, on the other side of the island. Fairly remote, and very rocky and unpaved at the end of the road (we were worried our car wouldn't make it, since it wasn't 4WD, so we parked at the end of the paved road and hiked down about a quarter mile). However it was beautiful and didn't have many people, so if felt fairly secluded. Lots of beautiful coral, plants, and a variety of fish. We didn't get a chance to check out the numerous other snorkeling spots around the island, but I highly recommend this activity while you're here. We rented gear from Culebra Divers.
And lastly, the food. We had burgers at Coconuts Beach Grill (at Flamenco), multiple meals at Dinghy Dock (sit along the water to see the giant fish) and Mamacita's (iguanas come looking for handouts, but you're not allowed to feed them). Both serve sandwiches and burgers for lunch, seafood and grilled meats for dinner, nothing spectacular, but you go for the atmosphere, and the bars (try the Iguana Colada at Mamacita's). We also got great sandwiches at El Eden, the liquor store (which closes at 6pm, so stock your fridge early!), and picked up snacks at the little grocery stores. Good produce is just not there, so set your expectations. We were disappointed in the lack of quality fresh fruit. Cafe Isola was recommended, but was never open when we tried to go. If you're looking for Puerto Rican food, La Bahia serves mofongo and a great whole fish, but the mariscada had fake crab and some kind of hotdog-like sausage. Our last night we were fortunate enough to eat at Juanita Banana's. I highly recommend this. Only open Fri-Mon, and since it's located up a very dark hill, you feel like you're in a treehouse, with clear view of the stars. Food was a completely different quality than anything else we found here, just wonderful. It's more expensive than the other places, but worth it, I thought. Veggies from their own garden, a great variety in the menu, and delicious, well-prepared meals.
Just a note about restaurants - they weren't cheap. Breakfasts were in the $6 range, lunch in the $9 range, and dinner around $17, not including drinks. Not all restaurants have bars or liquor licenses, so some are BYO. Dinghy Dock and Mamacita's have fun bars, and Juanita B's serves beer and wine.
We flew back to San Juan on Isla Nena, which is a little more expensive ($85/person), but it was our only option with the timing of our flight home. If you fly Isla Nena, just know that there isn't someone manning the desk, so don't panic. They usually come in with the incoming flight. And they don't seem to run on schedule - we had a 1pm flight out of Culebra, and the plane coming to get us from Vieques didn't even arrive until 1:30! So allow yourself a cushion of time when connecting to another flight. The convencie here was that we flew into SJU so we didn't have to transfer airports.
An amazing vacation overall, I'm so brown right now, I can't believe people recognize me. Breathtaking beaches, funny little quirks (to us city-folk) such as roosters in the road, random horses, and lunching with iguanas. We had a wonderful time, and I definitely recommend a stay on Culebra to all PR visitors!