Culebra ferry: Ceiba Culebra — Puerto Rico Ferry anchored by Hornblower

5 Culebra Ferry Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make in Puerto Rico

The Culebra Ferry sunk my plans to visit Culebra Island off of Puerto Rico. But, you don’t have to make the same mistakes as I did.

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico and want to visit the beautiful Culebra Island? So did I.

I heard…from a friend…the snorkeling on Culebra is stunning. Are you hoping to snorkel, too?

Culebra beaches are breathtaking. I’ve seen them in pictures. Hoping to put your toes in the sand?

In this guide, I’ll explain what happened and how, in hindsight, I could’ve avoided missing out on a gorgeous Culebra beach day so you don’t suffer the same travel mishap on your Puerto Rico trip!

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5 Culebra Ferry Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Before breaking each of my mistakes down and explaining how you can avoid making them all over again, let’s cover a few basics to get you oriented.

Culebra Island is small & tranquil and home to the famous Flamenco Beach considered one of the top ten beaches in the world. Along with El Yunque National Forest, it’s one of the top day trips from San Juan. That’s why most travelers make this Caribbean gem part of their Puerto Rico itinerary.

Where is Culebra Puerto Rico?

Culebra Island is a municipality of Puerto Rico located 17 miles east off the big island and 9 miles north of Vieques. It’s also just 12 miles west of St Thomas making it geographically part of the Virgin Islands. As of the last census count, about 1,800 people live on Culebra.

During a Culebra trip, you can relax on the beautiful beaches and do activities like diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking. Scooter rentals are also available to explore the island. Hands down, it’s one of the most popular Puerto Rico day trips.

Given the island is a little sleepy, without the big elaborate hotels and resorts typical in and around San Juan, Culebra is also very popular with the locals who come for weekend excursions as well.

What’s going on with the Culebra Puerto Rico Ferry?

That being said, if you’re planning a day trip to Culebra Island (as you absolutely should!), then you need to be aware of the pitfalls and mistakes that plague the Culebra Ferries.

The short of it is that the government handed over ferry responsibilities to the Puerto Rico Maritime Transportation Authority (MTA) and nobody appears to hold anyone responsible. This was the opinion of my born-and-raised-on-Vieques snorkeling tour guide from a subsequent day trip to that island.

He & others explained this has been a long-running issue with a poorly run operation. Residents are given a priority position over tourists to purchase tickets but I spoke to several locals who reported even with that, it’s still messy.

In addition, before October 2018, Puerto Rico ferries to the two popular islands didn’t depart from Ceiba. The ferry from Fajardo to Culebra and Vieques was the norm. In chatting with some locals, no one seems to know why the change from the Fajardo Ferry Terminal was made.  

I had a couple of hiccups to deal with, meanwhile, these frustrated residents deal with this on a regular basis.

And, prior to Hurricane Maria in 2017, many of the businesses that ran tours had their own boats so they could take tourists to and from the islands themselves. However, many of these people either lost their boats in the storm or had to sell them because of a slowdown in the tourism business right afterward. Ever since, locals have been rebuilding.

This brings us to each of my mistakes and what you should do instead if you’re planning a Puerto Rico vacation that includes a day trip to Culebra.

Mistake #1: Not Booking a Tour in Advance.

I considered doing this from the outset, researching Culebra Island snorkeling and bio bay tours on Vieques. I thought these 2 guided activities might be the perfect complement to the things I planned to do on my own, like going hiking in El Yunque National Rainforest.

While I did book the Vieques Bio Bay tour (more on that later), I’d read some pre-Hurricane Maria information about snorkeling on Culebra that seemed to show how it was easy to snorkel off the beaches without a guide or even book a short tour once on the island. I decided to keep my Culebra options open and this proved to be my biggest mistake.

What You Should Do Instead:

If your heart is set on a beach day or a particular Culebra excursion like snorkeling, book a tour in advance instead of relying on the Culebra Island ferry. Make sure the package includes the boat ride to and from the mainland, which many of the Culebra snorkeling tours do.

You could also opt for a half-day catamaran day trip to a deserted island for sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and beach time.

Depending on what time of year you visit, these tours fill up quickly given the Culebra ferry issues. You’ll need to get to a pickup location unless you’re staying at a hotel that can arrange transportation. Uber also works in Puerto Rico and is a much better option price-wise when compared to taxis.

 

Mistake #2: Not Buying Culebra Ferry Tickets in Advance.

Before leaving for my trip, I researched the ferries to Culebra Puerto Rico. Without any clue about the ferry logistics, I did the typical search for schedules, cost, and whether or not I’d be able to make a reservation online.

The search showed the scheduled ferry times for a passenger ferry and a cargo ferry. The cargo ferry can take over cars and a limited number of passengers while the passenger ferry is just for passengers.

Now to be fair, my research hinted at the possibility of “some bumps in the road” with regards to the ferry schedule. I made the judgment that nothing seemed overly worrisome, but some of the signs were there…

As I write this, you can’t make any advance ferry reservations online so you need to purchase tickets at the Ceiba ferry terminal in person.

Beware of just any websites claiming to sell tickets online, too! Don’t share any credit card details with an unofficial website because there are some out there. 

What You Should Do Instead:

UPDATE: It appears the Porferry website is no longer operational! There are no other safe ways to purchase ferry tickets ahead of time online. All the more reason to book a tour ahead of time to secure your plans for visiting Culebra.

According to my contact at Discover Puerto Rico, the Offical Tourism Website for Puerto Rico, the only website you should consider buying ferry tickets ahead of time is Porferry. 

And remember, buying tickets ahead of time is helpful but it doesn’t mean there won’t be ferry hiccups, like a canceled time slot or general disorganization and chaos at the ferry terminals. 

If you have a rental car, you can go to the ferry terminal 1-2 days before your planned day trip to Culebra and purchase tickets. After what happened with Culebra, I purchased my Vieques tickets on Sunday for my Monday trip.

Again, if Culebra and Flamenco Beach are on your list of things to do in Puerto Rico, it’s worth a ride to the terminal to get those tickets, or just simplify and book a Culebra tour instead.

From Ceiba, the Culebra Ferry costs just $5. 00 for a roundtrip. Actually, after you pay the $5.60 all-day parking rate at the ferry terminal in Ceiba, you’re up to $10.60 for a ferry ride, parking, and an unforgettable day of fun in the sun.

The ferry from Ceiba takes about 45 minutes so plan accordingly when choosing which ferry departure and return make sense for what you want to do on the island or back on Puerto Rico later in the evening.

Mistake #3: Getting Tickets too late on the Day of my Trip.

According to the Culebra ferry schedule online, I planned on the 10:30 a.m. ferry. My plan was to get there at about 9:30, which I thought should be enough time to park, get a ticket, maybe even grab a cup of coffee, and cue up for a ferry ride.

I planned my drive using the Waze app, which worked perfectly during my whole Puerto Rico trip I might add. It suggested I leave my hotel by 8 am so I left by 7:30…just in case.

The drive went pretty smoothly aside from some traffic and a burst of rain. By the time I parked, grabbed my stuff, and made my way over to the ticket booth, it was closer to 9:40. I remember thinking, “good thing I left a little earlier.” Little did I know what was in store!

Spoiler alert…I never made it onto that or any other Culebra ferry during my trip to Puerto Rico.

What You Should Do Instead:

If you can’t go 1-2 days in advance to buy your tickets in person as suggested earlier, get to the Ceiba Ferry Terminal as early as you can on the day you want to go to Culebra and target the passenger ferry schedule.

The passenger ferries fit more people than the cargo ferries which only take a limited number of people. Most of the space on the cargo ferries is for cars and when they say limited space, they mean LIMITED.

For what it’s worth, too, I never saw a single car aboard a ferry either. 🙁

But remember, arriving as early as possible will not guarantee you get ferry tickets for that day. Booking a Culebra tour is the only way to secure those plans.

Mistake #4: Not Avoiding Weekends.

I’m certain one of the issues that further complicated everything was I planned my day trip for a Sunday.

Before I could make it to the ticket booth, I was told by someone who looked to be a ferry staff member that I could buy tickets for the 10:30 a.m. ferry to Culebra. “GREAT,” I said, feeling relieved as I continued on my way to the ticket window. What stopped me in my tracks was when the very next thing she said was, “but you can’t return today.”

“Ummm what?!”

I was told because of “too many passengers and a broken ferry” I could get to Culebra and “probably” return early the following day.

Ugh. Culebra was slipping thru my fingers.

The combination of tourists and locals returning from full weekend excursions to Culebra (remember it was a Sunday) and the number of people like me who wanted to visit for the day meant the return trips were full. In comparison, my Vieques day trip was on a Monday and the boat I returned on was nearly empty.

What You Should Do Instead:

Plan your Culebra day trip for a weekday, if possible.

There’ll likely still be a good number of tourists but, without a doubt, fewer locals vying for tickets. You might also want to consider a full weekend in Culebra if avoiding a weekend isn’t possible. This could eliminate the Sunday return trip issue as you’ll buy your roundtrip ticket 1-2 days before your actual return.

Forgive the pun, but there were plenty of other people in the same boat as me.

I was surrounded by other travelers who were confused and bewildered about what we should do next. Picture a scene from The Walking Dead where the zombies are planning a beach day with coolers, backpacks, towels, and sunhats in hand.

This doesn’t have to be you.

Again, back to my biggest mistake…not booking a Culebra tour. I was regretting this decision more and more as the debacle of my day unfolded.

Mistake #5: Not Considering the Flight Option.

Without a doubt, flights to Culebra are much more expensive than the ferry. The upside is, though, you’ll get there fast and without the hassle of the chaotic ferry terminal.

But, the difference in flight price versus the $5. 00 roundtrip ferry leaves many tourists (including me) opting for the boat ride in a blink.

At $300 for a roundtrip ticket, before spending any money to eat, drink, and/or take a tour, I couldn’t justify it. After all, this was more expensive than my round trip tickets from Newark to Puerto Rico!

What You Should Do Instead:

There are only two ways to get to Culebra from the mainland of Puerto Rico, by sea or by air. If you want to fly, there are a few regional airlines that service the area. It may be possible to find a one-way ride starting at $99 but expect airfares to range depending on your travel dates so do your homework and search for the cheapest flights.

Think about how important it is for you to visit Culebra. Knowing what I know now, I would have reworked my Puerto Rico itinerary and definitely avoided a weekend day trip. I might have even planned a weekend there. There are Culebra hotels and amenities for a weekend trip and this could justify the price of the flight.

You might even consider flying one way and taking the ferry one way.

But, there’s a risk if the ferry isn’t running or is already full or you can’t get to the terminal ahead of time to guarantee the ferry ticket you need. Still, if you’re someone with flexibility, money to spend, and not intending to travel on a Saturday or Sunday, it’s a possibility.

Flights from San Juan to Culebra take 30 minutes. From Ceiba, the flight is just 15 minutes.

What happens when all else fails??

If you end up in a situation like I did and you’re stranded, have a backup plan. I went to Luquillo Beach and salvaged a beach day on a beautiful beach. This was just a short 35-40 minute ride from Ceiba.

And, what about the Vieques ferry?

Earlier, I mentioned my day trip to Vieques. You have the same travel options here as you do for Culebra. You can take the ferry from Ceiba or you can fly to Vieques from San Juan or Ceiba. There is a flight between the two islands but no ferry service between them.

All of my tips above apply if you’re planning a ferry trip to Vieques, too.

After the realization of no ferry to Culebra sunk in, it hit me. “Wait! Can I actually get to Vieques tomorrow for my bio bay tour?!?

I ran back to the ticket window and asked for round trip tickets to Vieques for the next day and held my breath. I asked for the 9:30 a.m. ferry and since my bio bay tour would end around 8:30 p.m, I needed a return ticket for the last ferry which was scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

The person at the ticket booth said no problem except that he couldn’t book me on the last ferry “because the computer wouldn’t let him” but I could buy a ticket for the 6:30 p.m. return and easily exchange it to the 9:30 when I arrived on Vieques. I was already weary given the chaos but I went along with it. I’m not sure I had another choice.

Turns out, my suspicions were validated.

I made it to Vieques the following day but when I went to exchange my 6:30 p.m. ticket for a 9:30 p. m. ticket, I was told the 9:30 ferry wasn’t running because it…broke.

In short, I had to quickly rearrange my plans on the island. I rented a golf cart to explore a bit and did a snorkeling tour with the same company I had planned to use for the bio bay tour.

Luckily, all was not lost, as I salvaged a bio bay tour back on the mainland in Fajardo after taking an earlier ferry back.

And just in case you’re wondering if I’m the unluckiest traveler ever…while having lunch on Vieques. a waitress overheard me talking about my predicament and told me about the mess that transpired the night before.

Nearly 200 people were left stranded at the ferry terminal because the last ferry off the island, yup you guessed it, broke. She just looked at me with a serious expression and said, “This ferry thing is bad.”

The Bottom Line…

My plan was to spend some chill time on the beach in Culebra and play it by ear without a real itinerary. Maybe I’d do some snorkeling. 

From a distance, it all appears normal. There’s a ferry schedule online, a ticket booth at the terminal, and a parking lot. No sweat.

Lesson learned in hindsight for me. Next time, I’ll just book a Culebra tour. Hopefully for you, how to get to Culebra, with all the pitfalls and options laid out, will be the difference. 

Are you planning a Puerto Rico trip with time in Culebra?

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Culebra Ferry | CULEBRA — VIEQUES Ferry Tickets

(updated 2022- Fast ferry PASSENGERS ONLY -40min)

You can get your Culebra ferry tickets at www.viequesferrytickets.com. Voyage between Ceiba and Culebra is about 40 minutes with fast ferries (2021). Most car rental companies in Puerto Rico do not allow their vehicles to be taken on the ferry. It is recommended to park your rental car in Fajardo and rent another in Culebra.

If you happen to miss the ferry at Ceiba, an alternative is to fly from the Ceiba airport. Vieques Air Link and Air Flamenco fly between Ceiba and Culebra. But if you get the tickets on www.viequesferrytickets.com you will get your ride.

The Culebra Ferry is one of most commonly used methods to get to Culebra. Follow our advice and make this trip part of the fun and the adventure you will have during your best Culebra Beach Vacations.

There are two types of ferries: the passenger ferry and the cargo ferry. On this page I will concentrate on the passenger ferry wich we puertorricans call ‘La Lancha’.

Culebra ferry

The CARGO ferries (Cars and Passengers ) but slow than fast ferries are run by the government, by the ‘Autoridad de Transporte Marítimo. These prices are very low, taking into consideration that the Culebra ferry ride takes about 1 hour and 15  minutes to arrive. .The ferry’s port is located on an eastern city of Puerto Rico called Fajardo. It is about an hour drive from the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan.

 

https://www.puertoricoferry.com/buy-tickets/

On The Ferry Terminal

They start selling the tickets around one hour before the departure time. For example, if you want to take the 9:00 am Culebra ferry they will start to sell the tickets at around 8:00 am. Some people are standing in the line even earlier than that. However if you get the tickets at www.viequesferrytickets.com you do not have to do the big line!

At The Ferry Terminal

Once you have bought your tickets you will be waiting on the ferry terminal for the announcement that it is time to aboard the culebra ferry. These announcements are made in Spanish.

If you don’t speak spanish make sure and ask someone in the crowd or the supervisor who is taking your ticket if you are boarding the ferry to Culebra. Remember, from this terminal you can choose to go to Vieques island or Culebra island.

I have personally met people that have ended on Vieques island instead of Culebra!

Basically what they say on these announcements is that those heading to Culebra please use exit number… and that elderly people and persons with disabilities will go first, following the Culebra residents and then the visitors or tourists.

The gate for the elderly people is a different one from the gate that the residents and tourists use. Please, be kind and let the Culebra residents go first, they have to take this ferry again and again.

How do you tell who is a resident and who is a visitor? Is not that difficult. Culebra’s residents are not in the spirit of going to the beach but of returning home, so they might be dressing differently than the visitors. We might be carrying a grocery cart, shopping bags or even a small suitcase because we sometimes need to stay in Puerto Rico for a few days.

Culebra has a very small population and we pretty much know each other, even if it is only by sight. The ferry terminal workers are also familiar with the Vieques and Culebra residents from their frequent rides back and forth during many years.

For now, if you don’t want to make a very long line very early in the morning, just get the tickets at www.viequesferrytickets.com

Inside The Ferry

Once you are aboard the vessel follow the directions of the ferry workers, or sailors, as we usually call them, on were to put your things if you are carrying a lot of packages or anything else they tell you. They are usually dressed in navy blue.

If you need to go to the bathroom, it will be better if you go at the ferry terminal, before boarding the Culebra ferry. If you didn’t had time, then you can go inside the ferry, there are bathrooms in it too. But it will be better if you go before the ferry starts its journey. Is not easy to go to the bathroom with all that ocean movement :).

By the way, before I forget, these ferries are air conditioned. I have seen so many times people with very light clothing feeling cold inside the ferry. If you are accustomed to lower temperatures you won’t have a problem. But if you live on a warmer climate, like me!, this is something you should take into consideration for you to have a more comfortable trip.

It’s not that you have to wear a coat or anything. You can also sit on the outside area, which is smaller. There’s no air conditioner there.

While navigating to Culebra some people enjoy watching the ocean, the keys, Vieques island (which will be to your right while traveling to Culebra), the clouds, the birds, all the nature. Some people have seen during these trips whales – from February to April – and some have also seen dolphins and other sea creatures.

The Culebra ferry: such a hard worker

This ferry is a hard worker. It travels 7 days a week and does 6 trips per day. Three of those trips from Fajardo to Culebra and three are from Culebra back to Fajardo. That’s a total of around 7.5 to 9 hours of work per day!

So, if on that very special day that you decide to visit our beautiful Culebra there is some delay or something happens to the Culebra ferry, remain calm. The diligent people that work there on all aspects of the ferry will do everything they can to keep things moving.

Arriving to Culebra: Hooray!

When the ferry is getting close to Culebra the tendency of many people is to get up and stand in a line to get out even before the ferry stops moving.

This is not permitted and it is for your own safety. The ferry makes some sudden movements when the sailors are tying it on the port and someone may fall down because of this. So, please remain seated until the vessel stops completely.

Culebra’s Port

Culebra ferry

Well, this is it. Culebra at last! Hope you enjoy our small jewel and have the greatest beach vacations!

Culebra Ferry

 

Cargo Ferry Basics

For the record, I have never tried to take our car on the cargo ferry. But I wanted to publish this information, just so that people have it. The information I have gathered here came from many different sources like the Port Authority website, info posted in the ferry terminals, and even TripAdvisor.com reviews.

The cargo ferry between the main island of Puerto Rico and the out islands of Culebra and Vieques is the main life-line for people living on those islands. It is the way the islanders get all their supplies (gas, food, building materials, etc.). Cargo trucks will get priority on the ferry, so the people who live on those islands can get the supplies they need.

Copyright © 2018 Ray Bentz. All rights reserved.

Culebra ferry

 

Passengers are also allowed on the cargo ferries, though they are usually slower boats than the passenger ferries and there are fewer seats. The trip can take 1.15 hours. depending on which ferry and the weather. Adverse weather conditions will alter the schedule.

Ferry Information from Culebra to Casa Hibiscus

Ferry Information


Location

The ferry terminal is located in Ceiba, PR. It is approximately a one hour drive from the San Juan International Airport.

Discover Puerto Rico website ferry information: https://www.discoverpuertorico.com/ceiba-ferry-terminal/

Address: Ceiba Ferry Terminal Marina Drive Roosevelt Roads

Google Maps: Ceiba Ferry Terminal

Advance Ferry Tickets

  • Website: https://www.puertoricoferry.com/
  • Ferry schedules and daily itineraries are available on https://www.puertoricoferry.com/
  • Advance sales are not always available .
  • Purchase round trip tickets.
  • Tickets can sell out fast because there is a limited number of tickets offered for sale online.
  • The online booking tool usually lets you purchase tickets about 3 weeks in advance.
  • Start checking the online booking tool 3 weeks in advance of your departure date to Culebra to purchase available online tickets.

In Person Ticket Purchasing

  • Ferry tickets are available at the Ceiba ferry terminal.
  • Ferry schedules and daily itineraries are available on puertoricoferry.com
  • Arrive at the ferry port at least 1 hour in advance of the departure time to purchase your tickets.
  • Holidays can be very busy so it is recommended you arrive a few hours before your departure time to purchase tickets.
  • Purchase round trip tickets.
  • Cargo ferry tickets, which include tickets for cars, are usually only available on the day of travel and must be purchased at the ferry terminal in person.
    Be aware that commercial vehicles and resident vehicles have priority boarding. Space is often limited.
  • Afternoon tickets are usually more available than morning tickets.

Parking

  • Parking is available in Ceiba.
  • There is a daily rate for each vehicle.
  • The parking lot is located about 1/4 mile from the ferry terminal.
  • Shuttles run back and forth from the parking lot to the ferry terminal.
    Phone

    • Toll Free: +1 800-981-2005
    • Main: +1 787-497-7740
    • Culebra Ticket Office: +1 787-742-3161 Note

      • The inside of the ferry can be very cold. I usually wear long sleeves, lightweight pants, and bring a lightweight blanket/sarong to cover up.
      • Be prepared for delays and cancellations i.e. charged electronics, snacks, and beverages.
      • There are two types of ferries. One is called the Cargo/Passenger ferry and the other is a Passenger ferry.
      • If you are planning on bringing a rental car on the Cargo ferry it is advised you check with the rental car agency to ensure bringing the rental car to Culebra is allowed by the rental car agency.
      • It is usually impossible to get someone on the telephone. The ferry staff is busy serving customers in person.

      Culebra — frwiki.wiki

      For articles of the same name, see Pic Culebra.

      Culebra is a small island in Puerto Rico located about ten kilometers east of the main island. Its name means «snake» in Spanish.

      Summary

      • 1 story
      • 2 Geography
      • 3 Economy
      • 4 Notes and references
      • 5 Applications

        • 5.1 Related article
        • 5.2 External links

      History

      Discovered at the same time as Puerto Rico in 1493 by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage, it was inhabited by the Taíno Indians. For three centuries it served as a haven for pirates, including the famous Henry Morgan. In 1875, a black Englishman named Stevens was appointed governor of the island by the government of Vieques. He was supposed to protect the island and coastal fishermen from pirates, but was killed that same year. Culebra was not inhabited until with the creation of Cayetano Escudero Sanz. At , construction began on the lighthouse of Culebrita, an islet northeast of Culebra, which was completed at . This lighthouse was the oldest in the Caribbean for almost 100 years until it was decommissioned in 1975.

      Old American tank on the beach at Culebra

      In 1902, Culebra was attached to the island of Vieques. In 1903, US President Theodore Roosevelt created a naval bombing training area on the island. The population of Culebra has been protesting violently since 1971 years old to win a case in 1975 when operations were moved to the island of Vieques.

      Culebra was declared an independent municipality in 1917, but the governor of the island was appointed by the administration of Puerto Rico until 1960. From that date, the island freely elects its representatives.

      The island was the most affected area of ​​Puerto Rico by Hurricane Irma at .

      Geography

      • Area: 30.1 km 2
      • Population: 1868 inhabitants. (2000)
      • Capital: Dewey
      • Languages: Spanish and English.

      Geologically, Culebra is part of the Virgin Islands, unlike the island of Vieques, which is attached to Puerto Rico. At an altitude of 185 meters at Monte Resaca, this island is much drier than Puerto Rico, and in addition, it has no permanent rivers (water is imported from Vieques).

      Most of the islets surrounding Culebra (Culebrita, Cayo Norte, Cayo Luis Peña, Cayo Lobo are the main ones), as well as some coastal areas of the main island, are marine reserves (total area is 6 km 2). ) is mainly dedicated to the reproduction of various species of sea turtles. The Culebra National Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt and has about 50,000 individuals.

      Economy

      There is a very well served airfield ( Culebra Airport , AITA Code: CPX) connecting it to San Juan in 15 minutes. It can also be reached by ferry (twice a day) in 1 hour from Fajardo or 45 minutes from Vieques.

      The economy of the island is mainly based on tourism and its subsidiaries.

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