When people talk about the Spanish Virgins, most of us think about Culebra and Vieques. In reality, there are many islands and cays worth exploring. Over the last two years we have sailed to Culebra almost once a month, tried many anchorages and met many wonderful people there and in the surrounding islands.
If you don’t have your own sailboat in the Caribbean and wish to explore the SVIs you can now charter crewed yachts or bareboats out of Puerto Rico, St Thomas and/or Tortola.
Planning your visit
If you take a look at Culebra’s chart you will notice more than 20 other smaller islands and cays including Culebrita, Cayo Luis Peña, Cayo Norte, and Cayo Pirata, among others. All are uninhabited, except for Culebra, and some offer quiet, secluded anchorages and/or spectacular beaches.
Culebra, Culebrita and Cayo Luis Peña combined have many beautiful beaches but we recommend the following ones because of the quality and safety of the anchorage, the great snorkeling and the beautiful sands. All these anchorages can be accessed by boat but Bahia Flamenco is better visited by car:
- Culebrita: Punta Arenas and Bahia Tortugas—make sure to hike up to the old lighthouse.
- Cayo Luis Peña: Punta Cruz and Punta Rociada
- Culebra: Carlos Rosario, Tamarindo, Punta Melones and of course Bahia Flamenco
Marinas & Moorings
There are no marinas on any of the SVIs, but the Puerto Rico Natural Resources Department has installed free moorings on many anchorages and beaches. The closest marinas are Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo and Crown Bay Marina in St Thomas. In Culebra, water, fuel and ice will all have to be carried by dinghy so plan ahead and bring portable approved containers on board.
Even though there are many anchorages around Culebra, not all are protected all the time due to wind and sea conditions, so we recommend the following for a great night sleep no matter where the wind is blowing from: Dakity, Las Pelas, Cayo Pirata, Melones and many coves inside Ensenada Honda. We don’t recommend overnights at Bahia Sardinas in Culebra, or anywhere in Culebrita or Cayo Luis Peña.
There are no large supermarket chains, Walmarts or Costcos in Culebra, so we recommend doing your provisioning in Puerto Rico or St Thomas before heading to Culebra. Once on Culebra you can buy last minute items and ice at Colmado Milka, Superette Mayra, Colmado Génesis and El Eden.
Dining and entertainment
Great places to eat come and go on the islands. At this time, some wonderful places to go enjoy an exquisite meal include Susie’s, El Eden, Mamacita’s, Juanita Bananas and Dinghy Dock. A must-see is Saturday night’s WIKI Sound Machine—conga players at Mamacita’s. Wiki and Jorge will make your whole body move to their great Caribbean renditions while playing five conga drums between them.
Sailing to Culebra
Getting from Puerto Rico up to Culebra is relatively easy, once you clear Cayo Largo to port. Sailing down from St Thomas you must stay way off eastern Culebrita to avoid Arrecife Culebrita (Culebrita Reef).
These are some of the distances between the islands and the sailing angles you’ll get based on wind direction:
From To Miles Sailing Angle based on Wind
PR Luis Peña 17 N/NE=CR, E=UW, S/SE=CR
PR Culebra – Carlos Rosario Beach 17 N/NE=CR, E=UW, S/SE=CR
PR Culebrita – Lighthouse Beach 24 N/NE=CR, E=UW, S/SE=CR
PR Culebrita – Bahia Tortuga Beach 28 N/NE=CR, E=UW, S/SE=CR
PR Culebra – Bahia de Sardinas 19 N/NE=CR, E=UW, S/SE=CR
STT Culebra – Punta Soldado 19 N/NE=BR, E=DW, S/SE=BR
PR = Sailing from Marina Puerto del Rey in Fajardo, PR
STT=St Thomas Bay Entrance
N/NE = North/Northeast; E = East; S/SE = South/Southeast; CR = Close Reach; UW = Upwind; DW = Downwind; BR = Broad Reach
The SVIs are the Spanish Virgin Islands or perhaps the “Slow” Virgin Islands. Days on the SVIs seem to last forever where the pace is slow, very slow. The SVIs are a special place, the type of place where you either “get it” or you don’t. I got ‘em more than 30 years ago. While things have changed a bit, I keep coming back every chance I get … and each time it gets harder to leave. Come visit us, have a Bushwacker at Mamacita’s and you’ll see why.
Capt. Tony Miro is a life-long sailor, photographer and web developer who currently lives in Puerto Rico with his family, where they sail aboard their Hunter 376, ¡Nada Mas! He runs various sailing web sites including sailboatspecs.com, caribesailingadventures.com, and can be reached at [email protected].