We went to Culebra to “get away from it all.” We chose an island off the beaten track so we could exhale, explore, indulge in sunshine and nature, and enjoy without being around hordes of others in a heavily commercialized place. To pursue this idea even further we decided to spend a day exploring an even smaller, more secluded place: Culebrita (little Culebra), an uninhabited island to Culebra’s east. Upon the suggestion of the dive shop employee (hint, always ask at the dive shop for suggestions) we called Captain Sebastian and he agreed to show us around Culebrita on our last full day of vacation. We assured him we were “Four healthy people in our 30’s who wanted to snorkel, hike and relax on the beach.” Sebastian was about our age and the son of a yacht delivery captain who grew up throughout the Caribbean. Culebra is most definitely Sebastian’s home, though. When asked about Vieques, Culebra’s larger neighbor, he shook his head, “Too big for me man, too many people.”
We met Sebastian at 8 am at the dock by Mamacita’s restaurant. It might seem punishing to get up so early on vacation, but trust me, getting into a small boat to chill out and take in the beautiful, tropical sights is nothing like getting to work at 8 am, so why worry about it? You can always nap on the beach later! We began our adventure by taking a tour of a mangrove forest on Culebra, marveling at the tangled roots and the watery passages between them. Then it was off to Culebrita. The wind was blowing strongly and the waves were super choppy, with white caps even in deep water. It was a fun, ride. Having grown up on boats myself I could tell Sebastian was super skilled at handling the the wind and the waves. So I let myself relax.
When we got to Culebria we were the only ones there. Sebastian explained that it usually fills up by 11 am, so it’s good to get an early start. Because of the high winds the only other boat we saw the whole time was that of Captain Sebastian’s friend, Captain Bill. Bill has a catamaran and will fish and cook you a huge meal as he shows you around. The beach was on the leeward side of the island, so we soaked in the view and the sun out of the wind and then motivated to take the 15 minute hike to the lighthouse on the highest point of the island.
A word of caution about hiking in Culebra and Culebrita: watch out for the thorns! Sebastian carried a machete to cut them back and I can see why. Those thorn bushes are intense and a brush with a thorn and your bare ankle or arms would be really painful. Thorns aside, the hike was lovely and mellow and the view rivaled those we saw from our hike along the spine of Jost Van Dyke last winter. Speaking of our trip to Jost, Culebra and Culebrita are only 17 miles from St. Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands, so the British Virgin islands are not too far off. In my own ignorance of the region I had no idea how close the Virgin Island and Puerto Rico are to each other. Answer: very.
Sebastian fearlessly lead us up the lighthouse tower, which is not at all safe or a journey for the weak at heart. SMH and S. followed him right up to the top, sitting on the edge of the tower in the howling wind. Just writing about it makes my palms sweat. A. and I poked our heads out, took in the view and retreated. I’m glad I mustered my courage to do it, but climbing crumbling cast iron steps is clearly not an activity for worry warts like me.
After lunching and snorkeling (do I even need to tell you it was amazing?) we took another walk across Culebrita to a beach that was even more perfect that any of the ones we had seen so far. White sand, palm trees, crystal water, the whole lot. Tortuga beach is also a national wildlife preserve where turtles nest in the spring, hence its name. While I would have been content to laze on the sand, the adventure continued and I went along.
Sebastian led us over craggy rocks to a series of tide pools fed by the waves. We stared at them admiringly, watching the surf crash in and feeling the wind whistle by our ears. Suddenly Sebastian stripped off his shirt, dropped his bag, and jumped in! We stared, slack jawed. We were sure our Captain was going to be swept out to sea. He waved at us, “What are you waiting for!” One by one we plunged in. The sea water was bubbly from the surf and felt as if we were swimming in seltzer.
But we didn’t stop there. We hiked up yet another rocky outcropping to stare out at the sea and watch the waves crash into the tide pools. There’s nothing that settles me and puts me at peace more than watching the waves and staring across the sea towards the horizon. When I was flying to Culebra I joked that I was looking for paradise. I dare say that we found it.
I highly recommend Captain Sebastian’s tours. He’s fun, knowledgeable and will customize where he takes you to what you want to do. He also goes to Luis Pena, the islands you can see in my sunset photos in my previous Culebra entry, which have incredible snorkeling. He brings water, fruit and fruit juice for you! The price is extremely reasonable and as I said, he’s a great skipper to boot. He doesn’t have a website, but you can call him at 1-787-435-4498 to make a reservation. Don’t worry, he said it was OK for me to put his number on my blog.
You can see a full set of my Culebra and Culebrita photos on Flickr.
Finally, because pop culture never gets old (until it does) we of course, could not stop humming this song while we were boating: