Culebra and Culebrita Puerto Rico (Also known as the Spanish Virgin Islands)
Mention the Virgin Islands, and most people think of the U.S. Virgin or British Virgin Islands. Yet, just 17 miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland, 12 miles west of St. Thomas, lays the Spanish Virgin Islands. The Spanish Virgin Islands have always been a well-kept secret, even back in the days of Bluebeard and other famous pirates who used the islands for hide-outs.
The fact that the Marines and U.S. Navy used the islands for bombing practice until 1975 (Culebra) and 2003 (Vieques) also kept land developers, commercialism, and an abundance of sailing charters away.
They also happen to be our favorite islands. So naturally we wanted to share their beauty with Rachel and Drew.
First stop sailing west from St. Thomas brings us to Isla Culebrita (little Culebra, little snake). Culebrita is a small island about a mile long and uninhabited. We were lucky to get one of the four mooring balls in Tortuga Beach known for all of the turtles that live there. First Brian, Rachel and Drew hiked up to the lighthouse. It was built by the Spanish Crown in 1882 – 1886. It’s in a crumbling state and has been for sometime. I have heard that they are plans for restoring it at some point. It has a colorful history and you can read more about it here:
Next day we hiked over to the tide pools which because of the northerly swells did not disappoint. Climbing through and over the large weathered brown landscape always feels like we are walking on the moon. Finally arriving at the pools we jumped in and waited for the waves to come crashing in, turning it into a natural jacuzzi. What a amazing way to spend Christmas Day!
Next for us was to sail just a bit more west to the big island of Culebra, (Snake Island).
Here is some of the islands history:
When we say “big island” you can take that however you want. The island is about 7 miles by 4 miles. It has rolling hills, amazing beaches and incredible snorkeling. The main town is called Dewey and it’s where most of the residents of the island live. We anchored Moon in the town’s main and very protected harbor Ensenada Honda and set off to explore. Brian and I have seen most of the island and Rachel has spent some time here too, but for Drew it was all new experiences ahead. We rented a golf cart and don’t tell, but we took it to all of the places that we were not supposed to. There were times that we wondered if we would make it back up the steep hills that we went down, but we did! It was also Drew’s Birthday so that caused for a celebration! We had a fabulous dinner at the Dinghy dock and wondered around town in search of some fun. Culebra being what it is, a bit sleepy we did not find a party but instead created our own.
Of course no visit to Culebra would be complete without a visit to the world famous Flamenco Beach. Flamenco beach is a 1½ mile long crescent white sand beach on the north side that is absolutely breathtaking. Trees dot the shore line so there is always some place that you can lay a towel, hang out in the shade and enjoy the scenery.
When the military was here Flamenco Beach was used for training exercises in 1939 as a lead up to the American actions in the Second World War. The Navy’s testing and exercises on the island did not sit well with the small population of residents, and in the early 1970s, protests began to try and get the military to leave the island. It only took about four years of outcry, but the Navy finally got the hint and evacuated the island, ceasing all testing. However, when the Navy bolted, they left behind a number of their tanks and other pieces of gear. While much of it was cleaned up, the huge tanks could not be moved and were simply left to rot. While the salty sea winds worked on the metal, causing it to rust and crumble, the locals got to work on decorating them, covering the abandoned hulks in layers of ever changing graffiti.
Today the tanks remain and have become a unique feature of the otherwise pristine beach. New pieces of graffiti are continually added atop the old, giving the old war machines an almost cheerful new life. Of course this makes for a great photo op!
We had a blast visiting Culebra and Culebrita but there was still more for us to explore…I know can you believe it, more to share! That’s it for now until I go though even more photos. Take care all.
Jennifer and Brian and Crew Rachel and Drew