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Culebra vs. Vieques: Which Puerto Rican Island Should You Visit?

by Caitlin J
puerto rico beaches

Culebra vs Vieques: how do you decide which one is worth visiting? Because both of these Puerto Rican islands have amazing beaches and so many things to do, this is a tough decision! 

Last fall, I visited Puerto Rico, and one of my favorite things was taking the ferry to see the beaches of Culebra. Based off my own experience, I am going in-depth to compare the pros and cons of both Culebra and Vieques, Puerto Rico. 

About Culebra, Puerto Rico

best beaches in puerto rico

The island of Culebra is only about 11 square miles, but don’t let it’s tiny size fool you. This area has some of the most beautiful scenery in the Caribbean! 

Almost a three-hour ferry ride from the mainland, Culebra, Puerto Rico is home to one of the best beaches in the world. While you’re here, you will see some some of the world’s most pristine white sand, clear azure water, and many turtles and fish. 

Some of Culebra’s best beaches include Flamenco, Tamarindo, and Carlos Rosario. These areas offer plenty of swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Culebra’s National Wildlife Refuge and the Museum of History are also worth visiting.

How to Get to Culebra

ferry boat in culebra

We stayed in Old San Juan and took a day tour with East Island Excursions in Fajardo to visit the beaches of Culebra. They picked us up in the early morning from a central meeting place in Old San Juan. From there, they drove east to the docks in Fajardo, where we then took a very choppy boat ride to Culebrita Beach. 

We had a small group, which was fantastic, and they provided drinks, snacks, lunch and watertoys on the boat. My only complaint is that I wish we had more time on the island! Because many companies offer tours similar to this one, it is very easy to get from San Juan to Culebra.

If you are staying in Fajardo, you can catch a ferry to Culebra for only $2, which is a serious bargain! However, the ferry is notoriously inconsistent, so even though you are saving money, you might lose more time. The ferry leaves from Terminal de Lanchas, Fajardo’s ferry terminal.

Where to Stay in Culebra, Puerto Rico

While there are no chain hotels on this island, there are plenty of smaller hotels and vacation rentals! For a budget option, check out Mamacita’s Guest House. Right on the waterfront, this charming rental is close to restaurants and the airport. If you’re looking for a more secluded location with a mid-tier price point, Aleli Cottages offer private cottages and bungalows on 33 acres of property. 

Aleli Cottages culebra
Aleli Cottages in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Mamacitas Guest House
Mamacitas Guest House in Culebra, Puerto Rico

For a unique hotel in Culebra, check out this Airbnb. This remote villa offers plenty of space, 6 acres of privacy, and panoramic views. If you want to splurge while in Culebra, this other Airbnb offers a private infinity pool overlooking the stunning island landscape. For more rentals in Culebra, click here.

Best Beaches in Culebra

best beaches in puerto rico

Culebra is home to the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico, if not in the entire world! When deciding between Culebra vs Vieques, you should know that Culebra’s beaches win (although they both have amazing beach areas). Here, you will see some of the cleanest, whitest sand and clearest, bluest water you have likely ever seen- a winning combo!

Flamenco Beach has been named the most beautiful beach in the world, and once you’ve been there, it’s easy to see why. The water clarity is impeccable, the sand is as white as can be, and the remote location means that crowds are nonexistent! 

Tamarindo Beach offers some of the most beautiful natural landscape and is home to several sea turtles. The clear waters make this a great snorkeling beach.

Zoni Beach is a secluded shore with some of the clearest water in Puerto Rico. Visitors come here to escape the crowds, and with no bathroom facilities, this is one of the quietest beaches on the island!

About Vieques, Puerto Rico

South of Culebra, you will find Vieques, which is about 50 square miles. This larger island is only 10 miles off the main coast. Vieques is home to many undeveloped beach coves, wild horses roaming the countryside, and the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. When comparing Vieques vs Culebras, Vieques has several amazing attractions, while the main highlight in Culebra is the beach.

Unfortunately, I did not get to visit this island because we ran out of time. However, many of these recommendations came from some of the research I did while planning my Puerto Rico trip. The next time I visit Puerto Rico, Vieques will be my first stop!

I recommend that you plan to stay at least one night in Vieques. The ferry times can make it a huge hassle to try and make this a day trip, and with the main attraction being the bioluminescent bay, you will want to be here at night anyway.

How to Get to Vieques

There are two main ways to get to Vieques: ferry or airplane. Ferries are often unreliable and don’t run at night. As I previously mentioned, the bioluminescent bay is only visible at night, and because ferries don’t run at night, this plays a huge factor in how to get to the island. 

If you do an evening bay tour, you will have no way to get back to the mainland until the morning. However, one benefit of taking the ferry is the extremely cheap price; tickets are only $2. 

For more information on getting to Vieques and Culebra, make sure to check out this article!

Where to Stay in Vieques, Puerto Rico

When comparing hotels in Culebra vs Vieques, Vieques wins. Because it is a bigger island, there are many more options for accommodations!

For a clean and comfortable hotel experience, book a room at Bravo Beach Hotel, only about five miles from the bioluminescent bay. The best luxury hotel in the area is the Blue Horizon Beach Resort, featuring incredible Caribbean views, colorful rooms, a 50-acre beachfront area, and an onsite bar and restaurant.

Bravo Beach Hotel Vieques Puerto Rico
Bravo Beach Hotel in Vieques, Puerto Rico
Malecon House vieques puerto rico
Malecon House in Vieques, Puerto Rico

The Malecon House Boutique Hotel is perfect for those wanting a unique and trendy experience. Comprised of only 13 rooms, this hotel has elegant interior design, a lovely pool area, and beach access. For those on a budget, the Isla Hermosa Guesthouse offers low prices and plenty of room.

Things to Do in Vieques

With amazing food, water activities, and plenty of relaxing beaches, you will never run out of things to do in Vieques. Read on to discover some of the best things to do in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

  • Mosquito Bay: Known as the famous bioluminescent bay, Mosquito Bay is a must-see attraction in Vieques. These waters contain up to 160,000 dinoflagellates per cup of water, resulting in the soft glow in the water at night. You can do kayaking tours of this bay in the evening, a truly magical experience. 
  • Black Sand Beach: As one of the most unique Vieques beaches, you can see dark black sand at this unique beach area. Combine this with the coastal cliffs and blue water, and you’ll definitely want to bring your camera to this stunning landscape. 
  • Biekes Bistro: This seafood bar and grill is an amazing place to try authentic Puerto Rican food. Here, you can order Caribbean classics, like mofongo, made with fried plantains, and churascco, a traditional grilled meat. 
  • Sea Glass Beach: As the name implies, this small beach is an excellent place to spot seaglass in many different colors, but mostly in shades of green and blue.
  • Horseback Riding: While Vieques is home to many wild horses that run free, you can also go horseback riding on one of the domesticated horses through the many tour companies in the area. This is a great way to experience the island’s trails and see more of the landscape.
  • El Quenepo: This beachfront restaurant has impeccable service, al fresco dining, and amazing food. Located in a converted beachhouse, you can order fresh seafood and Puerto Rican fare made with local ingredients. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge: Home to one of the most ecologically diverse wildlife refuges in the Caribbean, this wilderness is home to several different plants, birds, reptiles, and marine mammals. 
  • Coqui Fire Cafe: Living up to its namesake, Coqui Fire Cafe serves a variety of homemade hot sauces on the many menu items offered, from tacos to burritos. Don’t forget to order a margarita to help you cool down after all that spice!

Culebra vs. Vieques: Which Island Should You Visit?

If you’re short on time: Culebra

If you want to see the Bioluminescent Bay: Vieques

If you love snorkeling: Culebra

If you have a few days to relax on an island: Vieques

Ready to Start Planning Your Puerto Rico Vacation?

If you’re trying to decide between Culebra vs Vieques, hopefully this article was helpful! With plenty to see and do on each island, I’m not sure you can make a wrong decision between the two. If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, check out these other Big World, Small Girl Travel Blogs:

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Culebra vs Vieques Which Puerto Rican Island Should You Visit
Culebra vs Vieques Which Puerto Rican Island Should You Visit
Culebra vs Vieques Which Puerto Rican Island Should You Visit

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