Puerto Rico wasn’t the only island devastated by Hurricane Maria. Culebra, a small island 18-miles off the mainland’s coast and home to world renowned Flamenco Beach, continues to rebuild after the category 4 storm destroyed homes and businesses across the island. While some of the amenities are still lacking, I’m happy to report that the natural beauty of the beach remains with breathtaking sunrises and clear blue waters. The best way to visit is by camping under the stars which is perfect for a weekend or even a one day excursion.
Stay for the week, the weekend, or just a day. No matter how long your trip is, you have a couple of options for getting to the island.
Flying from San Juan to Culebra is your first and probably most reliable option. It’s only a ten minute trip, and flights seemed reasonably priced from my research. The far cheaper option though will be to take the ferry.
Here’s an article that explains some of the flight options.
The ferry costs $4.50 per person, round trip and was an experience in and of itself. You will have two options for ferries: cargo or passenger. We took the cargo ferry on the way over, and the passenger ferry on the way back. The cargo ferries are vital the islands’ economies, so if that interests you, I’d highly suggest checking that out. Cars and materials were loaded and unloaded right in front of us. The passenger ferry obviously had nicer amenities. I’d do both of them again despite the fact the cargo ferry was over an hour late. (That’s why I mention flights being more reliable!) Each trip took about an hour.
Extra Supplies: Even if you’re just making a day trip, I’d suggest taking a cooler with some extra drinks and snacks especially if you’re not renting a car. The person working at the ticket counter probably won’t mention it, but you’ll need a ticket for any coolers or large luggage you plan on taking with you on the ferry. Make sure to ask!
Location of the Ceiba Ferry Terminal: Since Hurricane Maria, the ferry that used to depart from Fajardo is now located in Ceiba near the old Theodore Roosevelt Naval Base. (You’ll actually drive through the original entrance on your way there. I’m not sure what the guard is there for, but they will wave you by without any questions.) This article provided the most up to date information on ferry times, cost, and reaching the new dock in Ceiba. I would highly suggest going the day before to purchase your tickets. Fajardo is close by, so we drove to Ceiba the day before, purchased tickets, and then camped at Seven Seas for an easy drive to Ceiba in the morning.
Once you arrive to Culebra, there will be plenty of shuttle buses available to take you to Flamenco Beach for a few dollars, but make sure you have cash. If you plan on exploring elsewhere though, make sure you have a car rental set up. There are plenty of options for this, and some places even allow you to rent golf carts. That should cover your needs if you’re planning on visiting the popular beaches.
The Flamenco Beach campground amenities (i.e. showers and bathrooms) are still a little rough since Hurricane Maria, but the grounds themselves were still in great shape and cover a half mile or more of the beautiful white sand beach. While none of them offer pre-made shelters, you can choose between a beachside location or a somewhat forested area just off the shore.
Before you get excited thinking you’ll snag a beachfront site, bear in mind that these are for hammock camping only, so come prepared! We chose this option, and it was perfect. Most of them even have a picnic table nearby. If you’re planning on staying a while, you’ll also notice that you can walk down the path from Campsite A to E. The farther back you go, the more tenured campers you’ll find. Some have been there for months if not longer enjoying the island. We met a couple of older doctors that had been coming there every year for 25 years. Their stories of the beach were well worth the chat.
Campsites used to cost $20 a night, but due to the lack of facilities, they currently aren’t charging. A $2 million project is underway to help revive Flamenco Beach and make the grounds better than they ever were. If you decide to visit, do your part and donate to the cause below!
With so much changing after the hurricane, it was hard to research what would be available which also made it harder to plan. Here’s the honest truth about the current conditions on the beach.
The main infrastructure of the camping oasis still stands. The bathroom and outdoor showers near the kioskos remain, but the hidden showers that used to exist in the forested areas no longer work. With little privacy, you may want to wake up early or wait until late to get a shower to avoid high traffic times. The toilets were what you would expect from any campground in a national park and probably won’t bother you unless you’ve never camped before. Don’t forget to bring your own teepee though!
There are a few small vendors right on the beach that sell food, camping supplies, excellent pina coladas, and more. You can certainly get everything you need here, but I wouldn’t catch a ferry to the island planning to fully rely on them since the hours vary. The main “kiosko” is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so you’ll definitely want to have transportation on the island if you’re camping those nights. The vendors will charge your phone for a small fee, but make sure you come with cash. A couple of them take card, but the connection isn’t always working on the island.
Flamenco Beach is about as safe as you can get for camping in Puerto Rico. There are full-time campers that live there for months at a time as well as plenty of traffic coming through on the weekends from Puerto Rican locals. While you’ll want to take the basic precautions, you shouldn’t worry too much. Like any other time you camp, don’t carry many valuables with you, and don’t leave the ones you do bring too far away. We simply carried our wallets with us but could leave our campsites without concern.
Flying to Culebra
Taking the Ferry to Culebra
When we came across this gorgeous tiny house just 45 minutes outside of Barcelona, we knew we had to book a stay there immediately. This “Tiny House on a Vineyard,” as it’s appropriately advertised, requires you to literally walk through vineyards to reach your destination. Between the wine tours, the gorgeous view of the Penedès mountains, and the eco-friendly accommodations, we couldn’t have asked for a better stay