Island Hopping In Puerto Rico: Vieques & Culebra

Fun fact: Puerto Rico is an archipelago. So, if this island-country-American-territory is a destination you are planning to visit on your next vacation, add the Vieques and Culebra keys to your travel itinerary. Both are famous for their unspoiled, virgin beaches of incredible turquoise waters that are pretty darn close to utopic island paradises.

How To Get To Vieques And Culebra

From Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham - Rio Mar, it’s about a 35-minute drive to the port of Ceiba — easy to reach on a rental car, an Uber, or a taxi. Once there, you can catch a ferry to either of the two destinations for under $5 per person, roundtrip. Yep, five bucks. (You will pay a few more dollars for transporting camping gear, bikes, beach coolers, etc. But just a little.) 

Now, you should absolutely book your ferry ahead of time and plan on being at the port at least an hour prior to departure. It is possible to make it a day trip by leaving early in the morning and coming back in the last afternoon ferry. If possible, avoid holidays and weekends, when you may be competing for a spot at the ferry with hundreds of locals as well as tourists. 

All set? Let’s do this. Here is how to spend a day in any of these tiny islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

What To Do On A Day Trip To Vieques

This key is about eight miles from the mainland Puerto Rico, which takes about 30 minutes to get to in the ferry. The greatest attraction in Vieques is Vieques itself. There’s no fancy shopping, casinos or tourist traps. Nature is queen here. Snorkeling, scuba diving and paddle boarding are favorite activities to do in its crystal-clear waters, as is horseback riding. 

In the mood for a scenic walk? Hike the spectacular trails of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. Previously occupied by the U.S. Navy, the 18,000-acre refuge is now overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency and it is the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. The area offers some of the most beautiful beaches on the island and various trails meander throughout the wetland areas, one leading to a historic lighthouse. 

And if you plan to spend the night, Vieques’ Mosquito Bay is the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world and one of three in Puerto Rico. The phenomenon can only be appreciated in the dark.

What To Do On A Day Trip To Culebra

About 17 miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland and 9 miles north of Vieques you’ll find Culebra. The name literally means “snake,” alluding to its elongated shape. Beach bumming gets elevated to an art form here. 

The key is most known for Flamenco Beach, a stunning beach that has been recognized by multiple traveler publications as one of the best in the world. The soft, white sand in between your toes will provide a spectacular contrast to the green rolling hills in the horizon and the emerald and blue sapphire ocean that wraps it all up. Go snorkeling, relax on a catamaran (several outfitters provide complete tours), or chill by the water. You come here to decompress. 

Insider tip from this Puerto Rican writer: Bring food. Culebra is scarcely populated and there are not many places to eat and drink.

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