Playa Flamenco, or Flamenco Beach, is one of the best beaches in all of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the U.S.A., hands down!
Located on the island of Culebra, this was somewhere I always wanted to go. Why? I lived 6 years as a child in Puerto Rico, but had never gone to Culebra, and I’d only heard about how amazing Playa Flamenco was for a long time. I had to go!
Its pristine turquoise, clear waters have the best calming effect on the body and soul and help you forget the rest of the world. That I can tell you now from experience.
I’d say that beach is not so busy, as it is a whole other adventure to get there, I can tell you that much.
You can get there by private boat or by airplane (which has the best colourful views ever), but the most popular and less expensive way to get there is by ferry boat. We were on a budget, more or less, so that’s the way we went.
The Ferry Boat Ride
It takes about an hour to get there on ferry from the main island. During the trip you will go by several amazing small islands that will make you wish you could explore those too.
I wish I had a picture looking out at the water, but all I have is this picture of me and my son riding on the ferry – at high speed, by the way!
So what did I see when I looked out at the water from the boat? I saw islands.
Some of the islands you’ll see on the way are just sandy little islands, with no palm trees except a canopy made of palm branches for those visiting.
Yet the beauty of it all lies ahead at Playa Flamenco, which was where I was really headed.
My Ferry Boat Memories
Oh, but first I want to say…I have heard that some people really hate the ferry ride for one reason or another. Here’s what I think of it now, thinking back…
Basically, the lines can be long during the weekends, but we went during the week and it was not long at all, the ferry was half full, as you see from the above pic I shared.
On the way back , we went back on a Sunday and that was full. It was also stormy (with sunshine) but with 20 foot waves on the way back and that ferry was tossed like an amusement park.
My son and I had a blast but my husband found out he can get sea sick really fast.
There was a morbidly obese guy in front of us screaming and panicking with every wave and my then 3 year old thought that was the funniest thing ever, he laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe.
Here’s my son, once we arrived, wearing his water wings and ready for action. That little rugrat!
My husband got there finally after an hour he was white as a ghost. Just when we were getting there, Johnny started getting sick as well. It finally got to him, I guess.
Some people, as I recall, would go to Culebra on their own yachts. That would be fun!
I do think also that the port to take the ferry looks like it’s from 60 years ago. It looked bad and needed a better paint job.
It did look like a 3rd world country style of ferry, come to think of it, and it did take a bit to finally get in the ferry, but it wasn’t a big deal to me.
Once in, I didn’t think it was so bad, but then again, I’m not picky.
Ok, enough about the ferry.
Finally, we were on Culebra Island, and headed for Flamenco Beach!
Transportation around Culebra Island (taxi, shuttle)
The “jewel beach” is on Culebra Island – Flamenco Beach, or Playa Flamenco, which I nicknamed the “jewel” because it is my prized beach to visit. And so then how to get there?
Once you arrive at Culebra, there are shuttles that take you there or taxi if you like. They will cross you to the other side of the island where Flamenco Beach is.
Here’s a picture of the road you will see driving around the island.
Ok, back to the taxi ride. On that short 15 minute-drive, you will go through the town where there are several hotels and a few grocery stores, if needed.
Though it is better to pack food from the main Island in Puerto Rico, as there is greater variety and the prices are less.
Restaurants, Hotels, Camping on the Beach
The restaurants or fast food services and kiosks at the beach in Culebra are not bad either to complement the food you can bring in, if you’re on a budget.
Though there are fancy hotels in town to choose from, if you like adventure, there is nothing like camping by the beach.
There is a campground that goes all along Playa Flamenco. The campground is divided in a few sections, mainly for short stays of up to a week, or for longer stays of several weeks at a time. Were weren’t there long – less than a week.
Anyway, some people bring their tents, and others just bring their hammocks.
Here’s a picture of me and my family on the beach just enjoying the scenery along the beach. It was lovely there!
Back to the camping experience. Personally, I don’t do well with mosquitoes, and though they don’t bother too much on the island, I’d rather be bug free and inside a tent, where they can’t bite me mercilessly.
If noises tend to bother you when you sleep, bring a few ear plugs for there are roosters on the loose. They like to get you up early so you can enjoy the most amazing sunrise ever over the turquoise bay.
Here we are standing by the water during the day. This picture really doesn’t do the water justice, it’s so very turquoise-y!
Where was I? Ah yes, the animals! All the animals get up early and if you like to explore the surroundings, and this is also the best time to do it, so maybe it’s fate that the rooster kept squawking like it did.
If you are too sleepy due to lack of sleep, no worries, there will be time for a nap later in the day, and that is the best time to do it in a hammock tied at the many palm trees in the campground that also provide a nice shade, or you can just pass out flat on our backs like we did in the next picture. 🙂
If you don’t like the sand itching your back, you can sleep on your towel on the sand as well in the amazing 75F temperature year-round.
There are cute hermit crabs all over the island as well as lizards which fascinate children of all ages. But the most important land animals there are the iguanas.
The Iguanas of Culebra Island
Just behind the campground, close to the entrance, is a canal with a few mangroves packed with iguanas 2 or 3 feet long.
They stay there and don’t go to the campground, as they prefer to be close to the water to swim rather than be on land.
There were no signs of not feeding the iguanas and the locals said they love to eat bread. The kiosk at the entrance sells bread and we got a whole loaf to hand feed them.
Here’s one of them, getting pretty close, isn’t he? They didn’t seem very threatening to me – just wanting our bread.
As we began to feed the iguanas, the ones in the trees jumped and made 20 – 30 feet dives into the water and came swimming back to land to eat as well.
In a few seconds we had over 50 iguanas surrounding us, almost as in a Jurassic Park scene. That intimidated us a little at first, but all they wanted was the bread. The bread!!!
It is well-advised though to respect a prudent distance between yourself and the iguanas, so we made sure we did that.
It is also not advised to try to grab them or pet them as they could bite back. None of them bit us, but we were very respectful of them as well.
Oh, I found a video I took of us feeding these iguanas. Personally, I like them, but they really just care about bread. Did I mention they like bread? 🙂
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
The best part of Flamenco beach will obviously be the snorkelling or scuba diving, for those who are into that kind of thing. We were, but the conditions weren’t ideal at the time due to Hurricane Sandy.
There are a few coral reefs in the bay and the amount of colourful fish and ocean wildlife is out of this world.
The colours always seem to me like a fairy tale land.
Make sure there hasn’t been any major storms recently in the past month or so, or the water turbulence will impair visibility.
Here is the water on a nice day. As you can imagine, the snorkelling would be great, as I can attest to, but I didn’t get any good pictures underwater, sadly!
Though visibility varies and can be good year-round for snorkel, locals say it tends to be best in the summer (May – August) before the rainy season starts in the fall (September – December).
Either way, Culebra Island is a much drier Island than Puerto Rico.
Though it has vegetation, it is very different from the main Island of Puerto Rico where the humidity is a lot greater.
While we were on the island, we could see the daily clouds of afternoon rain forming over Puerto Rico, but they rarely came to Culebra while we were there.
This island was a dry desert and its vegetation has acclimated to its weather.
You will find lots of cactus full of flowers scattered over the island in rocky areas especially if you take the trail from Flamenco beach across the peninsula to Playa Tamarindo. That is a short 10 – 15 minute walk!
That beach is nice too, especially for snorkelling, though its colours aren’t as intensely beautiful as Flamenco Beach.
Although you can’t seem them in the above picture, Playa Tamarindo has rocks all over, and Flamenco Beach has just a bank of white pearly sand and beautiful palm trees decorating the shore.
American War Tank Covered In Graffiti
Last but not least, at the far end to the left of Flamenco Beach, at the end of the peninsula there is a war tank barred in the sand. This has been an iconic monument left there through the decades since the 2nd World War.
It was feared then that Puerto Rico would be a point of conflict during that war as Hawaii and Guam also were.
Thankfully no attacks happened there, but Puerto Rico was prepared just in case. The tank was left there as a memorial of the war.
Here we are posing with that tank.
When we went to Playa Flamenco, we stayed three days and we were angry at ourselves for staying only three days. There was so much more to explore!
We didn’t get to explore the town, nor the rest of the island. A good whole week there should be a must and I guarantee you, you won’t want to leave.
That was one of the reasons we didn’t stay longer was because I needed a hotel. It was too much to camp being pregnant and a rooster screaming at our ears every morning from 2 am on to sunrise…
We did throw our flip flops at the rooster a couple of times, I must admit.
Here’s another pic of my son. He definitely loved this vacation.
The people are friendly too and if you speak some Spanish they will engage in longer and very interesting conversations with you.
Some of them do speak English and there are several mainland American tourists also camping from which it is always nice to exchange experiences as to what else is awesome to explore on the beach.
Final Thoughts about Culebra Island
As with any unknown place, you have to be open to last moment changes of plans, and some things not being as expected.
Getting to remote places like these are not always easy, but with an adventurous mindset it is more enjoyable, and once you get there, and just feel the sand of Playa Flamenco with your toes and just look at that bay… it will be worth it.
To experience the sunset and the sunrise there is exhilarating, well worth the trip.
After all these years, the memory of that place seems to tell us: “Come back!!!” One day we will, one day we will. It is worth it.