Vieques and Culebra

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  • 1. Isla Culebrita

    Part of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Culebra, uninhabited Isla Culebrita is clearly visible from the northeast corner of Culebra. An essential day-trip...

    Part of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Culebra, uninhabited Isla Culebrita is clearly visible from the northeast corner of Culebra. An essential day-trip excursion, this islet is a favorite destination for sunbathers, snorkelers, and boating enthusiasts. Isolation amid a palette of crystalline, turquoise waters, and dewy, lush greens makes for a one-of-a-kind natural experience. On weekends and holidays however, the island can get crowded. On the northern shore there are several tidal pools; snuggling into one of them is like taking a warm bath. Snorkelers and divers love that they can reach the reef from the shore and carouse with sea turtles, rays, and schools of colorful fish. Bring your sneakers: in about 20–30 minutes you can hike to the islet's peak, where the spectacular ruins of an old lighthouse await. Views of the surrounding Caribbean are sublime from the top of the structure, but you may not be able to climb its 54 steps; the lighthouse is currently being restored. Several tour operators offer excursions to the island.

    Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
  • 2. Pata Prieta

    Beach

    The not-so-secret Secret Beach is a heavenly cove for those seeking privacy. This tiny yet beautiful horseshoe-shape stretch of sand, reached...

    The not-so-secret Secret Beach is a heavenly cove for those seeking privacy. This tiny yet beautiful horseshoe-shape stretch of sand, reached via a rambling dirt road, is calm and secluded. You can find yourself completely alone or in the company of just a few couples embracing in the crystal clear water. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude; snorkeling; swimming.

    Off Rte. 997, east of Playa Caracas, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 3. Playa Flamenco

    Consistently ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, this stretch has snow-white sands, turquoise waters, and lush hills rising on all sides....

    Consistently ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, this stretch has snow-white sands, turquoise waters, and lush hills rising on all sides. During the week, it's pleasantly uncrowded; on weekends it fills up with day-trippers from the mainland. With kiosks selling simple dishes and vendors for lounge-chair and umbrella rentals, it's easy to make a day of it. There's great snorkeling past the old dock. Tanks on the northern end of the beach are a reminder that the area was once a military base. Amenities: food and drink; parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

    Rte. 251, Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
    787-742–0700
  • 4. Puerto Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay

    Body Of Water/Waterfall

    East of Esperanza, Puerto Mosquito is one of the world's best spots for a glow-in-the-dark experience with undersea dinoflagellates—microorganisms...

    East of Esperanza, Puerto Mosquito is one of the world's best spots for a glow-in-the-dark experience with undersea dinoflagellates—microorganisms that light up when the water around them is agitated. Local operators offer kayak trips or excursions on nonpolluting boats to see the bay's light show. Look behind your boat at the twinkling wake. Even the fish that swim through and jump from the water bear an eerie glow. The high concentration of dinoflagellates sets the bay apart from other spots (including in Puerto Rico) that are home to these microorganisms. The experience is best when there's little or no moonlight; rainy nights are beautiful, too, because drops hitting the water produce ricochets that shimmer like diamonds. Note that licensed operators are prohibited from leading tours on the day before, during, and after a full moon.

    Unpaved roads off Rte. 997, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 5. Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Culebra

    Commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's oldest. The total protected area comprises some 1,500...

    Commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is one of the nation's oldest. The total protected area comprises some 1,500 acres of the island. It's a lure for hikers and bird-watchers: Culebra teems with seabirds, from laughing gulls and roseate terns to red-billed tropic birds and sooty terns. Maps of trails in the refuge are hard to come by, but you can stop by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office east of the airport to find out about trail conditions and determine whether you're headed to an area that requires a permit. The office also can tell you whether the leatherback turtles are nesting. From mid-April to mid-July, volunteers help monitor and tag these creatures, which nest on nearby beaches, especially Playa Resaca and Playa Brava.

    Rte. 250, Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
    787-742–0115
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  • 6. Balneario Sun Bay

    Beach

    Just east of Esperanza, this mile-long stretch of sand skirts a perfect crescent-shape bay. Dotted with picnic tables, this beach gets packed...

    Just east of Esperanza, this mile-long stretch of sand skirts a perfect crescent-shape bay. Dotted with picnic tables, this beach gets packed on holidays and weekends. On weekdays, when crowds are thin, you might see wild horses grazing among the palm trees. There is a small fee for parking, but often there is no one at the gate to take your money. Amenities: food and drink; parking (fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

    Rte. 997, Esperanza, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
    787-741–8198

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Parking $2, Closed Mon. and Tues. in low season
  • 7. Cayo Luis Peña

    A kayak is a great way to reach Cayo Luis Peña, an islet just off the western edge of Culebra. There are a handful of...

    A kayak is a great way to reach Cayo Luis Peña, an islet just off the western edge of Culebra. There are a handful of protected beaches where you can soak up the sun and not run into a single soul. Cayo Luis Peña is also part of the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Culebra (Culebra National Wildlife Refuge).

    Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
  • 8. El Faro Punta Mulas

    Nautical Site/Lighthouse

    This Spanish-built lighthouse above the ferry dock in Isabel Segunda dates from 1895. It was built to guide vessels into the harbor, which is...

    This Spanish-built lighthouse above the ferry dock in Isabel Segunda dates from 1895. It was built to guide vessels into the harbor, which is surrounded by a chain of dangerous reefs. Its red light is rumored to be visible from as far away as St. Croix and St. Thomas. In 1992, the elegant structure was carefully restored and transformed into a maritime museum that traces much of the island's history, including the visit by South American liberation leader Simón Bolívar. The tiny museum is open weekdays, but the lighthouse itself is worth a look any day.

    End of Rte. 200, Isabel Segunda, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed weekends
  • 9. El Fortín Conde de Mirasol

    Military Sight

    On the island's northern coast, above Isabel Segunda, is the last military structure built by the Spanish in the New World. It was erected in...

    On the island's northern coast, above Isabel Segunda, is the last military structure built by the Spanish in the New World. It was erected in 1840 at the order of Count Mirasol, then governor of Puerto Rico. Although it's tiny, it took more than a decade to complete, which meant Mirasol had to repeatedly ask for more money. (Queen Isabel, on being petitioned yet again, asked Mirasol whether the walls were made of gold.) The hilltop fort helped solidify Spanish control of the area, keeping British, French, Dutch, and Danish colonists away and dissuading pirates from attacking Isabel Segunda. In 1991, after sitting empty for several decades, it was transformed into a museum with a good array of artifacts from the Taíno and other cultures that thrived on this and nearby islands before the arrival of the Spanish. It also has an impressive collection of small arms, plus exhibits on the island's years as a sugar plantation and its occupation by the U.S. Navy. On occasion, it presents temporary exhibitions of works by contemporary artists.

    Calle El Fuerte, Isabel Segunda, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
    787-741–1717

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $2, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 10. Malecón

    Promenade

    In the evening, there's no better way to enjoy the sunset than a stroll along Esperanza's 200-yard-long Malecón, a waterfront walkway running...

    In the evening, there's no better way to enjoy the sunset than a stroll along Esperanza's 200-yard-long Malecón, a waterfront walkway running the length of the beach.

    Esperanza, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 11. Museo El Polvorín

    If the collection of this museum underwhelms, take a close look at the photo album next to the visitor log to see how much community...

    If the collection of this museum underwhelms, take a close look at the photo album next to the visitor log to see how much community spirit and sweat went into the restoration of El Polvorín, a former U.S. military munitions building, constructed in 1905. It reopened in 2008 as a museum, but not without an enormous amount of effort; the structure was little more than a shell. Today, it houses a small but interesting collection of objects and photos that tell the island's history (don't miss the story of Puerto Rico's first female mayor), along with several TVs with interesting oral history–based documentaries on loop.

    Rte. 250, Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
    787-617–8517

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $1
  • 12. Playa Caracas

    Beach

    One of the first stretches of sand east of Esperanza, this well-maintained beach boasts covered cabañas for lounging. Less rustic than other...

    One of the first stretches of sand east of Esperanza, this well-maintained beach boasts covered cabañas for lounging. Less rustic than other nearby beaches, it is sheltered from waves. Amenities: parking (no fee); toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming; walking.

    Off Rte. 997, , Vieques, Puerto Rico
  • 13. Playa Esperanza

    Beach

    People staying in any of the inexpensive accommodations in Esperanza can simply walk across the road to this beach. There's good snorkeling...

    People staying in any of the inexpensive accommodations in Esperanza can simply walk across the road to this beach. There's good snorkeling across the bay around Cayo Afuera, an uninhabited islet, and by the derelict pier. Manatees are occasionally spotted here, as well as barracudas and nurse sharks. If you're looking for swimming or sunbathing, keep moving; there are much better beaches nearby. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; walking.

    Esperanza Malecón, Esperanza, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 14. Playa La Chiva

    Beach

    Some consider this the most beautiful beach on Vieques. It has a handful of covered cabañas with individual parking spots, so guests can claim...

    Some consider this the most beautiful beach on Vieques. It has a handful of covered cabañas with individual parking spots, so guests can claim their own personal stretch of sand and survey an expansive, tranquil horizon. Beware of strong surf in some spots. Amenities: none. Best for: solitude; walking.

    Off Rte. 997, 4 km (2½ miles) east of Esperanza, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 15. Playa Media Luna

    Beach

    Ideal for families because the water is calm and shallow, this is also a good spot to try snorkeling. There are no facilities. Amenities: none...

    Ideal for families because the water is calm and shallow, this is also a good spot to try snorkeling. There are no facilities. Amenities: none. Best for: families; snorkeling; swimming.

    Off Rte. 997, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 16. Playa Melones

    Just west of Dewey, this is a favorite spot for snorkelers. The reef that runs around the rocky point is easy to reach from shore....

    Just west of Dewey, this is a favorite spot for snorkelers. The reef that runs around the rocky point is easy to reach from shore. Locals swear this is the best place for sunsets, too. To get here, head uphill on the unmarked road behind the church. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; swimming.

    Camino Vecinal, Dewey, Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
  • 17. Playa Zoni

    On the island's northeastern end, this beach is long and narrow—perfect for afternoon strolls. From the shore you can catch a glimpse of Isla Culebrita,...

    On the island's northeastern end, this beach is long and narrow—perfect for afternoon strolls. From the shore you can catch a glimpse of Isla Culebrita, as well as St. Thomas and St. Croix. Leatherback turtles nest here. Note that there is a gravel parking lot, but it's small; it won't fit more than a dozen Jeeps at a time. Amenities: parking (no fee). Best for: swimming; walking.

    End of Rte. 250, Culebra, 00775, Puerto Rico
  • 18. Punta Arenas

    Beach

    On the western edge of the island, at the end of a long unpaved road marred by potholes, this beach faces the Vieques Passage. Miles of coral...

    On the western edge of the island, at the end of a long unpaved road marred by potholes, this beach faces the Vieques Passage. Miles of coral reef just offshore attract snorkelers and divers, but caution is required due to strong currents. From the shore you can catch a glimpse of El Yunque on the mainland. Amenities: none. Best for: snorkeling; solitude.

    Off Rte. 200, at western end of Rte. 994, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
  • 19. Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust

    Museum/Gallery

    The Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust was established to help save Puerto Mosquito, one of the last remaining bioluminescent bays...

    The Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust was established to help save Puerto Mosquito, one of the last remaining bioluminescent bays in the world. The small museum, located on the main drag in Esperanza, has interesting information about the bay, as well as the island's flora and fauna and history. A little pool lets kids get acquainted with starfish, sea urchins, and other denizens of the not-so-deep. There's also a tiny gift shop, the profits from which are funneled back into the foundation. Call ahead if you're coming at lunchtime, as the place is sometimes closed for an hour or more. If you're interested in history and architecture, ask about a guided tour of the Playa Grande sugar mill ruins.

    138 Calle Flamboyán, Esperanza, Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
    787-741–8850

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Suggested donation $3, Closed Sun.
  • 20. Vieques National Wildlife Refuge

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    A portion of the west and the entire eastern end of the island is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Vieques National...

    A portion of the west and the entire eastern end of the island is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. With almost 18,000 acres, it's Puerto Rico's biggest protected natural reserve; in 2015, it was voted the fourth best refuge in the entire Fish and Wildlife system. Many of the beaches on the northern and southern coasts—where an asphalt road leads to six of them—are open to the public. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are allowed on designated trails. Fishing (both shore and from kayak), swimming, snorkeling, and diving are also permitted in designated zones. Much, though not all, of the eastern region is pristine, astonishingly beautiful, and well forested, with a hilly center region overlooking powder-white sandy beaches and a coral-ringed coastline. Some of the refuge—including 900 acres that once served as a naval bombing range—remains off-limits to visitors, though, as authorities continue to search for unexploded munitions and contaminants, the byproducts of the area's 60 years as a military base.

    Rte. 997, Km 3.2, , Vieques, 00765, Puerto Rico
    787-741–2138

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