Getting to Vieques and Culebra
Essential planning information on how to reach Puerto Rico’s famed remote island jewels.
Two of Puerto Rico’s greatest assets, Vieques and Culebra rank high on the wish list of many travelers. As two of Puerto Rico’s island municipalities, it takes more forethought and planning to ensure a seamless travel experience. The only way to reach the islands is by plane—commercial, charter or private flight—a public ferry from Ceiba, or a day trip via a high-speed catamaran and yacht.
An island municipality, famed for its picture-perfect crescents of sand, boutique hotels and crystalline waters, Vieques is the ultimate Caribbean dreamscape. Substantially larger than Culebra, Vieques draws visitors to its bioluminescent bay which boasts the highest concentration of phosphorescent dinoflagellates of any of the world’s five bio bays. Kayaking through the bay under star-studded skies is a bucket-list experience. There are dreamy beaches where you will barely see another soul, aquamarine waters teeming with marine life and even semi-wild horses. The U.S. military’s presence on the island for over 60 years prevented overdevelopment and, since 2003, their former bases have been reclaimed and protected as part of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
Getting to Vieques
Unless budget is your primary consideration, flying is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way to reach Vieques. With breathtaking views, the flight is part of the adventure. Planes are small, jet-propelled aircraft and only carry up to eight passengers—you’ll need to book ahead of time to secure your seat. There are around five flights a day from San Juan International Airport (SJU) with Cape Air and Vieques Air Link. Flights start at $110 one way; airtime is around 30 minutes. From San Juan’s Isla Grande Airport (SIG), 10 minutes by car from downtown San Juan, there are flights with Cape Air, Air Flamenco and Vieques Air Link. One-way tickets cost from $72 each way; airtime around 17 minutes. There are also daily flights from Ceiba Airport with Vieques Air Link, from $40 (7-min. flight time.) Daily flights connect Vieques with Culebra, as well as islands of the Greater Antilles—St. Thomas and St. Croix. A partnership between JetBlue and Cape Air means that you can now book a flight from the mainland U.S. with a connection to Vieques as part of your initial reservation.
All airlines charge extra for luggage that weighs more than 30lbs. Surcharges are applied at a rate of $1 per pound above the limit. The maximum weight permitted is 50lbs.
MN Aviation offers charter flights for up to nine passengers from San Juan to Vieques. Prices start at $1,500 each way.
The less convenient alternative is a public (45 min.) ferry ride (less than $5) from Ceiba, a 90-minute drive from San Juan (taxi fare around $170). All ferries now operate from the new ferry terminal (a former naval base) in Ceiba (no longer from Fajardo). The schedules are notoriously erratic. Always try to reserve a seat on the earliest ferry—getting bumped isn’t unusual. Try to avoid traveling on weekends and holidays and always arrive at least an hour ahead of departure to improve your chances of getting a seat. Vieques is a popular day trip destination for Puerto Ricans and if the ferries fill up, residents will get priority. You will also need to purchase tickets for each item; beach gear, bikes, suitcases, strollers, etc. coolers,Generally, nine ferries operate per day, from 5am to 7:30pm. You can check the latest ferry schedules and make reservations here: Ceiba to Vieques Ferry
Getting around Vieques
There is limited public transport on Vieques. Hiring a car is the best way to explore the island. Vieques’ interior is wild and rugged, so a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. Demand for rental cars frequently outstrips supply—driving higher prices. Expect to pay around $100 per day for a Jeep (or equivalent), around $70 per day for a golf cart. Be sure to make a reservation well ahead of time. There are several rental companies at the airport: Vieques Car Rental, Avis and Coqui Car Rental. If you decide not to rent a car, it’s best to stay in Esperanza, the tourist epicenter.
By taxi and público (public taxi)
The two main services on Vieques are Vieques Taxi (787-741-8294) and Mode’s transportation services (787-295-3021).
You’ll find públicos waiting at Vieques’ ferry terminal and airport as well as in the towns of Isabel Segunda and Esperanza. Publicos operate on fixed routes and fares range from $3.00–$5.00 per person. A shared ride will lower the cost further.
Less than 33km (20 miles) from Puerto Rico’s main island and half-way to the U.S. Virgin Islands, sun-soaked Culebra is an embarrassment of riches. Blessed with balmy tropical weather, white sand beaches, excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities, and a stunning interior, Culebra has all the ingredients for an idyllic Caribbean escape. Playa Flamenco’s charms are renowned— it’s often cited as one of the 10 best beaches in the world. Surrounding the island are 22 other tiny island jewels, including Culebrita, a mile-long (1.6km) coral-isle satellite of Culebra.
Reached in just ten minutes by water taxi, the island is ringed with six glorious beaches—the most visited is Playa Tortuga. There’s also a picturesque lighthouse—the only man-made structure on the island. Culebra and its cays are part of the Culebra Wildlife Refuge, one of the Caribbean’s most important turtle-nesting sites.
Getting to Culebra
As with Vieques, if you want to travel independently to Culebra flying is the most convenient, efficient and reliable means of inter-island transportation. The scenic journey provides a bird’s-eye view of small cays scattered across impossibly blue waters. There are around five flights a day with Cape Air (JetBlue code-share) and Vieques Air Link (35 min.), from $69 one way ($135 return). Flights operated by Vieques Air Link are a code-share with Seaborne.
If you are time rich, the ferry from the new Ceiba ferry terminal is the cheapest way of getting to Culebra. On Puerto Rico’s East Coast, Ceiba is a 90-minute drive from San Juan (taxi fare around $170). There are generally around seven ferries per day, operating from 4am to 5:30pm. Schedules are erratic and subject to change. You can check the latest schedule and make reservations here: Ceiba to Culebra Ferry
High speed catamaran tours offer a seamless travel experience. Full-day tours (from $150) depart from Marina Puerto Del Rey or Villa Marina Yacht Harbor in Fajardo, around 8:30am. Tours involve snorkeling at a coral reef—usually at Luis Peña, Carlos Rosario, Melones or Punta Soldado. The boat is then moored at one of Culebra’s famous beaches; normally Flamenco Beach or Playa Tortuga on Culebrita Cay—depending on the sea conditions. Private charters can also be arranged; around $3,500 for up to 12 passengers. A buffet (or packed) lunch, drinks and refreshments are included. The tours are suitable for children aged six and over. Recommended tour operators are Sail Getaways and East Island Excursions.
Scenic Island Flight
If you want to avoid too much time on the water, another option is to take a 30-minute scenic island flight over Culebra followed by a relaxing afternoon on the island’s most famous stretches of sand: Flamenco Beach and Tamarindo Beach. Private transportation, lunch and snorkeling gear is provided. I Ventures Carribbean is a recommended tour operator. For a more VIP experience, custom day-trip packages are also available including flights, transfers, car rentals and snorkeling gear; from around $265.
Getting around Culebra
With limited transport, you’ll need to rent a car or golf cart to explore the island’s beaches and interior: Carlos Jeep Rental, located a five-minute walk from the airport, rents jeeps (from $75 per day) and golf carts (from $40 per day), Jerry’s Jeeps is located in front of the airport and offers SUVs and jeeps (from $70 per day) and golf carts (from $40 per day).
By taxi and público
You’ll find taxi stands outside the airport in Culebra. You can also call ahead for hotel pick-ups/drop-offs.
Willy: 787-742-3537; Wilfredo: 787-586-6692; Acosta Express: 787-972-0928; Ernesto: 787-374-1122.
With quiet streets and gorgeous scenery, renting a bike is a wonderful way to explore the island. Rates begin at around $25 per day—Bicicletas de Culebra: 787-742-2209; Culebra Bike Shop: 787-742-0589; Dick & Cathie Bike Rental: 787-742-0062.