For many, heading to Puerto Rico is already an escape from the hustle of life on the U.S. mainland, but for some, even that isn't enough of an escape. Visitors and locals who need a getaway head to Culebra, the small island-town located 17 miles east of the island of Puerto Rico. You can take a short flight from San Juan or a 45-minute ferry ride to reach this paradisiacal destination. With little infrastructure, less luxury, and even less nightlife, Culebra is the ultimate retreat and the perfect place for those who want to completely disconnect while enjoying some of the Caribbean's most serene beaches.
The grandaddy of beaches, not only in Culebra but, some would say, all of Puerto Rico, Flamenco Beach is the island's Eden, its sacred beauty and its most popular destination. It's a good bet that most of the people who come to Culebra come because they have heard of—or want to get back to—Flamenco Beach. Pitch a tent at the designated campground just feet away from the water and wake up to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
As the island's most beloved destination, Flamenco Beach is also very accessible. There's plenty of public transportation options to and from the beach, plus changing stations and food kiosks waiting for you when you arrive.
Zoni Beach on the eastern side of the island tends to attract the long-term crowd, such as those who have bought or rented homes in the area. It's not as accessible as Flamenco Beach, and you'll likely need your own vehicle or jeep to get there. But those who make it revel in the relative isolation that Zoni provides. A long and narrow strip of sand, Zoni is a sandy beach facing the even smaller islands of Culebrita and Cayo Norte. Zoni Beach may not have the amenities of Flamenco Beach, but it does provide the same spectacular white-sand beach experience with a fraction of the crowds.
Carlos Rosario Beach
A trail from the parking lot at Flamenco Beach leads you on a 15–20 minute hike to the vastly underrated Carlos Rosario Beach. A pristine stretch of beach facing the island Cayo Luis Peña, Carlos Rosario is considered Culebra's best spot for snorkeling, but it also offers a wonderful place to sunbathe, dip in azure waters, and take a break from the Flamenco crowds.
Tamarindo Beach can be rocky at times and smooth at others. It's far less visited than its neighbors, Flamenco and Carlos Rosario, and therefore offers a bit more privacy, if that's what you're looking for. It also offers decent snorkeling. As long as you're beach-hopping, stop by and check it out; you might just want to stay a while.
Dakity and Soldier's Point
The southernmost of Culebra's beaches, Dakity and Soldier's Point are very rocky and probably best reached by kayak. The trail down to Dakity gets bumpy in places and will challenge your driving skills a bit. Even if you're not a huge fan of making the trek to the beach, you'll love the sunsets from these spots.
Among the closest beaches to the main town of Dewey, Melones isn't the prettiest beach on the island and the shore is pebbly, making it hard to lay out in the sun. What Melones is known for, however, is top-notch snorkeling. Bring your own gear or rent it at the beach, and then dive in and experience the brightly colored coral, playful fish, and possibly even sea turtles.
By the time you get to Brava Beach, you'll certainly feel accomplished. Getting to this beach requires a long hike down without markers to guide you. The total trip is about 25 minutes, but make sure you bring good walking shoes and not just sandals. Once you get there, you might just find that you're the only person on this crescent of sand. The surf here is pretty rough, making swimming too far out inadvisable, but if you want an adventure and crave a place to call your own, try Brava.
If you think the trek to Brava is tough, forget about getting to Resaca. It's the most difficult beach to get to in Culebra, and unless you relish a challenging hike, you're better off getting here by boat. From the start of the trail, it should take about 30 minutes to reach the beach, but requires climbing over boulders and traversing through the forest. But once you emerge from the trees, this mile-long stretch of unspoiled beach is worth the trek. Resaca, incidentally, means "undertow," so swimming isn't recommended.
Located on the nearby little sister island Culebrita, you'll need to take a water taxi to get this even more remote part of Culebra. The water taxi will drop you off on this narrow strip of beautiful beach on the western shore of the island, which has even more pristine beaches than those on the main island of Culebra. But don't feel obligated to stay on the first beach you arrive at, as Culebrita has even more parts to explore.
There's something special about Playa Tortuga, a horseshoe-shaped beach facing calm waters, thanks to its encircling arms that protect against the rough surf. Playa Tortuga, also on the smaller island of Culebrita, offers a scenic backdrop that includes Culebra's only manmade landmark, a small lighthouse long abandoned. On its western end, you'll come to shallow pools and a small promontory that offers beautiful views, photo ops and, in the distance, a glimpse of St. Thomas.
One of the least appropriate names you'll find, Trash Beach was so-called because of the trash that used to wash up on its shores from neighboring islands. No longer the dump it once was, should you choose to explore this Culebrita beach, you'll find a wide crescent of sand facing the booming surf of the waves. It is generally pretty isolated, so if you want a special place to lie on the beach and disconnect, this spot will do nicely. Do be careful about swimming at Trash Beach, as the surf is very strong.