Situated roughly halfway between St. Thomas and the main island of Puerto Rico is the picturesque island of Culebra. Even the most seasoned of Caribbean travelers shouldn't be ashamed if they've never heard of it. It remains one of the best kept secrets in the region, and particularly for Americans who don't want to fiddle with a passport in order to reach paradise, it's a destination worth discovering.
Accessing Culebra isn't exactly easy, per se, but it's hardly complicated. If you're on the main island of Puerto Rico (that's the one with San Juan), you'll need to point your rental car to Fajardo. That's on the eastern edge of Puerto Rico, and it's the primary ferry port on the island. For intrepid travelers, you can show up at the docks and buy yourself an inexpensive (under $10) ticket for the ride, which lasts right around an hour each way. If the ferry is sold out (which was the case when our editor, Mike Barish, visited the island), you can book a quick puddle jumper flight at the airport in Fajardo and land on Culebra in about 10 minutes – though a one-way flight can start at $35 per person, so consider taking the ferry back. To make life easy, however, I'd recommend reaching out to Kayaking Puerto Rico.
It's a local tour company that serves both the main island and Culebra, and while I generally encourage travelers to strike out on their own, Culebra Aquafari is an exceptional excursion. If you're on the main island, $69 gets you a ferry ride that departs Fajardo at 8:00AM. The journey itself is beautiful, and you'll want to make sure you have your camera ready as you start to close in on Culebra. The tour takes you to Flamenco Beach – a patch of paradise that looks as if it's ripped straight out of a screensaver. But rather than sticking strictly to the sand, I'd encourage you to walk down a bit to the fabled painted tank (shown here). It's a relic of years past when military training used to occur on both Culebra and it's sister island, Vieques. Instead of letting it rust away at sea, locals have converted it into a work of art.
After you depart the sand, you'll get a serious workout via kayak. Rather than just dumping guests at a snorkel spot, the guides all you to kayak out, tie up your boat, and then hop in the water for over an hour of underwater sightseeing. It's hardly unusual to see sharks – but fret not, the ones here aren't looking for trouble.
Light snacks are served throughout, and you'll get plenty of island history from the guides. While at Flamenco Beach, make sure you visit the nearby food stands. If you've never tried fried shark, you'll have your chance here. (And yes, before you ask, it actually does taste a bit like chicken!)
As the sun sets, you'll hop back on the ferry and return to mainland Puerto Rico, adequately exhausted from a day of wind, water, and gorgeous views.