Culebra – a great place to visit
I had a delightful trip to the small island of Culebra recently – located some 18 miles east of Puerto Rico. With friend Kay Schwartz (picture 1) I felt as though I had returned to the way the Virgins used to be, before the over building and industrialization of the last two decades. Only 3 miles in width and approximately seven miles long, Culebra is completely surrounded by water with no rivers or streams running through. However, there is a really nice canal where one can pick up a water taxi from Dewey, the main town. (picture 2).
Although I did not stay in Dewey, I certainly enjoyed visiting there. My first stop to any place that I visit is always a Cathedral or church to douse myself with good vibes for the exploring that follows. For me this works, so I visited the new Catholic Church that is across from the Post Office on the main street (pictures 3 & 4). My fellow traveler Kay enjoyed exploring Dewey as much as I. After taking a local bus from our hotel to town we spent the better part of a morning exploring the quaint, but well stocked shops, before having lunch at Mamacitas - a great local spot on the water. (picture 5) We dined well on delicious fresh fish and salad, and I tried my Spanish, speaking with several locals during the course of the meal.
After lunch we lazily walked the streets and visited the local square where the ferry travels from Culebra to both Fajardo and San Juan. Artisans were displaying their wares under the enormous tree that shades the square. As I love local handmade work I stopped to visit with a handsome and much talented young couple – Anthony Smith y Rodriguez, a leatherworker and Cynthia Piotrowski, a silversmith. (picture 6) Originally from America, they have lived in Culebra for half a decade.
Culebra is known for its pure white sand beaches that seem to extend for miles and have protective reefs, which allows for terrific swimming and snorkeling. We particularly enjoyed Flamenco Bay and Zoni Beach, located on the north shore with shade trees, which is particularly nice for those of us who are usually in the sun. (picture 7) The view from Zoni is remarkable as it faces east and on a clear day St. Thomas is totally visible. Soldado Beach is smaller, but nice, and is located on the southeastern shore.
Kay and I are both wildlife enthusiasts and were interested to discover that the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge protects over 1,500 acres of local land and is a nesting area for numerous indigenous birds as well as the Culebra giant anole and the endangered Leatherback Turtle. Our guide told us that on February 27, 1909, a bird refuge was established and that since then much of the island and the surrounding 23 islets are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a nature preserve - one of only two nesting sites for giant sea turtles in the U.S.
Culebrita is the largest cay near Culebra and one that we enjoyed visiting. This beach looks like sugar and the water has great visibility. The oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean is located there, built in 1886 – it is now registered on the National Register of Historical Monuments of the United States.
With only about 3,000 residents, Culebra is quiet and restful – something that both Kay and I enjoyed. One enjoys a slower life there, reminiscent of how life used to be in the BVI. Culebra definitely became a favorite of mine and I am looking forward to my next visit. For more information please visit http://welcome.topuertorico.org/city/culebra.shtml
Friend Kay Schwartz on the right