Day-dreaming about the Carribean’s Flamenco Beach conjures up fantastical images in all of us. White sandy beaches as far as the eye can see. Crystal clear oceans drifting into and endless of vision of blissful azure. Palm trees, coconuts, and smiles are lining the perfect experience to be. Disconnected from any worries that bothered you in your healthy life.
After all, what was good enough for pirates should be good enough for me. Puerto Rico, the island state, and archipelago are one of those places where these fantasies come true. Among its many islands stands Culebra. A tiny piece of paradise, and home of Flamenco Beach, one of the world’s best stretches of shore. Indeed a place to jump into and forget.
A Short History of the Island
Like many islands in the region, Puerto Rico boasts a colorful, yet slightly tragic history. Unfortunately, historians do know much about the ancient culture of the area. The Ortoiroid people where the first wave of humans settlers on the island. And before Spanish explorers put the island on the map in the late 15th century, several other tribes have already settled. Christopher Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista, after John the Baptist, however, the name faded away in favor of the colloquial use of Puerto Rico, and San Juan instead became the name of the capital. Sadly all too common at the time, the colonists began to enslave the local population, only to be emancipate them years later in favor of African slave labor.
The colonial era lasted for several centuries under Spanish rule. And even though commercial interest diminished over the years, the island became a crucial hub in the region. In the 19th century independence and revolutionary movements formed against foreign rule. They were successful in convincing the Spanish government to allow limited self-government, and the islands first government built in 1898. It was, however, regional American interests that were to disrupt history once again. During the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico became part of the United States in the form of unincorporated territory. Since then questions of citizenship and statehood have been dominating political discussion in Washington and San Juan, with no solution in sight so far.
How to reach Flamenco?
Flamenco Beach has the honorable distinction of being named one of the world’s best beaches. The Discovery Channel called it the “second most beautiful beach in the world.” And Flamenco regularly ranks high in Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards, as one of the best destinations to visit. It’s also a popular destination among Puerto Ricans.
Being a tiny island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, one naturally needs to make their way there first. As the island belongs to the United States of America, in the form of unincorporated territory, Visa requirements are rather simple. U.S. citizens naturally can travel as if they were moving within their own country. If you are Canadian or a citizen of one of many European countries, you can also enter Visa-free as a tourist. The only restriction is that you can not work, study or stay long term. If you are unsure about Visa regulations between the United States and your country of origin, check with your embassy.
Once you made it to Puerto Rico, you can continue in one of two ways. Firstly, you can take an airplane from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Considering Luis Muñoz is the busiest airport in the Carribean, chances are you already arrived there, making a transfer a convenient option. Alternatively, you can take a 50-minute ferry ride to Culebra. The ferry starts at Fajardo and is the scenic option. If you have the sea legs to boot, seeing the island grow closer in the distance, while being surrounded by the blue ocean, makes a great start to any vacation. Once arrived at the island, and depending on where you are staying, the Flamenco Beach Culebra is easily accessible via taxi.
Flamenco Beach attractions
Flamenco Beach offers typical activities associated with sand and surf. Year-round pristine conditions mean that you can visit the island in the dead of winter, and you are still going to be able to sunbath the beams of the Caribbean. Be sure to use proper sunscreen. Otherwise, you will be the only person at your office in December with a sunburn.
The water is shallow, allowing for a safe environment for swimmers of all levels of skill levels. In 2016, the Puerto Rico beach was awarded the Blue Flag label. This means that Flamenco not only meats stringent environmental standards for tourists and locals alike, but also that it meets standards of sustainability for its ecosystem. The water conditions also make Flamenco an excellent destination for diving and snorkeling alike. And for the more adventurous visitors, there are ample opportunities for water sports. Waterskiing and jetski rentals are readily available, and you can book catamaran tours taking you for a day of beach hopping and off coast swimming and snorkeling. Unfortunately, the calm conditions do not allow much traditional surfing. The islands do however boast an annual windsurfing competition every February.
Lastly, one of the more unique quirks available on Flamenco Beach come in the form of two decommissioned Sherman tanks, left behind after weapons testing in the mid-70s. While they do represent a blemish in the otherwise immaculate natural landscape, the locals did take to them. Unhappy with the two rusting hunks of metal, they have since then decorated the tank, painting them and sprayed with graffiti. They are an ever in flux, ever-changing outdoor art installation, and an excellent opportunity to snag a picture of local history.
The island of Culebra
Should you get bored by Flamenco Beach, or just want to branch out during your stay on the island, Culebra offers many options. Besides the titular beach, there are smaller Beaches. Tamarindo, Zoni and Carlo Rosario Beach, all of which are less known and might offer a different experience. Especially beaches like Zoni, being located on the windy side of Culebra, can be a fun alternative to Flamenco. The wilder sea allows for fantastic wave-jumping in a playful fight against nature. Furthermore, the island’s otherwise rocky coastlines enable tourists to explore. You can find small, secluded pools and natural jacuzzies in which to relax and unwind.
We also highly recommend you take at least one trip to the historic lighthouse. While not necessarily the most historically significant building you will ever visit, it is the highest building on the island. You can have a stunning view of all of Culebra, and its surrounding waters. The rugged roads you will be traversing on, only add to the charm.
Food and culture
Puerto Rico’s history gives it a unique blend of different cultural influences. The predominantly European base (primarily Spanish) established through centuries of colonialism, gets its mix from the rest of its history. As with many countries and island in the Carribean, the dominance of African slave labor left its mark on the population. And in recent years many South Americans and Cubans brought over parts of their culture. Music and rhythm, rooted in Spanish and African traditions, still dominates much of the cultural. What does make Puerto Rico somewhat unique among into neighbors, is the influence the United States bring. Through U.S. rule, English has become one of the primary and official languages. This is very comfortable for tourists who do not speak Spanish and makes Puerto Rico more accessible compared to other islands.
The food of Puerto Rico has the same vibrant mix of Spanish, African and Native ingredients. The remarkable variety and quality of local produce, something that to this degree you can seldom find in the continental United States or Europe, is an experience on its own. And especially on Culebra seafood places a vital role in the cuisine, as fresh fish is readily available. Between the national dish of Mofongo, favorites like Chicharrones, and the ever-present rice and beans, there something for everyone. Add the background of Flamenco make your dinner, and you have a holiday worth bragging about.
Flamenco Beach Culebra genuinely is a paradise. Even though visitor numbers are increasing, the recent hurricane did nothing to spoil the natural beauty. It is a Carribean destination par excellence. A place you should plan to visit if you love sand, sunshine and the ocean.