advertisement

52 miles (84km) E of San Juan; 18 miles (29km) E of Fajardo

Sun-bleached Culebra, 18 miles (29km) east of Puerto Rico's main island and halfway to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is just 7 miles (11km) long and 3 miles (5km) wide and has only 2,000 residents. The island is blessed by the persistent enchantment of the tropical weather, and the landscape is dotted with everything from scrub and cacti to poinciana, frangipanis, and coconut palms. It has stunning beaches and emerald waters, and some of the finest diving, snorkeling, and sailing in the region, not to mention a gorgeous countryside.

This small island is all about having fun in the surf and the sun, but after a hard day at the beach, you can kick it back several notches and relax. There are a growing number of chic vacation homes and upscale inns, and places to get a good meal. But most visitors will want to save their energy for Culebra's white-sand beaches, clear waters, and long coral reefs.

Culebra was settled as a Spanish colony in 1886. Like Puerto Rico and Vieques, it became part of the United States after the Spanish-American War in 1898. In fact, Culebra's only town, a fishing village called Dewey, was named for Admiral George Dewey, a U.S. hero of that war, although the locals defiantly call it Puebla.

From 1909 to 1975, the U.S. Navy used Culebra as a gunnery range and as a practice bomb site in World War II. Today the four tracts of the Culebra Wildlife Refuge, plus 23 other offshore islands, are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge is one of the most important turtle-nesting sites in the Caribbean, and it also houses large seabird colonies, notably terns and boobies.

Culebrita, a mile-long (1.6km) coral-isle satellite of Culebra, has a hilltop lighthouse and crescent beaches. There are nearly two dozen other cays surrounding the island in the midst of stunning Caribbean waters.