Puerto Rico Snorkeling Beaches on Culebra

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Culebra’s Best Snorkel Beaches & Dive Sites Culebra, the jewel of Puerto Rico, has some of the Caribbean’s easily accessible Snorkeling on the western shoreline from the northern most point on the Flamenco Peninsula to the southern most western shoreline ending at Punta del Soldado. As for Culebra’s best diving starting with the reefs that begin at the shoreline on the leeward side and slowly slopes away or forms walls with dramatic drop offs to any of Culebra’s barrier reefs or smaller Cayos (keys) which offer health coral colonies from depths of 25ft to 90ft. All are accessible by vehicle, foot, or a short boat ride . Once you arrive at your choice of Culebra’s Snorkel / dive site (beach) you find that all offer an easy entrance with a short swim to the reef ( 2 minutes on average ) or a mooring location with a minor swim for divers.

The range of Culebra’s snorkeling & diving will impressed all with its diversity. Snorkeling on Culebra’s western shoreline offers different reef settings from barrier mini walls with depths of 15-25ft, shallow sloping shoreline reefs ranging 15-35ft depth to dramatic 60-75ft shoreline reef walls all with diverse aquatic wildlife also suitable for shore diving. There are sites perfect for beginners or experienced Snorkelers and Divers; from those who want to take it easy, as well as a more challenging, experienced or adventurous dive/snorkel day swimming thru caverns or poking into the caves. The challenge may take the forum of shallow underwater terrain requiring excellent buoyancy control to basic navigation knowledge around surface growing coral. Equally, if your idea of heaven is a 60-plus minute dive in shallow water crowded with marine life that abound amongst huge health coral heads then many areas offer multiple choices. The coral diversity will impress you with multiple coral species living side-by-side on the shoreline areas of Culebra.

Select the link below for a detail reef / beach description.

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 1
Playa Melones (Beach) Common Name – “the barrier reef” [am]
Average Depth: 15ft-25ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral barrier wall bordered by a Dense Sea Grass Field
Sites Use – Melones: Shore Diving / Shore or Boat Snorkeling / 3 sites
Punta Del Soldado Common Name – “Soldiers Point southern end ” [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-65ft Visibility 65ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral sloping reef large coral heads in a spaced colony
Sites Use – Punta Del Soldado: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Shore or Boat Diving 3+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling/Diving Day 2
Playa Carlos Rosario [ AREA 2 ] Common Name – “the wall part 1 southern section ” [ am/pm ]-
Average Depth: 10ft-75ft Visibility 80ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft dense coral wall honey combed with layers
Site Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving – 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 3
Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2 ] Common Name – ” Tamarindo Proper i.e./turtle beach / turtle Area “[am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Playa Cascajo South End [ AREA 3 ] Common Name – ” soldiers pt. north end ” [pm]
Average Depth: 10ft-35ft Visibility 45ft
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall bordered by multiple Sea Grass Fields
Sites Use – Playa Cascajo: Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 4
Carlos Rosario Beach [ AREA 1 ] Common Name – ” the horseshoe / entrance ” [am]
Average Depth: 15ft-40ft Visibility 50ft +
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral sloping reef with species reef blocks [areas]
Sites Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites
Playa Cascajo North [AREA 1] Common Name – “Cascajo North to Cascajo Central areas” [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 45ft +
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated growing in front of a barrier reef wall
Sites Use – Playa Cascajo North [AREA 1]: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Shore or Boat Diving 5+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 5
Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2 ] Common Name – “Tamarindo Proper i.e./turtle beach / turtle Area” [am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Melones / Pt. Chico Tamarindo [ Tamarindo AREA 3 ] Common Name – “Pt. Chico “[pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 50ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall floating off the surface and honey combed
Sites Use – Melones / Pt. Chico Tamarindo: Shore or Boat Diving / Shore or Boat Snorkeling/ 3+ sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 6
Playa Carlos Rosario ( Beach ) Common Name – “the wall part 2 / the wall extension / north section” [ am ]
Average Depth: 15ft-75ft Visibility 75ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral within multiple layers densely situated
Sites Use – Carlos Rosario: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 5+ sites
Tamarindo Grande [ Tamarindo AREA 1] Common Name – Punta Tamarindo Grande (Point) [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 50ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral wall densely situated and Sea Grass Beds
Sites Use – Tamarindo Grande [pm]: Shore or Boat Snorkeling / Boat Diving 2 sites

Culebra Beach Snorkeling / Diving Day 7
Playa Tamarindo (Beach) [ Tamarindo AREA 2] Common Name – “Tamarindo Proper i.e./turtle beach / turtle Area”[am]
Average Depth: 10ft-20ft Visibility 45ft+
Reef Description – Sea Grass Beds densely situated or Sea Grass fields of sparse population
Sites Use – Tamarindo: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
Playa Flamenco ( Beach ) Common Name – “ del moisutio / the shark pens“ [pm]
Average Depth: 15ft-35ft Visibility 40ft+
Reef Description – Hard & Soft coral densely packed on a barrier wall
Sites Use – Flamenco Beach: Shore Diving / Shore Snorkeling / 2 sites
The western shoreline of Culebra is on the leeward side of the island and protected from the wind and swell 90% of the year. Low pressure or large weather systems will change the swell direction as it is passing Culebra. Most Snorkeling Centers on Culebra can offer daily detail information including, water temperature, swell or wave height, and visibility for all locations on Culebra. On shore and offshore conditions vary depended on location. Getting current daily conditions and best site suggestions for locations that will offer optimum snorkeling and diving conditions always increases the day’s positive activity outlook.


Isla Culebra – The Last Virgin

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Culebra’s History

Isla Culebra (Spanish pronunciation: [kuˈleβɾa], “Snake Island”) is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico originally called Isla Pasaje and Isla de San Ildefonso.  Culebra is a pristine little landmass, and is located approximately 17 miles (27 km) east of the Puerto Rican mainland, 12 miles (19 km) west of St. Thomas and 9 miles (14 km) north of Vieques. Culebra is spread over 5 wards and Culebra (Dewey) Pueblo (The downtown area and the administrative center of the city).  The island is also known as Isla Chiquita (“Little Island”) and Última Virgen (“Last Virgin”, reflecting its position at the end of the Virgin islands archipelago).

Culebra is an archipelago consisting of the main island and twenty-three smaller islands that lie off its coast. The largest of these cays are:  Culebrita to the east, Cayo Norte to the northeast, and Cayo Luis Peña and Cayo Lobo to the west.The smaller islands include Cayo Ballena, Cayos Geniqui, Arrecife Culebrita, Las Hermanas, El Mono, Cayo Lobito, Cayo Botijuela, Alcarraza, Los Gemelos, and Piedra Steven. Islands in the archipelago are arid, meaning they have no rivers or streams. All of the fresh water is brought from Puerto Rico via Vieques. Culebra is characterized by an irregular topography resulting in a long intricate shoreline. The island is approximately 7 by 5 miles (11 by 8 km). The coast is marked by cliffs, sandy coral beaches and mangrove forests. Inland, the tallest point on the island is Mount Resaca, elevation of 650 ft. (198 m), followed by Balcón Hill, with an elevation of 541 ft. (164.9 m). Ensenada Honda is the largest harbor on the island and is considered to be the most hurricane secure harbor in the Caribbean. There are also several lagoons on the island, like Corcho, Flamenco, and Zoní. Culebrita Island also has a lagoon called Molino. Almost 80% of the island’s area is volcanic rock from the Cretaceous period.

Wildlife Refuge Areas

These small islands are all classified as nature reserves and several nature reserves also exist on the main island. One of the oldest bird sanctuaries in United States territory was established in Culebra on February 27, 1909 by President Teddy Roosevelt. The Culebra Island Giant Anole (Anolis roosevelti, Xiphosurus roosevelti [according to ITIS]) is an extremely rare or possibly extinct lizard of the Anolis genus. It is native to Culebra Island and was named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who was the governor of Puerto Rico at that time. There are bird sanctuaries on many of the islands as well as turtle nesting sites on Culebra. Leatherback, green sea and hawksbill sea turtles use the beaches for nesting. The archipelagos bird sanctuaries are home to brown boobies, laughing gulls, sooty terns, bridled terns and noddy terns. An estimated 50,000 sea birds find their way back to the sanctuaries every year. These nature reserves comprise 1,568 acres (6.35 km2) of the archipelago’s 7,000 acres (28 km2). These nature reserves are protected by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Culebra has no natural large mammals.  However, a population of White-tailed deer introduced in 1966 can be [ Images from Wikipedia.com the free encyclopedia ] found on the eastern region of the island.

Most beaches are only accessible by hiking or boat. Of the smaller islands, only Culebrita and Luis Peña permit visitors and can be accessible via water taxis from Culebra. Hiking and nature photography are encouraged on the small islands. However, activities which would disturb the nature reserves are prohibited, e.g. Camping, Littering and Motor Vehicles. Camping, however, is allowed on Playa Flamenco throughout the year. Reservations are recommended.  Culebra is also a popular destination for scuba divers because of the many reefs throughout the archipelago and the crystal clear waters.

Top Beach Listing of Culebra

Flamenco Beach

Ranked # 2 in the top 10 most exotic beaches in the world

Playa Carlos Rosario [ Beach ]……………………….Playa de Cascajo [ Beach ]

Playa Brava [ Beach ]……………………………………..Playa Las Vacas [ Beach ]

Playa Larga [ Beach ]……………………………………..Playa Pueblo Español

Playa Punta Soldado [ Beach ]………………………..Playa Resaca [ Beach ]

Playa Tamarindo [ Beach ]……………………………..Playa Tortuga [ Beach ]

Playa Zoni [ Beach ]………………………………………..Playa Melones [ Beach ]


Some sources claim that Christopher Columbus was the first European to arrive at the island during his second voyage in 1493. It is believed that the island was populated by Carib Indians during the colonization, After Agüeybaná and Agüeybaná II led the Taíno rebellion of 1511, Taíno Indians from the main island sought refuge on Culebra and allied with Caribs to launch random attacks at the island estates.

Christopher Columbus Second Voyage

After that, the island was left abandoned for centuries. During the era of Spanish commerce through the Americas, it was used as a refuge for pirates, as well as local fishermen and sailors. Some sources mention an Englishman named Stevens, who was put in charge of Culebra in 1875 by the Spanish crown to protect the island from foreigners.

Culebra was then settled by Cayetano Escudero Sanz on October 27, 1880. This first settlement was called San Ildefonso, to honor the Bishop of Toledo, San Ildefonso de la Culebra. Two years later, on September 25, 1882, construction of the Culebrita Lighthouse began. It was completed on February 25, 1886 which made it the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean until 1975, when the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard finally closed the facility.

In 1902, Culebra was integrated as a part of Vieques. One year later, on June 26,  President Theodore Roosevelt established the Culebra Naval Reservation.  A bird refuge was established on February 27, 1909. In 1939, the U.S. Navy began to use the Culebra Archipelago as a gunnery and bombing practice site.  This was done in preparation for the United States’ involvement in World War II. In 1971 the people of Culebra began protests, known as the Navy-Culebra protests, for the removal of the U.S. Navy from Culebra. Four years later, in 1975, the use of Culebra as a gunnery range ceased and all operations were moved to Vieques.

Culebra was declared an independent island municipality in 1917. The first democratically elected government was put into place in 1960. Prior to this, the government of Puerto Rico appointed delegates to administer the island.

In past centuries, agriculture was the main source of economy in Culebra. At some point, the following products were produced and exported from the island: wood, turtle oil, shells, fish, tobacco, livestock, pigs, goats, cheese, plantains, pumpkins, beans, yams, garlic, corn, tomatoes, oranges, coconut, cotton, melons, mangrove bark, coal, and turkey. Nowadays, Culebra’s main source of revenue comes from construction, and tourism.

Culebra was the last bit of Puerto Rico to change hands from pirates to colonists, Flamenco Beach has soft white sand and clear water; it’s nearly deserted, yet it does offer basic amenities. Culebra has been a bird refuge since 1909 and is protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The must-see attraction is the National Wildlife Refuge, which covers most of the island plus 23 surrounding ones. Together they encompass subtropical dry forest, mangroves, brush and grasslands. Endangered sea turtles nest here, and the endangered Culebra giant anole, a lizard, originated here. It is estimated that 60,000 sooty terns nest on the Peninsula Flamenco. The island is also a popular spot for snorkeling and fishing.

The Spanish Crown determined that the land of Culebra was public property except for the areas reserved for use of the central government. When the Hispanoamerican war was resolved in 1898 and peace was made between Spain and the United States the land was turned over to the United States government with the promise that property titles given by the Spanish government would be honored. Titled land would not be confiscated by the Military Government established in Puerto Rico. These agreements were reached in the Paris treaty and by general order number 1 of the United States of Puerto Rico’s Military Government.

In 1901 the US Military arrived in Culebra to establish an area for the military to use as a firing range and to hold marine exercises. At that time they took over the town of San Ildefonso and re-established the persons living in San Ildefonso to other areas of the island. This was in violation of the Paris agreements.

In 1894, written reports indicated that there were 519 residents living in five communities: San Ildefonso, Flamenco, San Isidero, Playa Sardinas I y II, and Frayle. There were 84 houses built, 24 of them in the San Ildefonso community.

The majority of persons settled in the Playa Sardinas I and II area. Don Pedro Marques renamed this area Dewey after the famous Admiral Dewey, a naval war hero in the Philippine Islands. In 1902 Admiral Dewey commanded the first troops in the Caribbean.

The governing body of Puerto Rico assigned delegates for Culebra from 1880 through 1929. In 1930 these appointees were given the title of Mayor. These appointments were for a period of two years. The delegates as well as the Mayors also had other official functions such as, Post Office Administrator, Customs, Internal Revenue, Justice of the Peace, School Director and other functions as the administration seemed necessary. In 1960 it became law to elect the Mayor and Municipal Legislature of Culebra. These positions were for a four year term of office. The Municipal Legislature consists of five
members, four from the majority party, and one from the minority party.

According to the 2010 Census, the population of Culebra is 1,818. This makes the island the municipality with the smallest population in Puerto Rico.

Culebra Cayo List

Isla Culebra                                                   Isla Culebrita

Cayo del Agua                                                Cayo ATuna

Cayo Ballena                                                  Cayo Botijuela

Cayo Botella                                                  Cayo de Luis Peña

Cayos Geniquí                                                 Cayo Lobo                              

Cayo Lobito                                                     Cayo Matojo

Cayo Norte                                                      Cayo Ratón

Cayo Tiburón                                                  Cayo Pelá

Cayo Pelaita                                                    Cayo Ratón 

Cayo Sombrerito                                           Cayo Verde 

Cayo Yerba

Alcarraza                                                           El Ancon

Piedra Stevens                                                 Los Gemelos

Las Hermanas                                                    El Mono

Roca Culumna                                                   Roca Lavador (awash)

Roca Speck