Spanish Virgin Islands

and Puerto Rico – an unspoiled tropical getaway.

secret-beach

The Spanish Virgin Islands are the real “Nature’s Little Secret” and esay accessible on a crewed yacht charter one way from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico, all American soil, no hassle with customs or immigration. If you want to experience a Caribbean sailing vacation off the beaten tracks, this is the perfect choice for you. The Spanish Virgin Islands are Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, Cayo Louis Pena, Palominos and several uninhabited small islands. The mixture of Caribbean flair and Spanish culture creates a unique exotic ambiance. The anchorages are quiet, except at the weekends when the locals enjoy their islands with their boats themselves, the fishing and snorkeling is excellent. In the winter time the seas in the passages maybe rough and the numerous reefs in the middle of the ocean require a more experienced captain then the rest of the Virgin Islands.

Further down on this page you can find a sample itinerary for this kind of sailing vacation.

The island of Culebra:starfish-gazing

Located about nineteen miles east of Puerto Rico and eight miles north of Vieques, Culebra is the smallest of the inhabited Spanish Virgin Islands being  seven miles long and 3 miles wide. Culebra is an arid island, having no rivers or streams. They get their 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 about three thousand residents. The quiet, unspoiled island has little to offer in nightlife, except for a quiet, safe walk in the moonlight or the occasional sound of guitar music from one of her few night spots. The island has little crime and very little to do, but relax at the beach or your favorite watering hole. 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.

brown-footed-boobbieThe island of Vieques:
“Isla del Encanto” in Spanish is even more beautiful than her name describes. Vieques is located off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It is one of the Caribbean’s “Best Kept Secrets”! The pristine beauty of Vieques is readily apparent from the time you first see her on your initial air or sea approach. There is an abundance of white sand and sun, and a year round temperature that rarely drops below 78°. The island dress is casual and most of the restaurants are open-air. There are local car rentals available, but you needn’t feel restricted without one, as there are Publicos (taxis) and bicycles available as well.

There are numerous things to do, but not too many. The main activity is the beach. There are many and they are all wonderful. Some are great for snorkeling, some for body surfing and they’re all just right for relaxing. There is a Dive Shop in Esperanza that does daily scuba trips to some excellent reefs.

The U.S. Navy left Vieques on May 1, 2003. The land they left behind was turned over to the U.S. Interior Department, and it is now managed under the direction of the US Fish and Wildlife Service as the largest Wildlife Refuge in the Caribbean. The Island is about 21 miles long and 5 miles across. It the eastern most island of the Puerto Rican Archipelago, sometimes referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Since the US Navy left the island in 2003, 60+% of the island has become the largest Wildlife Sanctuary in the Caribbean under the protection of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Sanctuary lands are open from Dawn til Dusk, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean are on this island property.

The population of Vieques is about 9,400 and is an island-municipality of Puerto Rico, which is a Commonwealth as an Associated Free State. It is a democracy, which governs itself subject to the Constitution of the United States.

The climate in Vieques is sub-tropical and during most of the year it is blessed with the trade winds from the east, which helps keep the humidity low even during the summer months, when it is actually preferable here than in most areas of the United States.

The most humid months are in mid-Sept. to mid-Nov., which are called the “doldrums”. August through mid-October are the most active hurricane months in the Caribbean. During the winter months there is very little rain, and the water takes on the azure blue color, which people equate with the Caribbean.

Sample itinerary for a one way crewed yacht charter sailing vacation, starting in St. Thomas visiting the unspoiled Spanish Virgin Islands and ending in Puerto Rico, Marina Puerto Del Rey.

1st day: The crew welcomes you aboard your yacht around noon in St. Thomas, Red Hook in the Marina “American Yacht Harbor” with a typical Caribbean Rum Punch and something light to eat. The captain will explain to you, all the things you have to know about “living aboard”. You will set sail to Great St. James and anchor in Christmas Cove, where you can have your first swim and snorkel in the blue Caribbean waters. With a little luck you will discover one of the turtles or stingrays who live here. See the cruise ships at the horizon, leaving St, Thomas at sunset.

culebra-light-house2nd day: You sail to Buck Island, a very attractive snorkel spot. After lunch you sail either to Charlotte Amalie harbor, the main anchorage in St, Thomas, if you are into shopping and nightlife or you drop anchor in Honeymoon Bay in Water Island, if you want to spend a more quiet evening.

3rd day: Today you will have your longest sail ahead of you. About 20 miles or 4 hours to Culebrita. Like most of the anchorages in the Spanish Virgin Islands, during the week you’re likely to have Culebrita to yourself, but it’s a different story on the weekends.

Although the Spanish Virgin Islands lie just 15-20 miles from the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, they are far less crowded. Even though they’re part of the United States, they have none of the commercialism of the U.S. Virgin Islands, nor the crowds of charter boats that fight for moorings in the British Virgin Islands.

4th day: Your destination today is Culebra and you check in to Puerto Rico territory. Explore Culebra, which isn’t very difficult to do. Because the U.S. government has one of its most diverse National Wildlife Refuges on Culebra, land developers haven’t made much of a toehold there, either. There are three roads, each of them leading to a beach, and 2,000 people on the 11-square-mile island. Most people live in Dewey, the town all the locals call “Culebra,” and everyone is friendly, laid-back and unaffected.

Stop in for an introductory beer at the Dinghy Dock. Hike across the is land to Playa Flamenco, one of the most spectacular beaches anywhere in the Caribbean, and see how many of the 85 kinds of birds that nest on Culebra you can identify.

5th day: After breakfast you sail to an island in the south of Culebra, Cayo Luis Pena. The under water coral world will take your breath away. After Lunch we set sail, be sure you have your trolling lines out; Vieques Sound is full of bonito, tuna and dolphin. You drop anchor at Palominos, a small island with a white beach and a lot of palm trees

6th day: You leave the Spanish Virgin Islands and sail to Marina Puerto del Rey. Here you pick up your rental car (included in price) and get ready to visit one of the most historic cities in the Caribbean Old San Juan. You can visit the Fort, do great shopping in the narrow street and you will dine in one of the typical restaurants. After a long and exciting day we return to your yacht.

7th day: One of the highlights of this trip will be the visit of the El Yunque Rain forest.

The El Yunque Rain forest is a cool, mountainous, semi tropical rain forest in eastern Puerto Rico. The abundant rainfall is shed down the mountain through rocky rivers creating many cascades of waterfalls and pools. At the higher elevations the waters are clean enough to drink and delightful to swim in. Bring your bathing suit! The forest hosts a number of unique plant and animal species such as the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and the tiny coqui’s (indigenous tree frogs) that serenade the evening hours.

“According to ancient Indian Legend, the good spirit “Yuquiyu” reigned on his mighty mountain-top throne, protecting Puerto Rico and its people. The name Luquillo is derived from this god spirit’s Indian name.”

El Yunque is managed by the US Forest Service who maintain an extensive network of hiking trails. Picnic facilities, paved trails and tour bus parking, the ‘El Portal’ exhibit hall and lookout towers are on the North side. The South side is the quiet side.

El Yunque is an excellent choice for a rain forest experience. It is a very gentle forest. In fact; there are no poisonous snakes! The need to protect our planets rain forests becomes more apparent as one gains a better understanding through actual experience.

8th day: After breakfast your crew will bring you to the airport. We are sure you will have a wonderful vacation.

Spanish Virgin Islands History and Brief facts:

Exploring beyond the shore:

Puerto Rico is 100 x 35 miles in size, but don’t let the tiny measurements fool you. Close to 4 million people live in what is called the Island of Enchantment, most of them in the Metropolitan Area of San Juan. This modern, bilingual, multicultural society has been molded by Spanish, African, Indian and U.S. influences. As American citizens, residents of Puerto Rico have much in common with the lifestyles of people in the continental United States, yet they retain a decidedly Latino heritage.

Both Spanish and English are the official languages, the U.S. dollar is the local currency and no visas or passports are required to enter Puerto Rico from the United States.

The climate is as close to perfect as it can get, averaging 83°F (22.7°C) in winter and 85°F (29.4°C) in summer. In other words, it’s essentially a one-season destination, with a refreshing ocean breeze in the coastal towns and somewhat cooler whether in the mountains.

Puerto Rico is in the Atlantic Time Zone, but does not observe Daylight Savings Time. The Island uses standard U.S. electric current, while European appliances require an adapter.

There are no customs duties on articles bought in Puerto Rico and taken to the U.S. mainland.

Business hours are from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

Whether you are seeking the perfect surfing wave or the perfect golf course, Puerto Rico offers the adventure traveler plenty of ocean sports, as well as tranquil, clear blue waters and white sandy beaches on which to just simply kick back and relax. From internationally recognized 18 hole golf courses to world renowned sports fishing, the active traveler will never find a dull moment in Puerto Rico.

With miles upon miles of coastline, the island’s beaches come in every size, color and form found anywhere on earth. Sift through the black volcanic ashes near Punta Santiago in Maunabo, or the pure white dunes of Isabela and you will find a treasure trove of seashells and other beach collectibles.

Enjoy whale watching off the coast of Rincón, or experience world class scuba diving in the waters surrounding Caja de Muertos in Ponce.
The pure pleasures of Puerto Rico entices all of your senses in this vacation heaven. With its diverse array of cultural activities, natural sites and fully modern amenities, Puerto Rico excites the senses in many ways every day.

This destination devotes itself to vacation pleasures, offering virtually any type of getaway experience, from rain-forest hiking to casino gaming, from surfing to four handed eucalyptus steam massages.

While Puerto Rico’s Latino touches add intrigue and spice, traveling there offers comfort with American ease. A U.S. territory, this whatever-your pleasure island flies the American flag and pampers with simplicity. It’s a quick flight from several mainland gateways and offers many nonstop flights from the States. Puerto Rico uses the same currency as on the main land. Hotels have familiar signs out front, rental cars from national firms offer an array of vehicles.

PLAYA Y MAR
Striking beaches and warm, clear sea are the Caribbean’s core appeal. At 3,850 square miles, with hundreds of beaches ringing its 272 miles of coastline, Puerto Rico offers an astounding variety of experiences at the water’s edge. Right in San Juan, the bustling capital, Condado Beach welcomes urban hotel guests with wide strands and an array of amenities. Step from your hotel to the water’s edge, pull up a padded chaise lounge, take in the view and do some people watching. Here, you can sip a fruity cocktail, lunch on a hamburger and laze away hours on end without ever stepping back inside. A quick half-hour away, Luquillo Beach stuns with glass-clear blue water and coconut groves. For the ultimate escape it all experience, visit the Westin Rio Mar Beach Golf Resort and Spa, a 500-acre wonderland dominating an entire mile of beachfront property. With luxurious decor, two beachfront swimming pools and a full menu of tension busting amenities, this Isle of Enchantment beckons relaxation seekers. Two golf courses, a spa, a kids’ club, a tennis center and 12 restaurants, lounges and entertainment venues make this a private world unto itself.

Offering stunning, inviting turquoise waters and surrounded by seaside Guánica’s rich natural beauty, including a mystical dry forest, the 20-acre, exquisitely landscaped Copamarina Beach Resort enchants guests of its 100-plus guest rooms with personal service, a crescent-shaped white-sand beach and a warm, family-friendly attitude. The two pools (plus two kiddie pools) and two whirlpool tubs drag some sun-worshippers from the tranquil beach, although many ease away for the water sports, diving, snorkeling, tennis, volleyball and seaview meals at the Alexandra restaurant.

In the Porta del Sol, chic Club Bon-Accord gives the term “beach vacation” an entirely new meaning. This fashionable boutique inn boasts only 10 rooms, each ultra-contemporary. A three-minute walk from Rincón Beach, Club Bon-Accord offers phenomenal service, including complimentary continental breakfast served in a pool garden, plus loads of extras such as free bicycle rentals and the use of tennis rackets, beach chairs, umbrellas and even coolers.

Be sure to visit Culebra and Vieques, two nearly undiscovered islands with quiet beaches and powdery white sand. Many resorts are tucked away into secluded locales, catering to visitors eager to melt tensions away beachside or poolside.

An island sanctuary, Martineau Bay Resort & Spa, on Vieques, welcomes to its plantation style buildings those seeking tranquility. Watch the world from a rocking chair on the great house’s wraparound terrace; wade into one of two infinity pools, one with a swim up bar; follow a 10-foot bluff to two intimate beaches; indulge in a massage in a 5,000-square-foot health and beauty spa; or play tennis on the resort’s two courts.

EVENING ENDEAVORS

The setting sun signals the start of an entirely new set of diversions, from dining to dancing. Puerto Rico boasts a full spectrum of restaurant options. Visitors looking for the familiar can taxi over to any number of American chains. Fine dining options are diverse and delightful. Puerto Rican chefs take native ingredients and fuse them with international flavors and techniques, resulting in dramatic and delicious towering plates. Those seeking home-style Puerto Rican experiences will find an abundance of restaurants serving the soul-satisfying specialties of the land, cocina criolla, such as asopao, a hearty gumbo.

After a leisurely dinner, Puerto Rico is transformed into a nightspot as sophisticated and varied as any urban center. Salsa is a favorite, and you needn’t look far to step into a venue featuring Puerto Rico’s signature musical style. You’ll find it in suave clubs and at small-town fêtes. Jazz, too, beckons to club-crawlers, and techno music keeps visitors on the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning. Other sounds for eager ears include bomba, plena and seis, all unique combos of Latin and African rhythms.

RELAXING, P.R. STYLE

For relaxation not centered around the beach and pool, consider signing up for treatments at any of the island’s spas. Within calming environments, technicians will apply an array of tension-diffusing treatments.
Visitors looking for water-world thrills can enjoy windsurfing near Aguadilla or snorkeling and diving off several island spots. Anglers take off in search of billfish, sea and peacock bass. Kayaking, sailing and skydiving are options.

Puerto Rico’s 23 golf courses are internationally respected. The Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort alone has two championship courses, one by Tom and George Fazio, the other by Greg Norman, and Paradisus Puerto Rico boasts two new 18-hole courses designed by Tom Kite. The Hyatt Dorado Beach boasts four Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses, all of them seaside and every one world-class. One hotel ably encompasses nearly every relaxation-oriented endeavor. The Hyatt Dorado Beach, located on 1,000 oceanfront acres that were once a grapefruit plantation, counts its four championship golf courses as only one of its destination-worthy attractions. This sprawling property draws visitors for its white-sand beaches, spa, 82-foot lap pool, 1,000-foot freshwater riverpool, five tennis courts and windsurfing school. Did we mention nine restaurants?

SITES FOR CURIOUS EYES

Considering the myriad places there are to explore, it may be a challenge to find time for sunbathing, spas, golf and shopping, but nearly all guests set aside a day to explore the rainforest. El Yunque is the only rainforest in the United States, and its tropical trails appeal to nature lovers of all types. Wildlife draws hikers to other island spots, too, such as the bioluminescent bays that glow at night; the Culebra Natural Wildlife Refuge; and the Río Camuy Cave Park, where you can ride a tram to see an underground river.

Taking to the road is easy and fun. Small towns offer travelers the opportunity to see cobblestone town squares, artists creating cuatro guitars, centuries old architecture and Amerindian stone monuments, and maybe a local festival.
Sightseeing is especially easy from The Lazy Parrot Inn, a friendly budget hotel located near quaint Rincón and a natural launching spot for island tours. Its fancifully decorated rooms are an ideal haven between jaunts to a nearby lighthouse, surfing beaches, snorkeling, whale-watching (in winter), kayaking, hiking in a national forest and river rafting.

The beach is especially nice at the intimate Rincón Beach Resort, an oceanfront boutique hotel offering elegantly appointed rooms and easy access to the tourist sites in Mayagüez and Aguadilla as well as golf, diving and windsurfing.

With only nine rooms, Rincón’s new Casa Isleña Inn embraces guests with personalized service. Tranquil and elegant, this beachfront debutante has a private swimming pool. Wooden entry gates and Mexican tile create a relaxed, open feel enhanced by lush green gardens and richly colored décor. Lodgers often feel that, as the name suggests, Casa Isleña is their personal “island house.”
Not all of Puerto Rico’s splendors are nature-oriented. Old San Juan, a 500-year-old walled city filled with colonialera structures, hosts night tours, and the Aguadilla Skating Rink offers ice skating. Bacardi produces fine rums, and its factory is open for tours six days a week.

So-called “retail therapy” is the road to relaxation for many, and Puerto Rico’s shops designer goods or handmade items such as religious wooden figurines, mundillo lace and papièr mâche masks.
City stays offer easy entry to urban delights night and day, and the new Holiday Inn San Juan is a stylish way to combine San Juan pleasures with a beach vacation. Equipped with state-of-the-art information technology, this property caters to business and leisure travelers desiring a connection to life back home. In addition to Caribbean-themed rooms, a freeform pool, a doting staff and a beach steps away, the Holiday Inn San Juan makes doing business a tropical breeze. In addition to 15,000 square feet of meeting space, guests can enjoy a full range of business services, including a business center, high-speed Internet connections, cell-phone rentals, courier services and a private limousine.

Start each day with a made-to-order breakfast, free of charge, at the Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino. Hearty eaters, carb-counters and waist-watchers can all awaken to a customized version of the most important meal of the day. In the evening the hotel’s atrium is the venue for a nightly manager’s reception, where cool beverages encourage mingling and relaxing. Embassy Suites offers spacious accommodations that include a bedroom, a living room and a kitchenette in every unit.

Puerto Rico’s newest upscale hotel, the Sheraton Old San Juan, overlooks the cruise-ship docks in scenic San Juan Bay. Located steps from downtown’s most exciting venues, the property lures guests to stay on property with a rooftop pool, a casino and a new high-energy restaurant, a steakhouse with a romantic Latin-American bent. Party rooms are available for those planning special events, and an outdoor swimming pool invites sun-lovers to enjoy the clear skies.

…AND GETTING BETTER

Meeting and wedding planners seeking a contemporary yet intimate venue should consider Paradisus Puerto Rico, a sparkling-new, all-inclusive, all suite luxury resort on a mile-long stretch of Coco Beach. With 29,000 square feet of function space — the largest meeting room accommodates 1,400 — and the absolute newest audio-visual equipment and beach side, plus poolside and garden venues for parties, Paradisus is quickly gaining a reputation as a venue that guarantees strong attendance. Participants and their families eagerly arrive to enjoy the hotel’s lagoon-style pool, six restaurants, three tennis courts, world-class 18-hole golf course and exciting casino.

Wherever they choose to stay, visitors to Puerto Rico are sure to emerge eager to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the island’s many pleasures.

During your Puerto Rico vacation, sample the local cuisine, go shopping and explore the island.

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