Off the eastern shore of Puerto Rico, the snorkeling on Culebra Island is renowned for its scenic beaches and diverse marine life. While most visitors stay on Culebra Island, it is actually part of an archipelago of 23 small islands that are located about 17 miles from Puerto Rico. With no rivers or streams, the lack of rain runoff keeps the water clarity high. The island is not known for hordes of tourists, but that also means there aren’t many tourist services and limited stores for supplies. Even many of the restaurant are closed outside of the high season (November to March). The best time of year for snorkeling, though, is from May through August with low precipitation and calm winds. During Culebra Islands snorkeling, you will most likely encounter several species of sea turtles including hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherbacks.
Culebra Island has ten shore-accessed and ten offshore boat-accessed snorkeling dive sites. Each of the snorkeling spots has its own seasonality with winds, waves and water clarity. In certain seasons, a dive site may be completely closed out and unsafe. While it is important to check with local dive shops and tour operators, keep in mind that on Culebra you will probably hear very conflicting information from some of the local dive shops and tour operators.
The most popular Culebra Island snorkeling is Playa Flamenco. Also known as Flamenco Beach, it is located north of the town of Culebra on the northshore. The horseshoe shaped Bahia Flamenco creates a very protected beachfront and there are nice corals to be seen on either end of the beach. While normally desolate due to its remoteness, it can get crowded at times in high season or if a large tour group arrives. During Flamenco Beach snorkeling, you may encounter angelfish, squid and hawksbill turtles. It usually has good water clarity, but with all the sand flats, the visibility can drop if winding or the surf comes out of the north. Luckily, there are two alternate snorkeling dive options from the Flamenco Beach parking lot including Playa Resca and Playa Carlos Rosario.
Also on the northshore just to the east of Flamenco Beach, the snorkeling at Playa Resaca is a good alternative if Playa Flamenco become crowded or the clarity is poor. It is located just east around the point (Punta Flamenco). The best snorkeling can be found at either end of the beach, but it is less protected and can be challenging for beginners or families.
On the northwest shore just to the west of Flamenco Beach, the snorkeling at Playa Carlos Rosario offers good coral and marine life. Again, it is a good option if you get to Playa Flamenco and it’s too crowded or unsafe. It is a 15 minute hike from the Flamenco Beach parking lot, which starts partially closed gate on the west side. Definitely prepare for a lot of bugs along the trek to the shore-accessed Playa Carlos Rosario dive spot.
At the far northwest point to the north of Playa Carlos Rosario, the snorkeling at Punta de Molinos is known to be scenic but challenging. This shore-accessed snorkel spot is not for beginners or families.
On the west coast to the north of Culebra town, the snorkeling at Playa Tamarindo is considered the second most popular after Playa Flamenco. Also known as Tamarindo Beach, you will usually see plenty of turtles and stingrays. In a broad bay, the best snorkeling can be found towards the northern end. Again, if the wind or waves is coming from the west, it may not be possible to snorkeling here.
Just northwest of Culebra town on the west coast, the snorkeling at Playa Melones is known for healthy coral formations. Also known as Melones Beach, this beach is frequented by tourists coming over on the ferry since is its so close to town.
South of Culebra town on the west coast, the snorkeling at Playa de Cascajo offers clear waters and some coral formations. Known as Cascajo Beach, its just a short trip from Culebra town for ferry visitors.
As the southwestern tip, the snorkeling at Punta Soldado tends to be a little more exposed and less protected. Known as Punta Soldado Beach, this dive spot may be better for advanced snorkelers unless the water is really calm.
On the far eastern shore, the snorkeling at Playa Larga offers clear waters that are flushed by offshore currents. Also known as Larga Beach, the very small sandy beach also means that the water stay clear even if there is a little surf. It is pretty remote and infrequently visited, so make sure to get good directions if you are driving out on the unsigned roads.
Off the western coast of Culebra Island, there are several boat-accessed snorkeling dive sites that are known for very clear water. Again, it depends upon the season as to whether they can easily be reached by boat. From the west coast, the first snorkeling spot is at Cayo de Luis Pena, which is the largest west coast island, and has many good boat accessed dive locations. Continuing to the west, you will reach Cayo del Agua, Cayo Raton with its rocky cove full of marine life, Cayo Yerba, El Mono (aka Monkey Rock) that has soft corals and sponges, and lastly, Cayo Lobito.
Off the eastern coast of Culebra Island, there are three main boat-accessed snorkeling spots. These eastern islands are a much futher boat ride from the main town of Culebra and are less frequently visited even in high season. Off the northeast coast, the island of Cayo Norte has several nice spots on its southern shore that are protected from both north and south waves. Further northeast, the small island of Cayos Geniqui has good snorkeling if the surf is very calm. Off the east coast, the boat-accessed Isla Culebrita has a wonderful protected horseshoe cove on its northwest coast that just begs for you to come snorkeling.
To reach Puerto Rico by air, fly into Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU). Culebra Island can be accessed by ferry (90 minutes) from Puerto Rico at Humacao or Fajardo. It is about 17 miles east of the Puerto Rico coast. Also, there is a small airport on Culebra Island with regular inter-island flights to San Juan via Cape Air. Most snorkelers on Culebra Island choose to rent a car in order to get to the many dispersed snorkeling spots. A good rental company to try is Jerry’s Jeeps.
Overall, Culebra Island is the 4th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 17 snorkeling dives in Puerto Rico.