Vieques is the second-largest island in Puerto Rico next to its main island. Despite being a large island, it’s one of the few islands in the Caribbean that truly offer an authentic Caribbean vacation. It’s a paradise for those looking to wind down. It’s quiet, uncrowded, and naturally beautiful. In Vieques, you can expect a unique experience that will stay with you forever,
On the other hand, Culebra is known as one of Puerto Rico’s best gems. It’s filled with some of the world’s best beaches and most breathtaking marine life. What really draws people to Culebra is its eccentricity. It’s unlike any other Caribbean destination you can go to. There’s not much to see, but at the same time, it offers you a whole world of natural beauty and unforgettable experiences.
Just approximately 6 miles (9.65 kilometers) off the main island of Puerto Rico is a paradise unlike any other. There, you will find the pristine and relaxing Caribbean gem that is Vieques. Vieques is considered one of the best Puerto Rico destinations. So, it’s a place that you should not miss if you’re already planning on visiting Puerto Rico.
The island is sometimes referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands. These Spanish Virgin Islands offer endless attractions paired with memorable experiences. It has an unmatched natural beauty that any person will want to explore.
With many unexplored spots and breathtaking sceneries, Vieques continues to be a surprise for anyone who visits it. Every trip down to Vieques will be a trip of unfolding something new and relishing in the experience.
As Puerto Rico’s “little sister”, Vieques is filled with an exciting history of destruction, but now it is more than a paradise for many people.
What Makes Vieques Unique?
Mosquito Bay can be considered the main attraction of Vieques. People flock to Vieques because of the record-breaking Mosquito Bay.
In 2006, Mosquito Bay was recognized as the brightest bioluminescent bay in the whole world. What makes Mosquito Bay brighter and more breathtaking is the lack of pollution in Vieques. The glow-in-the-dark occurrence in Mosquito Bay happens because of the tiny dinoflagellates. There’s a high saturation of these dinoflagellates which give the water its bioluminescence.
To fully immerse yourself in the wonderful sight of the bioluminescent bay, you can take a night kayak tour. This will let you see the bay in all its glowing glory. Beyond kayaking, you can also book a snorkeling activity in the bay. It’s best to go see Mosquito Bay when it’s dark. The darker it is, the brighter the tiny dinoflagellates in the water are.
If you’re visiting Vieques, Mosquito Bay should be on top of your list and definitely should not be missed.
Breathtaking Cultural and Historical Landmarks
Anyone who tries to go deep into Vieques’ history knows that Vieques has a controversial yet exciting history. It’s best known as the place of many protests against the United States Navy’s way of using the island. They used Vieques as a bombing range and testing ground.
With the rich history, paired with the abundant culture that Puerto Rico has, you can expect to see it showcased in Vieques. Vieques retains strong cultural and historical influences from the main island of Puerto Rico. This means that you can expect the island of Vieques to be just as vibrant as Puerto Rico itself.
Here are some of the best cultural and historical landmarks in Vieques:
Fortín Conde de Mirasol
Sitting on top of a beautiful hill that overlooks the town of Isabel Segunda in Vieques is the Fortin Conde de Mirasol. It’s the last small fort that the Spaniards built in America between 1845 and 1855. However, the fort was never finished. Now, it’s a museum that houses a wonderful art gallery, as well as an interesting collection of historical indigenous artifacts.
The true charm of this restored fort is the friendly people and guides. They are more than happy to answer your questions and give you a deeper look into Vieques’ history.
After immersing yourself in the history of Vieques, go out and enjoy the view. The Fortin Conde de Mirasol gives you a breathtaking view of Vieques’ main islands and nearby cays, which is really the main attraction of the fort.
Punta Mulas Lighthouse
To get an even better glimpse of the island’s history, a visit to the Punta Mulas Lighthouse is necessary. In the Vieques town of Isabel Segunda, you will be able to find this charmingly restored lighthouse that stands proudly. The Punta Mulas Lighthouse was built in 1895. It was later restored and turned into a museum in 1992.
At the Punta Mulas Lighthouse, you will be able to enjoy the garden and view. The main island of Puerto Rico can be seen from the lighthouse. More than the amazing view, you can also learn more about the island’s history. In the lighthouse is a small museum that showcases artifacts and photos that give a glimpse into the island’s past.
The overall atmosphere of the lighthouse is something that you will cherish. It’s definitely a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, the atmosphere by the lighthouse is so relaxing that some intimate events happen here.
Endless Fun Activities
The island of Vieques may be small in size compared to other Caribbean destinations, but it does not lack in entertainment and adventures. Regardless of whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or with your whole family, the island offers endless adventures. The island always has something that’s fit for visitors of every kind.
Vieques is known for its bright bioluminescent bay and untouched and pristine beaches. However, Vieques isn’t only about lazing by the beach or kayaking in bright waters.
Here are some of the best things to do in Vieques:
Snorkel With Sea Turtles
If you’re in Puerto Rico and looking for the best place to snorkel, Vieques should be your number one destination.
Adventurous Water Sports
Whether you’re someone who enjoys snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, or simply swimming, Vieques has something for you. The breathtaking beaches of Vieques aren’t for nothing; there are a great number of activities that you can do to ensure that you have a blast.
Because of the abundant marine life that Vieques has, an activity done in its waters will always be one-of-a-kind and out-of-this-world. Add to that Vieques being a protected territory, where you will experience nature at its most raw and beautiful.
Relaxing Beach Ride
It’s impossible not to see horses running wild in Vieques. Vieques is actually popular because of the semi-wild horses that roam around the island. Whether you’re by the roadside or by the beaches, you will see them.
Since Vieques is an island filled with roaming horses, it’s best to make the most out of them. Some operators offer horseback riding experiences. There’s definitely something magical about riding a horse along the coast with some relaxing waves to cap it all off.
Watch the Stars
Although Vieques can be considered a developed destination, it’s still untouched compared to others in the Caribbean. There are not a lot of people visiting, and you’ll find yourself having more calming and relaxing moments. Because of the general lack of people and happenings in Vieques, there’s also a great lack of pollution.
Because of the lack of pollution, the sky in Vieques is almost always clear. This means that stargazing is a breathtaking kind of experience in Vieques. You can enjoy the clear skies with your binoculars, but staring up at the sky and enjoying its beauty is also possible with the naked eye.
Beaches in Paradise
Imagine clear blue skies above, and when you look down, you see crystal clear waters that are paired with warm and silky smooth sand. Sometimes, you’ll even get all of that all to yourself. Yes, that’s what you will experience when you visit the beaches of Vieques.
Vieques is the ideal destination for anyone looking to unwind by the beach. The beaches in Vieques are well-maintained and practically untouched. It’s truly the kind of beauty that you won’t believe exists. The beaches in Vieques offer a tranquil atmosphere that most mainland beaches don’t always have.
In Vieques, you’re obligated to take it all in and slow down. Here are some of the must-visit beaches in Vieques:
Playita Negra is more famously known as the Black Sand Beach of Vieques. It’s one of the most extraordinary and unique beaches in Vieques. In Black Sand Beach, the crystalline water waves brush against black sands. This is definitely a sight not to miss when in Vieques.
The beach gets its black sands from the offshore volcanic rocks, which makes the phenomenon all the more interesting. What makes the whole Black Sand Beach so breathtaking is that it is surrounded by cliffs. These cliffs and the greenery of the beach truly complement the unique look of the sand with the water.
Truly, Black Sand Beach is blessed with a beautiful landscape. However, because of the rip currents of this beach, you cannot go and swim in its waters. However, since the landscape is unique and beautiful, you can enjoy a 2-mile (3.21 km) hike.
Pata Prieta, or Secret Beach, is a small beach that houses shallow waters and soft sands. This beach is popular because it’s a great snorkeling and swimming spot for beginners. If you’re someone that wants to give snorkeling a try for the first time, this beach is a must-see.
Pata Prieta can be found inside Vieques’ Wildlife Refuge. This means that you can see a wide variety of marine life on this beach. It’s filled with many different species of fish, and best of all, the coral reefs are bountiful and beautiful. Pata Prieta is definitely a breathtaking sight, not only above water but also underwater.
Playa Caracas (Caracas Beach) is one of the most popular beaches in Vieques. This is due to the fact that it’s a favorite among locals because of its facilities. Of all the beaches in Vieques, Playa Caracas is also one of the most accessible and convenient to visit. This means that you should expect this beach to be one of the most crowded on the island.
The waters in Playa Caracas are clear and gentle. The waves are rarely big, which makes the beach a great place for families. The sand that pairs the gentle waves is white and soft. The overall atmosphere of the beach is total relaxation with a hint of fun, especially for families.
Even though it’s a popular beach in Vieques, you can expect to have a lot of space that you can enjoy for yourself.
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge takes up more than half of Vieques’ landmass. Inside the wildlife refuge are many of Vieques’ beautiful beaches, cays, and forests.
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is one of nine national wildlife refuges in the whole Caribbean. However, the national wildlife refuge of Vieques is one that’s blessed with the most diverse wildlife and the largest landmass.
Most of the national wildlife refuge is open and can be enjoyed by the public. You can enjoy a day of hiking, beach hopping, and birdwatching in the area.
The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge maintains and preserves the forest habitats and wetlands. These habitats are mostly for rare and endangered species. There are plenty of species of different animals, from birds to reptiles to mammals. Plant species are also abundant in the national wildlife refuge.
A visit to Puerto Rico should be completed by a trip to Culebra. Culebra is known as the “Isla Chiquita” or “Small Island” of Puerto Rico. With only a little over 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) of land, Culebra is known as a small and peaceful tropical paradise in the Caribbean.
Just east of Puerto Rico’s main island, you will find Culebra with all its natural and pristine glory. Its charm is in its beautiful and serene beaches and laid-back atmosphere. If disconnecting from your busy daily life is what you want, there’s no better place to do it than in the comfort of Culebra.
What Makes Culebra Unique?
Culebra is not Culebra without Culebrita. Culebrita is a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Culebra. There’s no public transportation going to Culebrita, so if you want to go there, you will have to join a local tour or charter a boat. The fact that it’s not as accessible makes the trip more worthwhile.
The island is so remote and uninhabited that a lighthouse is the only man-made structure there. Other than the lighthouse, Culebrita is filled with six small beaches. Each of these beaches varies in popularity, but they all offer a tranquil experience. If you’re looking for the quietest and most tranquil island in the Caribbean, Culebrita is the one.
There’s not much to do in Culebrita except beach-hop and enjoy the views and crystal clear waters. However, despite the lack of activities you can do, the offshore island will still make its mark on you. It’s truly nature’s beauty all over.
Dewey is Culebra’s only town. It’s also the capital of Culebra. In Dewey, everything is from the Spanish culture. A walk through the town will show colorful Spanish houses and a lively and warm atmosphere. The people are friendly and the stores have everything you need.
In Dewey, you will also see so many beautiful murals all over the town. It won’t take you a whole day to see the vibrant beauty that Dewey has to offer.
Of course, a tour of a small Puerto Rican island such as Culebra will not be complete without seeing the beaches. The beaches in Culebra are breathtaking and world-famous. The atmosphere on Culebra beaches is laid-back. So, whether you’re up to hop beaches or you just want to laze around, there’s no better place to do it than in Culebra.
Here are the best Culebra beaches:
Flamenco Beach is the most popular beach in Culebra. Anyone who goes to Culebra never misses Flamenco Beach. The reason why Flamenco Beach is so popular is that it’s continuously ranked as one of the best beaches in the whole world.
Flamenco Beach looks like it came straight out of a postcard. The stretch of soft white sand is perfectly complemented by the turquoise waters. It’s a serene sight to see because of the lack of waves. The lack of waves makes this beach the perfect getaway when you’re looking to just laze around and enjoy a tranquil view.
Although the beach is tranquil, there are a number of activities that you can do. You can snorkel and swim with the marine life. You may also play sports on the sand. The beach offers many amenities so you don’t have to go far to find what you’re looking for.
Tamarindo Beach is breathtaking once you step on its soft sands. However, the real beauty of this beach can be seen underwater. Tamarindo Beach is known as one of the best spots to snorkel, so going to this beach means that you have to bring your gear.
Compared to the famous Flamenco Beach, this beach has fewer visitors, which means you have more space to unwind and relax. If you’re feeling more adventurous, though, this is a better destination than Flamenco Beach.
Underwater, you will surely be able to encounter at least one sea turtle and manta ray. The beauty of its marine life will leave unforgettable memories with you.
Tamarindo Beach doesn’t have plenty of amenities around, so it’s best to bring everything you will need if you plan to explore this beautiful beach.
Playa Tortuga or Tortuga Beach can be found on the offshore island of Culebrita. It’s considered the main beach of the small island. If you’re looking for treasure, Playa Tortuga is the place to be. Blessed with powdery white sand and clear waters, there’s nothing else that will take your breath away in Culebrita.
The beach welcomes a large number of sea turtles every year, which is why it’s named after that phenomenon. The marine life in Playa Tortuga is diverse and rich, so you know that it’s a great spot to swim and snorkel.
Local History and Culture
Despite being a small island, Culebra is rich in history and culture. There are many places that show you a glimpse of what Culebra has gone through. There are also many events that show you just how vibrant the culture in Culebra is.
Learning more about Culebra’s culture and history will give you a deeper appreciation not only of the place but also of the people. Here are some of the places and events that showcase Culebra’s history and culture:
Arte Fango rests on top of Culebra’s Dinghy Dock. This art studio gives you a taste of Culebra’s cultural roots. In Arte Fango, you will be able to find the original artworks and creations of Ani Anahit Aloian and Jorge Acevedo.
The multimedium art that is featured in Arte Fango gives a glimpse of the island’s symbols and heroes. There is always a reference to everything and anything on the island in all these artworks. If you want to see the beauty of Culebra on canvas or on any form of art, this is the place to visit. You may even buy artwork of your own to immortalize the Culebra experience.
Museo Histórico de Culebra
The Museo Historico de Culebra is also known as El Polvorin. Here, you will be able to learn more about the unique history that the island has. Everything about the island’s history can be found in the museum. From the Taino people that first occupied the island, to the US military occupation, you will see them all here.
There are some sections in the museum that solely focuses on the military history of the island, from their presence to control of the island. In El Polvorin, you may also watch detailed documentaries about the island and military. Beyond the history and military, you can also learn about the local churches and culture.
The museum charges a small fee and is very open to donations from visitors.
Fiestas Patronales de Nuestra Sra. del Carmen
Every year in July, Culebra celebrates a patron saint festival. During this time, the streets are filled with vibrant celebrations. When you visit Culebra during this time of year, you can expect dances, parades, and food to be everywhere on the streets. The celebration is truly colorful. It showcases the religious culture of the people of Culebra.
One of the biggest draws of Culebra, more than its beaches, is the beautiful sunset view that it offers. Wherever you find yourself at the time of the sunset, you will be taken aback by how beautiful it is. It’s the charm of Culebra that every point on the island is a great place to watch the day cap off.
Watching the sunset in Culebra feels like watching someone paint a breathtaking artwork right in front of your eyes. If you’re not planning on it, you should definitely add watching a Culebra sunset to your bucket list.
Culebra or Vieques – Which Is Better?
If you’re looking to unwind and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city, both Culebra and Vieques are great destinations to go to. The islands are similar, especially in the vibe that they give out. Although one is bigger than the other, they both showcase an untouched and pristine island to visitors. Anyone who values raw and beautiful natural wonders will enjoy it.
There is no standout when it comes to which of the two is better because of how similar their offerings are. It’s all about your preference in what overall vacation experience you want to have.
Vieques is a truly Caribbean destination that’s untouched by the world around it. It’s a better destination to go to if you’re looking for more options and activities. It’s more packed and vibrant. If you’re looking to add a mix of adventure to your tranquil vacation, Vieques is the island that you should visit.
On the other hand, Culebra is the best definition of a vacation away from the world. Because it’s a small protected island, there are not as many things to explore and do. That doesn’t mean that all you’ll do in Culebra is laze around, though. If you’re looking for the most breathtaking snorkeling experience, Culebra is the place to be. It’s unmatched by the underwater marine life that it offers its visitors.
Both islands are tranquil and protected, so whichever island you decide to visit will surely give you the best relaxation you’ve ever had. It’s now really all about choosing which activities you’d rather do to complement your serene vacation destination. Since they’re both parts of Puerto Rico, though, why not visit both?
Are Beaches Better in Vieques or Culebra?
Both Vieques and Culebra have breathtaking and pristine beaches that will give you the most relaxing vacation ever. However, when it comes to the better beaches, there’s no contest that Culebra is the winner.
Culebra is known for having top-rated and world-famous beaches that are constantly voted as some of the world’s best beaches. In Culebra, you’ll see some of the cleanest and whitest beaches ever. You may think that you’ve seen white-sand beaches, but if you go to Culebra, you will be in awe of how white and untouched they really are.
This does not mean that Vieques does not have breathtaking beaches. In fact, Vieques has some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. Vieques beaches will be able to give you a relaxing time just as much as Culebra beaches will.
Vieques vs. Culebra for Snorkeling
Both Vieques and Culebra are great spots for snorkeling because they’re both protected areas. This means that the marine wildlife that these islands have are some that you will never be able to get out of your memories. You will be taken aback by the beauty of the underwater in both destinations.
However, between the two islands, Culebra is better known to have great snorkeling areas. Because the beaches in Culebra are as clear as they can be, the snorkeling experience becomes much better than on any other beaches.
How Do You Get to Vieques and Culebra?
There are two ways you can go to Vieques and Culebra. Because they’re both parts of Puerto Rico, your best option is to come from Puerto Rico.
From Puerto Rico, you have the option to travel by sea or by air. You can either take a plane ride from San Juan or Fernande to Vieques and Culebra, or you can take a ferry ride from Fajardo to Vieques and Culebra.
Can You Do Culebra and Vieques in One Day?
Going to both Culebra and Vieques in one day is possible, but it is definitely not recommended. First of all, going from one island to the other is not easy. Both islands aren’t very accessible, which makes traveling to and from them take longer than you would prefer.
However, it is very possible to explore each island in one day, which means you can spend one day in Vieques and the next in Culebra. This way, you will be able to absorb more of the islands and enjoy the sights and activities more.
Vieques or Culebra Day Trip
Between Vieques and Culebra, Culebra is a smaller island, which makes it a better destination for a day trip. Aside from the fact that Culebra is smaller in size, which means you get to explore more in less time, there are also optional island tours that you can join.
Vieques, on the other hand, is best enjoyed overnight. There’s more to explore in Vieques because it has more activities and it’s bigger in size. To get the most out of it, you will have to spend more than a day exploring the island.
How Far Is Culebra From Vieques?
The distance from Culebra to Vieques is approximately 14.91 miles (24 kilometers). However, this is the direct and straight-line distance from one island to the other. If you are to count the distance of actually traveling from Culebra to Vieques, it will be higher. This is because there’s no direct transportation from one island to the other.
Can You Travel From Vieques to Culebra?
The best way to travel from Vieques to Culebra is indirect. There is a direct flight from Vieques to Culebra and vice versa, but it is not regular, and sometimes, they are not available. The best option is to travel to a different island (mostly Puerto Rico) before you can go to your final destination.
How to Get to Culebra From Vieques
You have the option to ride a direct plane ride from Vieques to Culebra, or you can take a more indirect approach.
If you plan to ride the plane straight from Vieques to Culebra, you have to take into consideration that the flights are not always available. It’s best to plan ahead as spontaneous trips from Vieques to Culebra may not always be possible. This option is also way more expensive than the other options.
For the more indirect approach, you can take a ferry ride from Vieques going to Ceiba, which is a municipality in Puerto Rico. From there, you can take another ferry from Ceiba to Culebra. This is a more economical option, although it will take you more time.
Is There a Ferry From Vieques to Culebra?
There is no direct ferry from Vieques to Culebra. If you want to take a ferry from Vieques to Culebra, you will have to stop at Ceiba. From Ceiba, you can take a ferry to Culebra.
How Long Is the Ferry From Vieques to Culebra?
Supposedly, traveling by ferry from Vieques to Culebra should only be fast because of the short distance. However, since a ferry ride from Vieques to Culebra means that you have to ride from Vieques to Ceiba and then Ceiba to Culebra, the travel time is longer.
From Vieques to Ceiba, you can expect the passenger ferry to take approximately 45 minutes. From Ceiba to Culebra, the ride will be shorter. You can expect to reach Culebra from Ceiba in 30 minutes. Overall, the ferry ride from Vieques to Culebra will be around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Can You Fly From Vieques to Culebra?
Yes. There is a direct flight from Vieques to Culebra. However, it’s not a regular flight. It’s best to schedule your flights from one island to the other ahead of time.