By: Bruny Nieves
My husband always says Puerto Rico is “every European’s dream” and although I have always felt an intense love for my island, seeing it thru his eyes has reinforced this love affair. Surrounded by water, with over two hundred and seventy miles of coasts and a tropical climate that allows for its enjoyment no matter the season, it should not be surprising we are beach lovers. My favorites are in Culebra where, thru multiple visits, I have created a brilliant mosaic of memories.
BEACHES WITH HISTORY
The first two times I went to Culebra I stayed at Flamenco Beach; once camping and once at its Villas. Many publications have reviewed its allure and there is no doubt why it has been voted among the ten most beautiful of the world. Flamenco takes anyone’s breath away; even its starry night sky is a spectacle to be seen at least once in your lifetime! The trip, in ferry or by plane, is totally worth it in order to swim its calm waters and walk its white sand. In clear contrast with such pretty scenery, you find the war tanks left by the United States Marine Corps when it relinquished Culebra in 1976; after using it for years as an artillery and bombing practice center.
In the east side of the island, hidden at the end of a road, you find Zoni Beach. Of white sand and crystalline waters great for snorkeling, at this beach you spend a calm day strolling its extension. Upon arrival I was positively surprised to find signs for visitors promoting the protection of endangered species, like the leatherback turtle, during its delicate nesting process that begins in February and runs until July. Although not in Culebra, I had the opportunity to see in Añasco how the females come up to the shore and spawn. Simply amazing!
Culebrita is a nature reserve reachable only by private boat or water taxi which hosts one the most ancient lighthouses in the Caribbean Sea; that dates back to 1886. In addition to sunbathing and snorkeling, you can walk this key and come up to where the lighthouse is located. It is important to wear shoes as you will need to walk up a rocky area. We suffered a little when we wanted to approach! In Culebrita you find the suitably called Turtle Beach, habitat of marine turtles like the tortoiseshell and where you can also sight diverse sea birds.
THE CULEBRENSE COMMUNITY
Those who live or visit Culebra often, know that here they live at a different pace. There are no luxuries or hurries, but a potpourri of people, from different cultures, who are love-stricken with this island and respectfully cohabit with nature. As part of the island is within the National Wildlife Refuge, it is not surprising that many of its community groups are focused on educating and protecting the environment. A commitment you can breathe and feel in the ambience.
A BIG FAMILY
One of my visits coincided with the New Year’s celebration during which, in the tiny town square, the locals and the tourists got mixed together into a festive town party. It was like being part of their extended family. We enjoyed it so much that the next year we recruited two other couples to visit its beaches and relive the experience of getting lost among its people.
CONSCIOUS TRAVEL PRACTICES:
1. Respect the marine turtles’ nesting places.
2. Promote the local economy.
3. Favor sports with low environmental impact like snorkeling.
4. Admire nature without touching or damaging it.
5. Keep beaches garbage-free.
El Polvorín History Museum
Flamenco Beach Villas