Many people visit Puerto Rico via a stop at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan en route to another island destination. But next time you think about flying through, instead, fly to and take the time to cruise this Greater Antillean island’s less-traveled offshore waters. There are hundreds of miles of coastline around this fourth largest Caribbean Island and many smaller islands, rocks and cays to explore. Plus, Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth, meaning no passport is required for U.S. citizens, cell phone plans are like the mainland, currency is the U.S. dollar, and while Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken.
To get first-hand recommendations of a fantastic 7-day Puerto Rico-only charter, ALL AT SEA asked two experts. One is Dr. David Kerr, who has sailed these waters since childhood and remains extremely active in the local sailing scene including serving as past president of Puerto Rico’s Federacion de Vela. The other, actually two, are Jim and Debbie Veiga, the husband-and-wife team who own Atlas Yacht Sales and the Sail Caribe Yacht Charters base at Puerto del Rey Marina, in Fajardo.
7 Day Charter Itinerary of
Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands
DAY 1: Depart from Puerto Rico’s East Coast.
This is where you can find the largest number of marinas on the island, says Kerr. “We have Isleta Marina, which is an island marina apart from mainland Puerto Rico. Then the rest: Puerto Chico, Sea Lovers, Villa Marina, Sun Bay, Palmas del Mar Marina and Puerto del Rey, of which the last is the largest marina in Puerto Rico.”
From Puerto del Rey, sail approximately 4 nautical miles (nm) northeast to Isla Palomino.
“Here you’ll find a nice harbor with plenty of free moorings maintained by Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources of Puerto Rico,” says Veiga. Pyramid Reef is in the middle of the mooring field and is abundant in sea and marine life. Nearby on Isla Palomino, there’s a tiki-style bar operated by the El Conquistador resort and stables if you want to horseback ride on the beach. It’s also easy to dinghy over to Cayo Palominito, which is usually deserted on weekdays except for the white sand and blue seas.
DAY 2: Sail to Culebra.
It’s about 13 nm east to Culebra, a 10-square-mile laid-back island full of nature and natural Latin charm. One anchorage Veiga recommends is at Cayo Luis Pena, where you can anchor or moor for the day and overnight. The area is a sea turtle sanctuary and it’s likely to see one or more of these graceful marine reptiles while snorkeling. Another good anchorage is a few miles east either in the sheltered bay off Playa Tamarindo or south at Playa Melones where there are moorings right off the beach. The benefit of the latter location is that Culebra’s capital town of Dewey is a short dinghy ride away. Here, there are several small bars, restaurants and shops. It’s the perfect place to have dinner ashore.
DAY 3: Sail Around Culebra’s Punta Del Soldado to Ensenada Honda.
One of Kerr’s favorite spots to anchor in Ensenada Honda, the largest inlet in Culebra is in Daikity bay. “Once you pass the entrance buoy to Ensenada Honda you will turn to Port and keep the island to Starboard. As you start to enter the area, you’ll notice an area on the leeward side of the reef where the sea is especially calm. Anchor near the reef as the bottom here is sand. Drop the hook and you are in your own giant saltwater swimming pool. At night, the stars are visibly bright this far away from big cities.
DAY 4: Explore Ashore, Especially Flamenco Beach.
Dinghy to shore for the day and put Flamenco Beach on your top list of sights to see. It’s accessible by taxi, rental car, or rental scooter. This sheltered strip of sand traces the horseshoe outline of the bay and is one of the most famous beaches in the world. Ironically, one of the most iconic attractions here is an old military tank, dating to when the US Navy occupied the island.
DAY 5: Motor or Motor-Sail to Culebrita.
This 1-mile-long uninhabited cay is only a few miles east of Ensenada Honda on Culebra. “There are some good beaches on the South shore. But the gem is on the north side. You must watch out for the reefs as you come in. Once inside there’s another beach with beautiful sand,” says Kerr.
DAY 6: Sail South on a Beam Reach to Vieques.
Round the eastern tip of this 21-mile east-to-west long island and sail downwind to Bahia de la Chiva, recommends Sail Caribe’s Veiga. The bay is relatively inaccessible without a boat, with a beautiful beach and two spectacular snorkeling spots: ‘Blue Tang’ reef and Isla Chiva.
“On Vieques’ south side too is Mosquito Bay which is a Bioluminescent Bay. Don’t anchor in the bay as it’s tricky going in plus engine exhaust will kill the dinoflagellates. Several companies offer kayak or electric-powered boat tours. The best time to go is when there is no moon,” says Kerr.
DAY 7: Punta Arenas to Fajardo.
Sail eastward to Punta Arenas, on the west coast of Vieques. The coast offers several places to drop anchor for lunch or overnight if you don’t have to return your charter until Day 8. Otherwise, it’s only a 2.5-hour sail to the Fajardo marinas from this point. Once back, your can start planning your next charter to see more of Puerto Rico’s offshore waters.
For information on COVID Entry Guidelines to Puerto Rico, visit: www.travelsafe.pr.gov/