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Culebra Island Ferry and Flamenco Beach

Although Culebra is a separate island, it is part of Puerto Rico. The Culebra ferry runs regularly to shuttle locals and tourists between the small island and mainland Puerto Rico. Oddly enough, the absolutely essential Culebra ferry does not have its own website or any way to verify schedules or prices online. While plenty of tour companies will offer tours and services once you arrive in Culebra, you’ll likely end up paying more than you need to, and you’ll still have to board the same ferry as everyone else (unless you take a small plane from the Ceiba airport on the mainlaind). It’s actually really cheap and simple to visit this island, which is home to one to the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Flamenco Beach. I highly recommend spending at least a day on the gorgeous beach, so here’s what you need to know about the Culebra ferry.

Culebra Ferry Locationculebra ferry at fajardo terminal

 

The ferry terminal is located in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. Fajardo is about 45 minutes outside of San Juan, so if you are not staying in the area, be prepared to leave your hotel early. Honestly, if you plan on taking an early ferry, it’s usually easier to spend the night before in Fajardo. I happen to live in Fajardo, so it was simple for me, but it’s a beach town worth visiting. Seven Seas beach in Fajardo is gorgeous, and nearby Luquillo beaches are nice as well. Puerto Rico is lousy with gorgeous beaches, so take your pick.

Culebra Ferry Schedule

It’s always best to double check the schedule at the ferry terminal, as they can change it whenever they want. I recommend passing by the night before to ensure you have the times right. This photo is from the terminal as of September 2016:

schedule

 

“Pasajeros” are the passenger-only ferries. You’ll notice there is a “Fajardo a Culebra” and a “Culebra a Fajardo” section; make sure you are looking at the right one! Pedro made the mistake of looking at the Culebra schedule, so we thought our ferry was leaving Fajardo at 6:00am. Turns out the first ferry from Fajardo to Culebra is at 9am. It was a pretty unpleasant discovery when we got in line at 5:00am. For those of you who are rusty on your Spanish days of the week, here’s a quick translation:

Fajardo to Culebra Passenger ferry departures

Monday-Friday: 9:00am, 3:00pm, 7:00pm

Saturdays and Sundays: 9:00am, 3:00pm

“Carga” is the cargo ferry for anyone bringing large things such as cars. You have to make an advanced reservation to bring large cargo. The reservations generally have to be made weeks in advance. You can make the reservations at the terminal or by calling (787) 494-0934. If you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll probably have better luck just going to the terminal. Unless you plan on spending several days exploring Culebra, you probably won’t need a car. You can rent jeeps, scooters, and even street-legal golf carts to get around. There are also shuttles, which I’ll explain in the Flamenco Beach section.

When to arrive

I cannot stress this enough: you need to get to the terminal early. There is one boat. When it’s full, you’re out of luck. Keep in mind that all the locals from Culebra use this as their connection to the mainland. The ferry has even been known to stop selling tickets before the boat is actually full just to prevent too many tourists from flooding the small island at once. If you are hoping to get on the 9:00am ferry, I recommend getting there around 6-7:00am. I got there at 5:00am and there were already people in line.

Sunrise in #Fajardo #PuertoRico – the view as we wait for the ferry to Culebra.

A photo posted by Rease Kirchner (@indecisivetraveler) on

Culebra Ferry Prices & Tickets

Here’s the great news: the Culebra ferry is cheap! The bad news? You cannot buy tickets in advance. Tickets for each ferry are sold the day of and only at the ferry terminal. This is why you have to arrive so far ahead of the departure time! You can, however, buy roundtrip fares for the same day. If you are just doing a day trip to Culebra, this is essential. The last ferry from Culebra leaves at 5:00pm, so if you don’t buy ahead of time, you’ll basically have to stand in line for tickets again about 3 hours after you arrive.

Culebra Ferry Prices*

*As of September 2016

Prices are for one way tickets.

Regular passenger: $2.25

Children under 3: Free

Children 3-11: $1.00

Senior citizens (60-74): $1.00

Senior citizens (75+): Free

Handicapped or Medicare: $1.00

Additional costs

If you want to bring a cooler for the day, you’ll be charged $1 extra each way. The same goes for beach chairs, boxes, suitcases, etc. If it’s larger than a beach bag or backpack, you might get charged an extra dollar or so. Keep in mind that Culebra is an island off an island, so everything has to travel quite a ways to get there, which means the prices are higher than on mainland Puerto Rico. When my boyfriend and I went for a day, we packed a rolling cooler full of essentials like water, sandwiches, and champagne. (Hey, it was our anniversary, champagne was definitely essential). Glass is technically not allowed on the beaches, but…

img_2255

Honestly, had we properly thought it through, we would have just stored the champagne in something plastic, but hey, this photo wouldn’t have been as great with an unmarked plastic bottle, am I right? Don’t worry, I made sure this bottle was properly disposed of and no beachgoers were harmed in the taking of this photo or thereafter. Note: We took this photo under the cover of palm trees because we were warned by a not-very-official looking dude that he “had guys all over the beach” ready to pounce on anyone who was carrying glass. But once again guys, do as I say, not as I do. Pack plastic and cans and clean up after yourself!

How to get to Flamenco Beach from the Culebra Ferry

The main attraction on Culebra is that world-renowned beach I mentioned earlier, Flamenco beach. The beach is only about 5 minutes from the ferry terminal and there are a variety of options for getting there. The easiest and cheapest way is to just hop on one of the shuttle buses that park right across from the terminal. The ride is $3 each way. You can’t pay for the ride back ahead of time, so make sure to set aside some cash for the return.

Once you get off the ferry, you’ll be assaulted by people trying to rent you jeeps, scooters, and golf carts. Again, unless you are staying for a few days, you probably don’t need a car. The golf carts, on the other hand, are a nice choice if you are with small group. As of September 2016, the prices were around $35-40 bucks to rent a golf cart for the day, so if you are traveling in a group of 4, you could have a private ride for just a little bit more than the cost of the shuttle. Just keep in mind that Puerto Ricans are aggressive drivers. My shuttle driver intimidated and all but forced a couple golf carts off the road, all while cackling with joy.

 

Other Things to Know

  • The duration of the ferry ride is about an hour and a half.
  • The ride can be choppy. If you get motion sick, take something before you get on. I stupidly tried to power through and ended up desperately popping Dramamine, chewing anti-nausea ginger gum, and slapping on “Sea bands” 15 minutes into the ride.
  • The top of the ferry isn’t always open. This was pretty upsetting for me, because I wanted to take photos. I also wanted to breathe in the fresh sea air in hopes of easing my motion sickness. No such luck. If you want photos, or at least a view, you’ll have to battle it out for a window seat.
  • There are very few services at Flamenco beach. You’ll see a couple kiosks selling overpriced drinks, pizza, and fried foods at the entrance to the beach, but nothing else. You either need to bring what you need for the day to Culebra, or buy supplies at the stores near the terminal.
  • Bring soap and toilet paper. There are several bathrooms on the beach, but almost none of them have soap or toilet paper.
  • You can camp on the beach. If you want to stay for more than a day, you can bring a tent and set it up right behind the beach on one of the camp grounds.
  • There are a couple of abandoned WWII tanks just hanging around the beach. Go climb on them. img_2273
  • The clear waters make Flamenco an excellent place to snorkel. It’s not uncommon to see sea turtles!
  • The UV rays on Culebra are intense. Bring sunscreen and reapply often.

I absolutely adored Flamenco Beach. It was gorgeous and incredibly relaxing. The time to leave for the last ferry off the island came all too soon. I’ll definitely be going back!

32 Responses to Culebra Island Ferry and Flamenco Beach

  • Paige says:

    Loved the tips! I’m heading to San Juan with two of my friends in a week and a half and we definitely want to experience at least one of the other islands. I guarantee we wouldn’t have thought of most of this. Thanks!

  • María says:

    Hello, I will travel to Puerto Rico in April.
    Do you know how to reach Fajardo from San Juan? I read about “publicos” but I do not know the schedule and how much it is.

    Thanks!! 🙂
    María

    • reasek says:

      Hi Maria,
      There are “guagua publicas” which are local vans/buses. They are very cheap, but getting to Fajardo from San Juan using public transportation would involve several transfers and would end up taking you 4-6 hours, when the drive itself is only 45 minutes. If you HAVE to take guagua publica, you’d need to do it the day before you wanted to go to Culebra and stay overnight in Fajardo. You would have to city bus from San Juan to Rio Piedras, where you would switch to a Public Bus (guagua pública) to Fajardo. It would probably only be around $6, but the cheapness is NOT worth the trouble!

      If you will be in Puerto Rico several days, I highly recommend renting a car. You can park the car at the ferry terminal for a small fee (I think last I checked it was $5 a day). If you can’t rent a car, Uber is currently in Puerto Rico, but it’s not great just yet. Taxi drivers are pretty mad about Uber, so Uber drivers only operate in certain areas and while technically they do operate in Fajardo, you wouldn’t be able to be SURE that an Uber would take you the whole way. An Uber from San Juan to Fajardo would be around $60 I think.

      If you are staying at a hotel in San Juan, talk to the concierge, they might be able to arrange a car share for you to save you some money.

      Unfortunately, it is really hard to get around in Puerto Rico without a car!

  • FRANK BERRIOS says:

    Rease,
    These tips are very detailed! We’re visiting PR at the end of April so this info is VERY helpful. I hope we will be able to get more info from you for other tips.

    Thanks,
    Frank

  • Gina Pascalli says:

    Awesome review thanks for the tips, definitely doing this in april when visiting san juan. Any insite into what would be a better day of the week to visit?

    • reasek says:

      Just avoid weekends, especially long weekends! The beach gets crowded around holidays and weekends. Tuesday-Thursday is your best bet.

    • reasek says:

      I’m not 100% sure but I think there should be places. I’d try the hotel at the end of Flamenco Beach. There are also a lot of vendors right when you get off the ferry, so you could ask around there.

  • Santiago says:

    Hello! My friends and I are planning travel to Culebra from Fajardo, in march 31, 2017. We need to rent a jeep from march 31 at 8 pm. Do you know a car rental office who pick us at ferry terminal and rent a jeep at this hour?

    • reasek says:

      I’ve never rented a car in Culebra, but as soon as you get off the ferry there are tons of people trying to rent you jeeps, golf carts, scooters, etc. I don’t think you’ll have an issue.

  • Gregg says:

    Is it possible to take the “cargo” ferry as a passenger from Culebra to Fajardo? This would allow for a couple of extra hours on the beach. Just trying to find a way to maximize our time on Culebra

    • reasek says:

      Yes! Just keep in mind that people traveling with cargo have to make reservations, but you cannot make a reservation as just a passenger, so the boat will have less space for passengers that show up the day of travel than the passenger only ferry. I always recommend that you purchase your return ticket at the same time as your ticket from Fajardo. You can buy them at the same time, that way you have a guaranteed spot on the ride home!

  • Vijay says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for the tips. I am visiting Puerto Rico from 4/14 – 4/22. I am thinking about a day trip to Culebra.
    I guess flying to Culebra might be a hassle free option. Thanks again for the tips.

    • reasek says:

      I’m glad this helped! Culebra is amazing, so if you have time, make sure you get there! Flying is definitely the fastest and most flexible way to get there.

  • mona says:

    Hello
    is it easier to find ferry tickets on August like the second of August or we have to be in line too
    thank you

    • reasek says:

      It’s really impossible to say. You can never know how many people will be there, only that on weekends (especially long holiday weekends) will be much busier.

  • Reyes says:

    Thanks for all the great information–we’ll be heading to PR on Saturday and want to visit Flamenco this time!

    For the return ferry ride that leaves Culebra at 5 pm, if you have already paid for the return ferry trip–how early do you need to arrive at the ferry terminal to ensure getting a seat/ride back to Fajardo?

  • Thalia says:

    Do you know any information about flying to Flamenco Beach from airline? I heard they have small airplanes that make a trip from San Juan to the beach. Do you know about the prices and schedule for that?

  • Sirena says:

    Hi. Thank you for the tips. We are traveling to Culebra and staying from July 3 – 5. We are a little anxious because mid way through our trip is the 4th of July holiday, even though it falls on a Tuesday. Since the holiday basically falls on a weekday, do you think it will be such a hassle to catch the 9am ferry on the 3rd? If so, what time do you suggest we arrive at the terminal? Thanks again!

    • reasek says:

      Hi Sirena! While 4th of July is not as big in Puerto Rico as in the mainland US, it’s still a holiday and Culebra always gets more crowded for holidays. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch the ferry though! For the 9am Ferry I’d suggest probably 7am just to be safe. When I went (non holiday) we got there crazy early because my boyfriend had mixed up the times, but I noticed that around 7-8 the line really picked up.

  • Juana says:

    Thanks so much for the tip! My husband and I are going next week. Do you know if the airport is close to the ferry? We will be flying from Vieques and I would like to purchase our ferry ticket from Culebra to Fajardo when we land so we can make sure to have a spot on the ferry.

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