Islands near puerto rico: Culebra & Vieques | Nearby Islands

Culebra & Vieques | Nearby Islands

Playa Negra, a rare black-sand beach on the charming tropical island of Vieques

Just a short flight or boat ride from the Puerto Rico mainland, these enchanting islands are home to world-renowned beaches and the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay.

If Puerto Rico has a best-kept secret, it is the islands of Culebra and Vieques, sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is an archipelago, which means it has dozens of cays and islets. Two of its most popular nearby islands are Culebra and Vieques. Whether you’re coming for a day trip or making it an extended stay, these two islands are worth the trip, and both are world-class destinations in their own right.

Search the Culebra & Vieques Region Directory

You can’t beat the views from your private pool at Villa Tampico in Culebra.

The catch of the day is always the way to go.

Kayakers paddle through the bioluminescent bay in Vieques.  

Can you say sleek-chic? Overlook the ocean while you enjoy the rooftop pool at El Blok. 

Yum! Try Puerto Rican staples like fried plantains.

Take a beach break and visit Culebra’s only museum.

Take a picture by the iconic war tank in Flamenco beach. 

Rent a Jeep and explore the islands as you wish.

Visit Vieques’ black sand beach and cross it off from your bucket list.

Explore Culebra & Vieques

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CulebraViequesGuánicaCabo RojoRincónSalinasPonceCoamoSan JuanCarolinaBayamónCialesUtuadoOrocovisDoradoManatíAreciboRìo GrandeCaguasFajardo

Puerto Rico’s Island Gems

Discover Vieques

Just six miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques is home to a pristine wildlife refuge and the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. Vieques offers breathtaking scenery, unparalleled beauty, unexplored spaces, and laid-back experiences.  

Discover Culebra

Culebra is surrounded by more than 20 cays bustling with marine life, making it an absolute haven for underwater adventurers and casual beachgoers alike.

The tanks of Flamenco beach are some of the most photo-worthy sights in Puerto Rico.

Things to Do

With their breathtaking beaches, Culebra and Vieques are excellent destinations for water activities such as swimming, diving, kayaking, or snorkeling. Mosquito Bay in Vieques is the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Culebra has Flamenco beach, which the Discovery Channel named the second-best beach on the planet. There is also the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, which has hiking trails and other amenities for nature lovers. At the Cayo Luis Peña Natural Reserve in Culebra, you’ll find impressive spots for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Things to Do in Culebra

Things to Do in Vieques

Can you say sleek-chic? Overlook the ocean while you enjoy the rooftop pool at El Blok.  

Where to Stay

There are several lodging options in Vieques, including vacation rentals, guesthouses, and a small selection of eclectic hotels, such as the trendy El Blok and the eco-friendly Hix Island House. For its part, Culebra has more than 100 options for vacation rentals that you can book through services such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Other lodging options include Club Seabourne and Palmetto Guesthouse.

Explore Places to Stay in Culebra

Explore Places to Stay in Vieques

Duffy’s is a very popular restaurant in Vieques.

Where to Eat 

The restaurants of Culebra and Vieques offer a unique dining experience in a gorgeous setting. Suppose you’re getting away from it all during a few days hanging out on the Spanish Virgin Islands. In that case, you’ll find a variety of dining options, from casual beach-front favorites to more refined offerings with craft cocktails and fresh seafood.

Find restaurants on Culebra and Vieques

Much of the island of Culebra is a designated national wildlife refuge.

Getting to the Islands

You can reach Culebra and Vieques by boat, ferry, water taxis, or small planes, and you’ll find a range of options available for each. Both Vieques Airport (VQS) and Culebra Airport (CPX) are accessible via flights from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) or the smaller Isla Grande Airport (SIG) in San Juan. In Ceiba, the new Ceiba Airport (RVR) on the east coast offers some flight service to the islands. There are ferry terminals in Ceiba and Fajardo, with boats traveling back and forth several times a day.

Learn more about how to get to Vieques & Culebra

Exploring the Islands Surrounding Puerto Rico

The turquoise waters of Esperanza Beach in Vieques.

Discover the remote islets and tropical cays just off the coast of Puerto Rico.

When most people think of Puerto Rico, they think of a singular tropical island. In fact, Puerto Rico is an archipelago, or group of islands, with its main island eponymously named Puerto Rico. Surrounding this main island are more than 100 small islands and cays (also known as islets, which are very small sand islands that build up atop a reef). You can travel to some of these unique places by boat, plane, ferry, or in a kayak and explore a whole new side of island life that many tourists tend to miss.

Much of the island of Culebra is a designated national wildlife refuge.

Stunning Beaches in Culebra and Vieques

Culebra has some of the most laid-back and serene beaches in the Caribbean, including Flamenco Beach, which is the most popular. Tortuga Beach on Culebrita, a smaller cay off the east side of Culebra, offers a space of serenity where you can kayak or paddle among sea turtles.  For great snorkeling, try Melones on the main island. There’s no shortage of aquatic adventures to be had here.

Crystal-clear, white-sand beaches abound on the island of Vieques.

Vieques is another example of tranquil tropical island life. Here you’ll find white sand beaches, such as Sun Bay and Media Luna, and even black sand beaches (the majestic Playa Negra). Don’t miss a night tour of the bioluminescent bay. Located on the southern shores of the island, Mosquito Bay was officially declared the brightest bioluminescent bay on earth by Guinness World Records. The viewing varies depending on the phase of the moon and amount of moonlight, so contact the team at Black Beard Sports to find out the best nights to see the bio bay sparkle. 

View of Isla Caja De Muertos — aka Coffin Island — in Ponce. 

A Day Away on Caja de Muertos

Don’t be deterred by the name: Caja de Muertos is coffin-like only in shape. This nature reserve off the coast of Ponce hosts unique flora and fauna and is often visited by leatherback, hawksbill, and green sea turtles. It’s a popular summer destination for sanjuaneros, who trade the crowded city for beaches during the hottest months. 

To get to the island, travelers will need to take a private boat from Ponce. Once you’re there, enjoy stunning beaches and a pleasant hike up to an old lighthouse. Avid bird-watchers will also be in heaven, as Caja de Muertos is a protected birdnesting area. If you’re spending the whole day there, note that there are restroom facilities on the island, but you should pack a picnic lunch or reserve a tour that includes food, as there are no restaurants or snack bars. 

While in Ponce, be sure to visit Isla Cardona as well. This tiny island offers excellent snorkeling just a 15-minute boat ride from the Paseo Tablado La Guancha. Venture out with Waterland Adventures to experience the island’s many trails, stunning reefs, and 1889 lighthouse.

The clear waters of Cayo Aurora (AKA Gilligan’s Island) make this biosphere reserve a top choice for snorkelers.

Perfect Relaxation at Gilligan’s Island

Local families know Cayo Aurora—or Gilligan’s Island—as a favorite spot to relax on the weekend. They’ll pack up a cooler of drinks and food, grab a few beach chairs, and spend the day floating among the roots of the mangrove trees. The water’s typically clear and the bottom sandy, so Gilligan’s Island is a good snorkeling spot. There is a picnic area with bathrooms on the north side and plenty of shallow water areas for floating, which means you can bring the kids for a splash. Note: as of recent, you can only reach Cayo Aurora by kayak.

The turquoise waters of Icacos Island, off the coast of Fajardo.

The Jewel of the East Region

Cayo Icacos is one of Puerto Rico’s biggest and most beautiful surrounding cays. Located just off the coast of the East region, Icacos is a popular destination for sailing charters and catamarans, especially on weekends. Most of these depart from Fajardo and include lunch, beverages, and snorkeling equipment for exploring the crystal-clear waters. Or, board a water taxi to spend a day on the island—just be sure to pack all the supplies you’ll need, as there are no facilities on the island.

Take a Daytrip to Icacos Island

La Parguera is a paradise for watersports including snorkeling, kiteboarding, and scuba diving.

Water Adventures at La Parguera

La Parguera is the perfect island to enjoy exciting water sports. About 30 individual cays are part of this unique area, which is a nature reserve near Lajas. You can go kayaking, take kitesurfing lessons, or do some wakeboarding with Parguera Water Sports. Since the waters at La Parguera are clear and full of sea life, this is a fantastic spot to go snorkeling or to learn to scuba dive. What’s more, La Parguera boasts the only bio bay in Puerto Rico that allows swimming or snorkeling in the glowing waters.

6 Days of Underwater Adventures in La Parguera

Cocos Beach on Mona Island.

The «Galapagos of the Caribbean»

Ever dream of casting away to a deserted island where it’s just you and the local wildlife? You can have this unique experience at Isla de Mona, the most remote of Puerto Rico’s surrounding islands. Once inhabited by Taíno peoples and visited by pirates, this tiny island is sometimes called the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” due to its natural environment and endemic flora and fauna. Mona Island is accessed via a four-hour, 45-mile boat ride, but what you’ll find once you arrive is well worth the voyage. 

Learn More About Planning an Excursion to Mona Island

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  • Olesya E

    9 publications

    Great beach!

    A nice cozy place for a relaxing holiday) snorkelling, the underwater world is beautiful, bright fish interesting underwater landscapes) I advise everyone if you are looking for peace and unity with nature)

    Review: Cayo Icacos

    Posted on August 13, 2014

    This review reflects the subjective opinion of a member of the Tripadvisor community and is not the official position of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews.

  • Ramsey

    Paris, France 158 publications

    Nice beach and only

    A small boat goes to the island every day from the pier of Ponce, unless otherwise specified. The pleasure costs $25. Sailing an hour there and an hour back or so. You can swim to the island on a yacht, it is more convenient and pleasant.
    There isn’t much to do on the island itself. There are two tourist attractions — an abandoned lighthouse and a beach where turtles breed. The beach is closed, as the eggs are very fragile and numerous tourists will trample everything; and the lighthouse, despite the inscription — the property of the United States of America, soon presents a pitiful sight.
    There is one tourist beach, where the guests of the island who sailed on a boat splash around… But if you sailed on your yacht or if you are not too lazy… Forget about this beach. From the mooring place of the tourist boat, a trail leads to the lighthouse, at the fork where you need to turn right to the lighthouse, feel free to turn left. There the trail is barely visible, but it is there. You will come out to a beautiful lagoon, the most beautiful, I am sure, you have not seen. And that is not all. Go into the water and move to the right along the shore. The water is absolutely transparent… After walking 40-50 meters along the water, you will find a dozen beautiful, clean beaches isolated from each other (10-15 meters each, delimited by stones), where you will be alone… Believe me, it’s worth it ! It’s not like in the Bounty ad, it’s much cooler!

    Review for: Isla de Caja de Muertos

    Published December 25, 2014

    This review represents the subjective opinion of a member of the Tripadvisor community and is not the official position of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews.

  • Tatyana G

    Russia341 Publication

    Vieques

    The easiest way to get to the island of Vieques is by ferry, it costs only a couple of dollars, it takes 1. 5 hours, from the city of Fajardo, several times a day. We spent several days on this island and did not regret it at all. The island is big and you need your own transport. We rented a scooter. The island is very well equipped, everywhere there are good roads, signs, information. A tourist card is freely available in many institutions of the two main cities of the island. The map shows all the main beaches and attractions. There are many paradise beaches in Vieques. There are also more civilized ones, with good parking, gazebos, and there are completely wild and completely deserted ones. The best snorkeling at Mosquito Pier.

    Review for: Vieques Island

    Published August 3, 2016

    This review represents the subjective opinion of a member of the Tripadvisor community and is not the official position of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews.

  • Puerto Rico: Frequently asked questions


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    Free Associated State of Puerto Rico is now a commonwealth of the United States.

    The Spanish heritage of the archipelago remains visible today in many forms, from architecture to food, from music to language. Visiting Puerto Rico is similar to visiting any US state, you need an American visa to enter, but border control is somewhat more loyal. Bonus: Year-round temperatures range from 21 to 27 degrees Celsius.

    Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, local residents are US citizens and US travelers can enter the island without a passport. The official currency used in Puerto Rico is the US dollar.

    Languages ​​in Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with Spanish and English as official languages. You may also meet people who speak a mixed language or Spanglish.

    Location Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico is the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, located to the east of the Dominican Republic.

    Weather Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico has a tropical climate all year round. Wind blows in winter, while summers are mostly hot and humid. It rains all year round; «dry» season — April. Daytime temperatures are around 27°C in winter and 32°C in summer.

    The hurricane season starts in June and ends in November.

    How to get to Puerto Rico

    You can get to Puerto Rico by air or sea. Airlines such as Delta, American Airlines, United, Southwest, Jet Blue and Spirit Airlines have direct flights to the island. To give you an idea, there are almost 1,000 direct flights to the island every week. Most of these flights come from cities such as New York, Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Hartford, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Washington DC and Chicago.

    US travelers do not need to select international calling plans as their phones will work on the island as their home region. Cellular coverage and data coverage can be patchy in remote parts of the island, so always plan carefully ahead of time if you’re going to the mountains, for example.

    Population of Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rico has about 3. 6 million people, and about 5 million Puerto Ricans live in the United States.

    Interesting facts about Puerto Rico

    — The island has almost 500 kilometers of coastline and nearly 300 beaches.

    — The legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18 years old.

    — Puerto Rico has the largest mall in the Caribbean, Plaza Las Américas, and the world’s largest rum distillery, Casa Bacardí.

    — El Yunque is the only rainforest in the US forest system located in Puerto Rico. More than 300 centimeters of precipitation falls in the forest every year.

    — Although Puerto Rico is an American territory, it competes as a separate country in the Miss Universe pageants and the Olympics.

    — One of the largest radio telescopes in the world is located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and is used to observe asteroids in space and determine if they pose a potential hazard to Earth.

    — Culebra Flamenco Beach has been repeatedly voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world.

    — The shooting of the cult movie «The Rum Diary» with Johnny Depp in the title role took place here, the residents of the capital San Juan are very proud of this fact, and local guides will be happy to show you the filming locations and even the house where the main characters lived.

    • — The famous Pina Colada (Pina Colada) cocktail was invented in Puerto Rico.
    • Puerto Rico is approximately 9000 square kilometers.
    • — This is the easternmost island of the Greater Antilles chain, which also includes Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola (divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
    • — After centuries of Spanish rule, Puerto Rico became a territory of the United States in 1898 and has been largely self-governing since the mid-20th century.
    • — Its vibrant culture is shaped by a combination of Spanish, American and Afro-Caribbean influences.

    Indigenous people of Puerto Rico

    Indigenous people of Puerto Rico — Taino — whose hunter-gatherer ancestors settled on the island more than 1000 years before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Taino called the island Boriquen, and the Spaniards, in turn, interpreted the name as Borinquen (Borinquén and Boricua are terms that are still in use).

    During his second expedition to the shores of America in 1493, Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista. In 1508, Juan Ponce de León founded the first European settlement, Caparra, near a bay on the north coast of the island. Caparra was renamed Puerto Rico (or «wealthy port») in 1521.

    Over time, people began to call the whole island by this name, and the port city itself was called San Juan.

    Soon, smallpox wiped out the vast majority of the Tainos, many others were enslaved by the Spaniards and used to mine silver and gold, as well as to build a settlement.

    In order to grow cash crops such as sugarcane, ginger, tobacco and coffee, in the 16th century the Spaniards began to import more slaves from Africa. They also expended significant resources to turn San Juan into an impregnable military outpost, building a fortified palace for the governor (La Fortaleza), as well as two massive forts — San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal — that could withstand attacks from rival powers such as England, the Netherlands and France.

    Under Spanish colonial rule, Puerto Rico experienced various levels of economic and political autonomy over the centuries. However, by the middle of the 19th century, a wave of independence movements in the South American colonies of Spain reached Puerto Rico.

    In 1868, about 600 people attempted an uprising in the mountain town of Lares. Although the Spanish military put down the rebellion effectively, Puerto Ricans still celebrate «El Gritode Lares» (The Cry of Lares) as a moment of great national pride.

    Foraker Act

    In July 1898, during the brief Spanish-American War, US troops occupied Puerto Rico at Guanica on the south side of the island. In the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war later that year, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba to the United States.

    The provisional US military government established on the island ceased to exist in 1900 after Congress passed the Foraker Act, which formally established a civilian government in Puerto Rico. Having gained considerable autonomy during the last years of Spanish colonial rule, many Puerto Ricans bristled under the control of the United States.

    In 1917, Congress passed the Jones-Shafroth Act, which granted U.S. citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and gave Puerto Ricans the right to draft into the military.

    After the Second World War, great political, economic and social changes took place in Puerto Rico. In 1948, Congress passed a law allowing Puerto Ricans to elect their own governor. Four years later, Puerto Rico officially becomes a community of the United States, allowing the island to create its own constitution and other powers of self-government.

    By then, the US and Puerto Rico governments had jointly launched an ambitious industrialization called Operation Bootstrap. Although Puerto Rico has attracted an influx of large American companies and has become a center of manufacturing and tourism, the decline of the agricultural industry has led many islanders to seek employment opportunities in the United States.

    Between 1950 and 1970, more than 500,000 people (about 25 percent of the island’s total population) left Puerto Rico, an exodus known as La Gran Migración (The Great Migration). Today, over 5 million people of Puerto Rican descent live in the United States in communities centered in Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and especially New York.

    Is Puerto Rico part of the US?

    Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, but the island’s ambiguous status vis-à-vis the United States has for many years caused heated debate between those who support its Commonwealth status and those who want the island to become an independent nation.

    As Commonwealth citizens, Puerto Ricans can elect a non-voting representative in Congress and vote in presidential primaries, but cannot vote for the president because Puerto Rico is not part of the Electoral College.

    In September 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit the island at a speed of about 240 kilometers per hour.

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