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  • Writer's pictureIan Kopp

Going Back in Time... A Charter Visit to Culebrita and Culebra

Updated: Apr 6

Cruising sailors and bareboat charters alike flock to the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands every winter.  And for good reason.  There is a long history of great sailing, beautiful beaches, and the ever-present rum bar.  All of which are certainly not to be missed.  But have you considered the Spanish Virgin Islands?  After 30-years visiting the BVI and USVI, we finally made the trek… and it was well worth it.


Set sail from the shores of St. Thomas and venture into a realm of pristine beauty, where crystal clear waters meet powder-white beaches and history whispers in the breeze. The journey to Culebrita and Culebra in Puerto Rico is not just a passage; it's a step back in time to what the Virgin Islands used to be.


Culebrita, a hidden gem among the Spanish Virgin Islands, awaits with its unspoiled beaches and wilderness.  Of course, do not discount the warnings about unexploded ordinance… stay on the paths as you enjoy!  As your boat reaches its shores, you're greeted by the sight of Playa Tortuga, a crescent-shaped stretch of sand backed by swaying palms. Drop anchor and immerse yourself in the serenity, where time seems to slow down, and worries drift away with the tide.  If a bit crowded and noisy with jet skis and day trippers, do not worry, they will leave as the sun sets, and you will have the beaches much to yourself, like we did.  And if Playa Tortuga is too rolly for an overnight, jump around to the west side of the island to Punte Arenisca… you will not be disappointed.


One of the highlights of Culebrita is the hike to its historic Spanish lighthouse. Perched atop rugged cliffs, this relic from the past offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, a testament to the island's rich maritime heritage.  Still today you can see this testimony to Spanish architecture, with the ornate brickwork and tiles.


Then on to Culebra.  While the town of Ensenada Honda is certainly fun to visit, with great restaurants lining the small boat canal that links the east and west side of the island,  it's beneath the waves where Culebra truly shines. The west side of the island boasts some of the most pristine snorkeling spots in the Virgin Islands, where vibrant coral reefs and fans teem with life.  Pick any of the bays on this side of island and you will be greeted with colorful fish darting among coral formations.  And if you are lucky, you will also see sea turtles gliding effortlessly, and elusive octopuses hiding among rocky crevices. It's a world of beauty and tranquility, where every moment beneath the surface is a revelation.  Maybe it's a testament to conservation efforts… maybe a demonstration of what too much tourism has done to the reefs elsewhere in the Virgin Islands… or most likely a bit of both. 

So as you plan your next winter sailing vacation, on your own charter or cruise, or maybe with the crew of Sailing Whiffle, consider the beaches and underwater beauty of Culebra and Culebrita.  But do us a favor… make every effort to leave it untouched by your visit.  We hope to find it the same as it is today for visitors arriving 30-years from now.

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