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March 26, 2004
A little ahead of schedule but, if you plan to be in Puerto Rico around spring break and decide to go to Culebra, you will need some time to plan ahead.
When it comes to spring break, Culebra is one of the spots preferred by the local college crowd. And to the island's credit, there are few places in Puerto Rico that are as inviting to thousands of college students looking for a beautiful place to drown their midterm blues. The island has everything you need to get away, even from yourself. Pristine beaches, small restaurants, some nightlife and...well you heard about the pristine beaches already.
The truth is that Culebra does not have all that much of anything, which is precisely why it is such a popular spot. It is the perfect place to do nothing, to just hang with yourself -- and the tide, and the sand, and the beers and the age old tradition of fantasizing about being able to do that much nothing all of the time.
There are two ways to get to Culebra, one is taking a ride in the government ferry that treks to the island three times a day, and the other is by plane. Round trip plane tickets are in the $75 range, and the ferry, which leaves from Fajardo, is about $2 per person.
First, about the plane ride. During spring break, the plane ride is very much worth your money. The college crowd swarms the ferry, which at $2 per ticket is within their purchasing reach.
Depending on your age, and affinity for tight turns several hundred feet above the earth, you will think the landing alone is worth your $75.
Because of the direction in which the plane arrives, and the alignment of the runway, the pilots have to fly around the airport and behind a couple of mountains, then take a sharp turn and glide through tight crevace between the two mountains to then quickly straighten up and quickly descend on the runway. Sound a little hair-raising? Believe me, it is. The quick maneuver will make your lunch shift in your stomach the first time you experience it.
If you choose the ferry, get ready for some exasperating waits. The ferry's first-come-first-serve system always creates long lines. You will have to stand in a long line of people, with beer coolers by their side, waiting under the sun for the ticket window to open. An experience similar to buying Rolling Stones concert tickets in 1975. If you were there, you understand.
Assuming that you braved either a nauseating plane landing, or despair-inducing wait at the hands of the ferry operators, you will have to get set up for some fun in Culebra.,
Once your feet are firmly on the island you will have to move quickly to get a room. This is where this column will be most useful. Here is the best place to stay, and if you are wise, you will call as soon as possible to make a reservation.
The Culebra Beach Villas is a complex of hotel rooms, cabins and efficiency apartments located right on Flamenco beach. Literally just a few steps away from the water.
The place is well-kept and the rooms come equipped with a kitchenette. This is particularly important. Apart from an outdoor bar/restaurant in the CBV, there are no restaurants around the beach. Sometimes during the weekend street merchants bring out fried food and sell it to the college campers, (who are living on mostly potato chips, beer and water) but these vendors only show up when they see enough people at the beach. If you happen to be out there on a slow week, and you don't have a rid into town. You could be in for a long night.
Speaking of long nights, be sure to take some mosquito repellant with you, or you will not be able to go out at night. The mosquitoes bite with a vengeance, and feed on anything that moves after the sun goes down.
In one paragraph, here is the lowdown on Flamenco Beach. Flamenco is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world -- and in al earnestness the main reason everyone goes to Culebra. Sure, there are other beaches, that are more remote, and some of them are great. But nothing like Flamenco. White sand, turquoise water --everything you see in those cruise ship commercials.
The best part is that it is untouched by artificial lighting. This means that when there is a new moon, the darkness is so complete that you cannot see anything more than 15 inches ahead of you. Likewise, under a full moon, the whole beach becomes illuminated with a soft white light, making it one of the most pleasurable environments for a night swim.
Back to the logistics of your stay.
If you are in Culebra during spring break, and are staying in the CBV, you will find most of the college crowd on the opposite side of the beach, in the camping grounds. Given that most of the college kids have a very limited budget, you should not expect dinner invitations from this crowd. So here are a few places where you can get a good meal in town.
The Dinghy Dock is the ideal to get a beer, a burger, a steak, and some colorful conversation from those exiled locals. The menu is varied, the cooking is good, and you can even order a bottle of wine with your meal.
The name is literal. It is common to see some of the sailboat crowd jump on their dinghies to reach the dock/restaurant and do their version of going out to eat.
For a more upscale meal, try Club Seabourne, up in the hills of the island. The drive up the hills'winding roads are almost enough to make this restaurant worth the drive, which means the great quality of the food makes it a very good deal.
There is plenty of great seafood served at the Seabourne, and fine steaks too. This is the best place to have a quiet meal by candlelight.
And as you drive back down the mountain from Seabourne and head back to your abode by the beach, with your belly full and your head lightly fizzled by the wine, remember to slap on some of that mosquito repellant and go for a walk on the beach, and enjoy not having to do anything at all.
Culebra Beach Villas
P.O. Box 270262 San Juan, PR 00927-0262
Phone: (787) 767-7575
Fax: (787) 281-6975 • e-mail: email@example.com
J.A. del Rosario, a business reporter for The San Juan Star, is a remedial guitar player and an incorrigible nightcrawler. He can be contacted at: : firstname.lastname@example.org