Puerto Rico

The current weather in Culebra

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off the beaten trail-or-cuidado in Culebra
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Author: Bruce Morehouse (
Date:   04-03-06 15:23

Like many posters we're just back from a wonderful week in Culebra. Would that my life usually happened at that pace...

My wife and I stepped off the beaten path to beaches without names and experienced some truly wonderful snorkelling. Big fish, unbelievably beautiful "forests" of fans and gorgonians. She saw a large leatherback and we both saw hawksbills.

There is a small drawback to stepping out though. I THOUGHT I knew what poisonwood looked like, but evidently I wasn't as astute as I had deluded myself. Which is a preamble to relaying that she had a brush in with the tree. At first, we thought it was just those voracious "mi-mehs" (no-see-ums, in our neck of the woods), but as the symptoms grow and the welts are in lines, we think perhaps she had a brush in with the tree.

It is NOT at the Flamenco campground, but it is elsewhere on the island (and ALL of the tropics down there).

Like poison ivy, once you learn to spot it, it jumps out at you like a red light. Until you do learn to spot it, it looks like most every other tree but the acacias.

Here a few links to sites. I just "google imaged" "poisonwood -bible" and found a bunch of hits [you'll also get lots of links for the book "The Poisonwood Bible" -- I lived in a village on the same river Barbara Kingsolver wrote of inthe book--I can relate that her descriptions are quite accurate almost all of the time--it is an incredible read, one of the 10 best, but I digress...]

Theres a nice description/photo of the poisonwood tree at

Go to and search on poisonwood. Note that the bark of the tree can be a lot smoother than shown in that picture, particularly when young.

the one at I believe is incorrect, the veination is NOT depressed like that.

I didn't get a reaction, so maybe I'm just insensitive to it, or she took a different route, or.... On one remote beach, I was all set to put our towels down under the shade of a tree until I looked at the leaves. I then opted for the acacia with less complete shade.

All said and done, I'd still go off the trail, but sooner and more often!-but now I have a better knowledge of the tree. Besides, the tree aint nothing compared to the danger of the sun. It's just part of the tropics. And please, NEVER eat any fruit from the scrub unless you are 1000% sure you know what it is.

Hope you get to enjoy the island as much as, or even more than, we did.


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Re: off the beaten trail-or-cuidado in Culebra
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Author: elena (
Date:   04-03-06 22:22


you said you went to beaches without names, where abouts? i am curious how you got there? did you guys have jeep, drove as far as you could and then started walking? how did you know where you were going?



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Re: off the beaten trail-or-cuidado in Culebra
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Author: Bruce Morehouse (
Date:   04-05-06 08:56


In most cases it was going to the beach and just keep walking well past the sand to the rubble beaches. We'd then snorkel upwards of 2 hours at a time, which put even more territory before our eyes. Some of the most interesting fish were in the less obvious places, like the undercut part of the coral heads (where you have to stick your head into darkness to see anything) and in deeper water (slight negative bouyancy is a big help for these maneuvers).

We also went to Culebrita and snorkelled both on the beach where the boats land (W shore) and the beach to the NW. It was snorkelling in 20-30 feet of water that I saw the largest fish outside of the Luis Pena reserve (that Culebrita reef also had the most alive staghorn coral we saw). A big school of Spanish mackeral swam by. The big leatherback was on the NW beach of Culebrita (and one layed her eggs at night on Flamenco, though we missed that spectacle). I've never seen such a dense population of stoplight parrotfish as off the reef on the western side of the NW Culebrita beach. There were also a few large scrawled file fish. There were conch in the grass too. Otherwise, that beach wasn't strong for snorkelling novelty (but it was, to my opinion, the most beautiful I saw).

We picked our beaches based primarily on surf and wind direction [aiming for the lee], reputation, shade availability, and novelty, sand was not a criterium. I had a hooded 2mm neoprene vest that protected my bald head and back from the sun. With it, and a liberal dosing of SPF 50, I was able to stay in the water for hours without getting cold. It looks a bit goofy, but I sure wish I'd had it in my previous visits to tropical waters. Knowing that I could stay in the water forever, I would just float and watch one spot for extended periods. So much more became visible by just being in one spot. Fish behavior changed and I was able to notice more.

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