Snorkeling Culebra: Turtles and white sand

The View of Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico

Imagine snorkeling in water so clear and blue that you can see straight to the bottom.

Then, as you’re staring around at the coral and fish, you get a funny feeling and turn to your right – only to find there’s a Green Turtle swimming calmly no more than 5 five from you.

Snorkeling a coral reef near Culebra, while being introduced to Green Turtles, sea urchins, and various types sea stars and jellyfish, is hands-down the highlight of my time in Puerto Rico.

And all you need is a bathing suit, a sense of curiosity… and some patience.

Fair warning, getting from San Juan to Culebra is no joke. Unless you fly in directly, you’re in for a multi-hour drive from San Juan to Fajardo. There, you’ll catch an hour-long ferry to Culebra. Finally, once docked, guides will drive you to their base camp to gear up and get ready before escorting you to your snorkeling destination.


“Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter”


Our guides were constantly joking, but very knowledgeable. They took us through all the mechanics of snorkeling, and all the policies involved with being a guest in a nature preserve.

And then, we were off.

We initially stayed in this lovely, aquamarine bay and got to know some of the local life – namely, the turtles. Humans can’t touch the turtles, who are protected. That said, our guides did let us take turns getting near enough for pictures. And they were absolutely gorgeous to observe, even from a distance.

After about an hour of turtles and jellyfish, we came back to land and went on to our next destination, where kayaks and coral awaited.

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Two if by sea

Two to a kayak, our group followed the guides out into deeper water, ropes the kayaks together, and disembarked for an adventure on the reef. One of the most interesting parts of this trip was learning about all of the creatures that call the reef home, as well as about the different types of coral.

Honestly, it would have been easy to spend the day there, flipping around while our hilarious guide told fire coral stories and retrieved various sea stars and urchins for us to meet. But, eventually, we made our way back to the kayaks and paddled back to land.


Flamenco Beach = sandy perfection

After drying off and getting back in the van, our guides drove us to our final stopping point: Flamenco Beach. Recognized as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, its reputation is not overstated.

In true tourist fashion, we got empanadas and rum-filled coconuts from the little restaurant fronts by the beach. After that, we alternated between sunbathing on some of the whitest sand I’ve ever seen, and floating blissfully in water even clearer and brighter than we’d seen in Culebra.


Final thoughts

If you do something like this, I highly recommend bringing along a GoPro or other water-friendly camera. The guides are GREAT about taking pictures (and they post them on Facebook so you can always find them). But it’s nice to have some of your own shots, as well, particularly since the groups can get a little large and not everyone is near enough to a guide to get multiple shots.

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