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Isla Culebra (Snake Island) is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico originally called Isla Pasaje and Isla de San Ildefonso. It is located approximately seventeen miles east of the Puerto Rican mainland, twelve miles west of St. Thomas and nine miles north of Vieques. Culebra is the smallest of the inhabited Spanish Virgin Islands being only seven miles long and 3 miles wide.

Culebra is an arid island, having no rivers or streams. She gets water from Puerto Rico via Vieques. Because of the lack of run-off from streams and rivers, Culebra boasts crystal clear waters with sixty feet of visibility on a bad day.

Culebra is an island municipality under the domain of Puerto Rico, which has been under the protection of the United States, since its annexation from Spain in 1898. In 1909 the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge was established. The refuge takes in over one thousand four hundred acres of land and is well known both as a nesting area for numerous seabirds, as well as the endangered leatherback turtle and Culebra giant anole.

Culebra has by about three thousand residents. The quiet, unspoiled island has little to offer in the way of nightlife, except for a quiet, safe walk in the moonlight or the occasional sound of guitar music from one of the few night spots. The island has little crime and there is very little to do except for to relax at the beach or one of the local watering holes. The snorkeling and scuba diving around Culebra are outstanding. Hard and soft corals abound in the shallows and magnificent reefs encircle the island. Tropical fish and other sea life abound. The depths rarely exceed one hundred feet.

Culebra is accessible from San Juan by air or sea. To go by air depart from San Juan International Airport or take a taxi to Isla Grande Airport.To arrive via sea engage a taxi to Fajardo, which is about 40 miles south east of San Juan, and then catch the ferry to Culebra. Small boats, including a captain, can also be hired at the Fajardo marinas.

The Culebra Natural Wildlife Refuge encompasses 23 off shore islands and four tracts of land on the main island of Culebra, comprising a total of 1,480 acres. It is the home of more than 120 marine bird nesting colonies, including the largest sooty tern colony in Puerto Rico.

Among the biggest attractions are communities of a dozen or so exotic birds that include the rare red-billed tropicbirds and brown boobies, laughing gulls and sandwich terns. It is also the home of endangered sea turtles and the Culebra giant anole lizard.

Culebra is a popular weekend tourist destination for Mainland Puerto Ricans, Americans and residents of Vieques. Because of the "arid" nature of the island there is no run-off from rivers or streams resulting in very clear waters around the archipelago.

Culebra has many beautiful beaches including Flamenco Beach (Playa Flamenco), which can be reached by shuttle buses from the ferry. The beach extends for a mile of white coral sand and is framed beautifully by arid tree-covered hills. The beach is also protected by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources as a Marine Wildlife Reserve.

The area west of Flamenco Beach was used for United States Navy military exercises until 1975. Many military relics, including tanks, remain in the area.

Other beaches are only accessible by private car or boats. Of the smaller islands, only Culebrita and Luis Peņa permit visitors and can be accessible via water taxis from Culebra. Hiking and nature photography are encouraged on the small islands. However, activities which would disturb the nature reserves are prohibited, e.g. Camping, Littering and Motor Vehicles.Camping, however, is allowed on Playa Flamenco throughout the year. Reservations are recommended.

More about Bottom Bay at: www.topuertorico.org



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