For years, we have heard about the wondrous beauty of a small island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico called Culebra. It has been on our itinerary, even before we started cruising. All that waiting made our arrival in Culebra that much more exciting.
On the way, we only made a couple of stops, one in Cayo Santiago, aka Monkey Island, and another in Vieques to break up the trip. Monkey Island is an uninhabited, free-range monkey research facility still in use. We learned a lot about it in this NPR article. While you are not allowed to go ashore, both for your safety and the health of the monkeys, we were able to get close to shore and the monkeys came down off the hill to greet us and pose for pictures. Unfortunately, we did not explore Vieques because of unfavorable southern winds, so after only a brief overnight stop, we set sail for Culebra.
Culebra has a huge cove, Ensenada Honda, with multiple anchorages and mooring fields. We threaded the narrow cove entrance and found several open moorings in a small outer harbor called Dakity. We were surprised at the popularity of this mooring field, considering it is a long dinghy ride to town; that is, until we spent the night surrounded by the lush mountains in perfectly still water, and woke up to what has been described as nature’s infinity pool.
The next morning, we eagerly lowered Lagniappe into the water and went to explore what the locals simply call “town.” It is officially named Dewey, but nobody here calls it that. We had a lunch date with a cruiser couple, Sue and Rick aboard s/v Orion. Culebra is their home port and Kimberly had reached out to them on Facebook to acquire some local knowledge. We definitely asked the right people. Sue and Rick showed us all around town and gave us a history lesson of this island paradise.
Although small, “town” had everything we needed and is a warm, picturesque place with friendly locals and many expatriates that have made it their home. It even has a well-stocked library that shows movies every now and then, and serves as the monthly veterinary clinic.
“Town” also has an excellent history museum with artifacts dating back to several centuries BC. No mention of Culebra’s history is complete, however, without discussing the U.S. Naval occupation of most of the island and the displacement of local families to use this paradise as a bombing range for decades. It was not until locals organized and rose up in protest in the 1960s and 1970s that the U.S. stopped bombing the island. But the lingering clean-up of dangerous unexploded ordnance still continues to this day.
Despite Culebra being an astonishingly beautiful island, the locals take day trips to several smaller nearby islands; the favorites are Cayo Luis Peña and Culebrita. Just a few miles away, both of these stunning islands are an easy sail away from Ensenada Honda.
Our planned visit to Culebrita coincided with the schedule of our friends Crystal and Rob, and their two pups, Jayla and Baxter, aboard s/v Kairos. We anchored nearby and spend an evening with our friends on election night aboard Pura Vida in blissful ignorance.
The entire Island of Culebrita is an uninhabited nature reserve. The only man-made structure on the island is the ruins of a massive, old, brick lighthouse that now serves as a home for herds of roaming goats.
The waters are crystal clear, coral is plentiful, and there are several scenic beaches lined with palm trees. There are also rock formations on the north end of the island that allow big waves from the Atlantic Ocean to crash through a narrow passage into several natural bubbly pools. Aaahhhhh…this is truly a slice of paradise!