Snorkeling off La Culebra & a Visit to Flamenco Beach

This is Puerto Del Rey marina in Fajardo where we pushed off for our snorkeling adventure with East Island Excursions. There's a ton of money afloat in the marina! Lots of holes in the water down which to pour dinero.

This was the scene at registration. East Island Excursions runs more than one boat each day. I had made our reservations online before leaving the US. Still, we had to check in. The company was very good on sending email reminders and detailed instructions on how to find the marina.

 Check in and sign the liability waiver...

Check in and sign the liability waiver...

Dail and I didn't have to wait long before it was time to pick up our fins from the locker attendant. Fortunately, I found a pair to fit me--about the size of one of the yacht dinghies floating nearby. Then it was time to board our giant powered catamaran, the Caribe Spirit. The boat has a large, air-conditioned cabin with padded seats and tables. That's where we headed to stake out our territory by a window.

 Two of the crew. Must have been 6 or so of them. All very helpful and ready to provide a beverage, tips on wearing the snorkel mask, or (gulp) to bring barf bags.

Two of the crew. Must have been 6 or so of them. All very helpful and ready to provide a beverage, tips on wearing the snorkel mask, or (gulp) to bring barf bags.

The 40-minute trip to Culebra started promptly at 9:30. It was not a smooth cruise. Water was choppy and the boat dipped and plunged and delivered a multitude of shocks to our butts and backs. Fortunately the seat bottoms were padded with about four inches of dense foam to help absorb the shocks. Some of our fellow travelers used the barf bag service. I was lucky--I'm not prone to seasickness. And I'd taken half a Dramamine a half hour prior to boarding.

 The reef, island houses, and two blooming  flamboyán  trees

The reef, island houses, and two blooming flamboyán trees

We arrived and anchored. Everyone gathered on the fantail for a lecture about snorkel safety and to get our instructions. One of the mates fished a jellyfish out of the water. Yikes! We were told to avoid them but that if we did get stung the bite was only mildly uncomfortable for a short time. To prove the point the mate held the jellyfish in his bare hand. 

Then we grabbed our masks and headed for the two spacious dive platforms. I took along my waterproof Ivation camera, making its maiden voyage. Here's a game but queasy Dail, ready to hit the water.

It was a short swim to the reef. The main reason I chose Culebra for our trip was that the reef is in shallow, clear blue-green water. Other close-by trips went to deeper reefs.

 On the way to the reef I met this bad boy. I didn't touch it to test the strength of the sting,  just made sure I stayed out of its way.

On the way to the reef I met this bad boy. I didn't touch it to test the strength of the sting,  just made sure I stayed out of its way.

I returned to the boat after a short time because my mask wasn't fitting well and I was getting major leakage. A different mask solved the problem and I swam back to the reef. The coral was beautiful and the fish, while not plentiful, were colorful.

Here's a video I made:

The bar opened when we started diving. A buffet lunch was included and the crew served it after about an hour of snorkel time. Sandwiches and fruit tasted mighty good after snorkeling. Rum and pineapple juice tasted great, too, and put us in the right frame of mind for a short cruise to Flamenco Beach. The beach generally makes the list of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world.

It was a short swim to the beach. Hanging out in the water was a cooling relief from the hot Caribbean sun. The white sand bottom was easy on our feet.

We stayed at the beach for a little over an hour. Then it was time to pull up anchor and head back to the marina. Fortunately the trip back was a lot smoother than the trip out. It was a super enjoyable trip and a great chance to enjoy the beauty of a living coral reef.

The marina was a 30-minute drive from the flat. We returned, cleaned up, and made a plan for going to an authentic restaurant for some typical Puerto Rican cuisine. Using the web (Trip Advisor and Yelp) we targeted Antojito's in nearby Rio Grande, only seven kilometers away by a narrow twisting road snaking down to sea level.

 The road led to the beach and to fancy tourist hotels. The restaurant was only a short distance from the main drag through town.

The road led to the beach and to fancy tourist hotels. The restaurant was only a short distance from the main drag through town.

We found the dining room uncrowded so we had our pick of tables. We chose one away from the road and near a fountain. The larger part of the dining area was under a canopy, the rest of the restaurant tables were indoors.

 Looking toward the road from our table. 

Looking toward the road from our table. 

 The fountain was on a timer. The owner came by and manually turned it on for us, a nice touch! Thanks to Google for the pic enhancement.

The fountain was on a timer. The owner came by and manually turned it on for us, a nice touch! Thanks to Google for the pic enhancement.

Our waitress was happy to speak Spanish to us and we ordered a couple of cervezas while making our menu choices. Our food was tasty! I promised no more food shots. Dail had chicken arepas, I chose fish. We were able to substitute mixed vegetables for fresh salad.

When Nature called I found the interior dining room walls were covered with paintings from a local artist and a Roberto Clemente shrine. Clemente was Puerto Rico's biggest baseball star. He played in the major leagues in the US and was tragically killed in a plane crash while on a relief mission to Nicaragua after an earthquake. First, a painting then a shot of part of the shrine.

We left Antojito's full and satisfied even though they were out of flán for dessert. We resolved to return in the morning for breakfast on the way to El Yunque.