Sunday, May 22, 2005

Quiet Seclusion in the Caribbean

Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands Culebra and Vieques have been in our crosshairs for some time and a recent visit confirmed some of the advertised beauty of the area. Our trip needed to include free diving, snorkeling, lots quiet time on the beaches reading and of course sightseeing.

We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico at around 8:00 PM and decided to stay at the Best Western, which is literally part of the airport, so it’s well positioned and convenient for travelers. The following morning we took a taxi for the 45-minute journey to Fajardo for the ferry to Culebra.

I was fascinated to watch the kinds of items the locals were taking on board that included everything imaginable from chairs and tables, food, clothes, etc. Since most items are brought in from the mainland, it was easy to see why the locals made the most of their visit to the "Big Island" (Puerto Rico). By the way, the cost for walk-on passengers was about $7.00 each for the one hour and twenty minutes ride to Dewey, the only town on Culebra.

When we docked at Culebra, our driver met us with our rental car-- a "Thing". For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a Jeep-like vehicle built on a VW bug chassis—in the ‘70s! We drove the driver back to his home and then took off for our rental cottage. A FWD is highly recommended on the island because of the potholes and terrain, and we should have rented a regular Jeep because the Thing was difficult to drive, had no shock absorbers, and a difficult clutch.

It is easy to see why Conde Nast rated Flamenco Beach one of the top ten beaches in the world. It’s truly a beautiful wide sandy beach that ranks up there with anything I’ve seen. It also has the advantage of being only beach on Culebra that has refreshments and toilets. We saw the island in its entirety but as it’s roughly seven by four miles, that didn’t take too long. We enjoyed several days visiting every beach and hiked to Resaca on the Atlantic side. We found the best snorkeling and shore diving at Carlos Rosario, which is a 35-minute hike from the parking lot at Flamenco beach.

Photo: L to R Flamenco Beach, San Cristobal Fort, & ferry arriving at Dewey

Heading back home, we caught the first ferry out in the morning so that we could spend the whole day in Puerto Rico. What a delight! The old town is full of cobbled streets with elegant buildings painted the most beautiful pastels. Row after row of spectacular shops and there, in full view was the magnificent San Cristobal Fort. We walked around the perimeter of the fort and noticed the abundance of cats in every color imaginable running in and around the fort. The old town of Puerto Rico reminded us of similar towns and villages in Spain and Italy. It is well worth a visit!

Altogether we had a fantastic week of relaxation on Culebra even if the cockerels woke us early every morning.

General Info Ferry Timetable Club Seabourne Hotel