The Spectacular Islands of Culebra, Culebrita and Luis Peña
Consisting of a main island and twenty-three smaller islands, the archipelago of Culebra is a municipality of Puerto Rico lying around 17 miles east of the mainland. Parts of Culebra and the smaller islands are designated as nature reserves and bird sanctuaries, with some beaches of Culebra being nesting sites for three species of turtles – leatherback turtles, green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. An estimated 50,000 sea birds find refuge in these sanctuaries each year and birding enthusiasts visiting the islands will more than likely see laughing gulls, brown boobies, sooty terns, noddy terns and bridled terns, among others.
There is no freshwater source on Culebra and water is brought to the island from Puerto Rico via Vieques. Because there is no land water draining into the sea, the waters around Culebra are exceptionally clear, making it the ideal spot for snorkelers and scuba divers to view the spectacular reefs throughout the archipelago. Edged by tropical forests and boasting soft white sand, Culebra’s Flamenco Beach is one of Puerto Rico’s most spectacular. Other beaches on the island include Las Vacas Beach, Larga Beach, Resaca Beach, Tamarindo Beach, Zoni Beach, Tortuga Beach, and Brava Beach.
Visitors are only permitted to visit two of the smaller islands around Culebra – Culebrita and Luis Peña – which can be reached by water taxi from the main island. Measuring approximately one mile in length, the uninhabited island of Culebrita is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Large tidal pools on the east side of the island trap small marine creatures during low tide, giving visitors the opportunity to view them at leisure before the tide turns. On the southern side of the island is the Culebrita Reef, while on the west side there are two shallow lagoons, with a border of mangroves on the seaward side. A survey in 2006 recorded ninety-seven plant species, thirty-two bird species, four reptile species and two mammal species. Cayo Luis Peña is also part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge and visitors can enjoy nature walks, swimming and snorkeling there.
It is certainly easy to see why Culebra is a popular destination for both mainland Puerto Ricans and visitors to the Island of Enchantment.