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One of the top places to visit in Puerto Rico is Culebra Island, which is located around 20 miles off the east coast of Fajardo. To get there you can either take a short 15 minute flight from Ceiba, or you can ride the Culebra Ferry, which takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Since my friend didn’t want to fly in a small plane, we decided to take the ferry instead. To get there it takes some planning and it was definitely a tiring day, but there are things you can do to make the journey go a lot smoother.
Below are my top tips for riding the ferry to Culebra:
Essential Tips for the Culebra Ferry Ride
Buy Your Tickets Online
The best way to get your Culebra ferry tickets is to purchase them online on the official Puerto Rico ferry website before you go. Try to do this several weeks in advance, as they sell out fast. Tickets go online a month in advance and they’re super cheap – costing just $2.25 each way for non-resident adults.
Payment can be made with your debit or credit card, as long as it’s a Mastercard or Visa card. Puerto Rico ferry doesn’t accept American Express. Once tickets have been purchased, you’ll receive a confirmation email with your booking reference and a QR code. If you want to make life easier, you can also download the City Experiences app and purchase them via the app.
When we went to Culebra, most of the ferries were sold out, so we ended up having to buy a ticket for the 3.30am ferry. This wasn’t ideal, since we arrived in Culebra at 5am and had to wait 2 hours at the ferry terminal until sunrise. Nothing was open and the breakfast places didn’t open till 7 or 7.30am.
If you’re planning to do a day trip to Culebra, ideally you want to catch the 6am, 6.30am, 7.30am or 9am ferry from Ceiba to maximise your time on the island. Then you can take the 5.30pm or 9.30pm ferry back from Culebra.
If the Ferry You Want is Sold Out, Keep Checking
If the ferry time you want is sold out, keep visiting the app or the website to see if they release new tickets online. Originally we booked the 9.30pm ferry back as that was the only time available, but the day before our trip I checked again and there were a few tickets available for the 5.30pm ferry.
So keep checking back every so often to see if tickets become available.
If You Do Want to Buy From the Box Office, Go Early
When looking for tickets you’ll notice that it also tells you how many tickets are available at the box office. If the ferry you want is sold out online, you can drive to the box office in Ceiba. Box office tickets also sell out quickly, and preference is given to local residents.
If you do want to try your luck at the box office, try to go down the night before you want to travel, or show up at least a few hours before the ferry you want to take. You’ll have better luck on weekdays than you will on weekends.
Pay for Luggage and Equipment
When purchasing a ferry ticket to Culebra, you can pay for extras like coolers, luggage, surf boards, umbrellas and other pieces of equipment. Make sure you add and pay for any additional items you wish to bring.
Park Your Car at the Ferry Terminal
The ferry to Culebra goes from Ceiba near Fajardo, which is on the east coast of Puerto Rico.
The best way to get there is by renting a car from San Juan and driving yourself to the ferry terminal. There’s a parking lot near the Ceiba ferry terminal, which costs around $11 per day. Once you’ve paid for parking, you’ll be given a ticket to display on your dashboard and then you can park wherever in the parking lot. There’s a shuttle that will take you to the ferry terminal, or you can walk (the walk takes around 7 minutes).
Bring cash to pay for the parking, and to pay for taxis/snacks when you get to Culebra island.
Rental car companies in Puerto Rico don’t allow visitors to take rental cars on the ferries, so you’ll need to leave your car in Ceiba and pick it up on the way back.
Check Your Boarding Time
Once you’ve purchased your ferry ticket you’ll be given a boarding time. The passenger and cargo ferry starts boarding roughly an hour before departure, but if you don’t have a vehicle, it’s fine to show up about 30 minutes before departure.
The ferry staff will scan your tickets using the QR code and then you’ll be invited into the pre-boarding area. This section is separated into residents and non-residents. Residents board the ferry first, followed by tourists and non-residents.
The ferry terminal in Ceiba has vending machines selling snacks and drinks, plus porta potty-style toilets in case you need to go to the bathroom.
Wear Warm Clothes and Bring Blankets
One rookie error we made was not wearing warm clothes. Dressed in bikinis, sundresses and flip flops, we weren’t prepared for the arctic conditions inside the ferry. We couldn’t really sit on deck because it was the middle of the night (and wet), so we were forced to sit inside.
The AC is really really cold, and the locals were all wearing sweatpants and hoodies. Clearly they knew what to expect, and had even brought pillows and blankets.
So come prepared wearing at least a cozy sweater.
Ride the Passenger Ferry
The website advertises a ferry time of 45 minutes, but what it doesn’t mention is that the cargo ferry takes much longer. The passenger ferry takes around 45 minutes, but most of the ferries are passenger/cargo ferries, which take around 1 hour 30 minutes to reach Culebra.
When the sea is rough, 1 hour 30 minutes feels like a lifetime, so try to get a ticket on the passenger ferry if you want to get there quickly.
I won’t lie, the ferry journey on the way to Culebra was pretty rough and we felt super sea sick. Since it was the middle of the night we couldn’t sit on deck, and the rocking movement inside made us feel really nauseous. If you get sea sick and don’t want to throw up, consider taking dramamine before you go. On Culebra island, numerous shops by the terminal sell dramamine.
Pack Snacks & Line Your Stomach
We had empty stomachs when we boarded the ferry, which made us feel pretty nauseous when the sea got rough. I’d recommend packing some snacks and some ginger candy to prevent motion sickness.
Sit on Deck
If you suffer quite badly from motion sickness, try to sit outside on deck, especially if it’s a nice sunny day. You’ll feel a lot better if you can see the horizon and get some fresh air. It’s also much warmer outside than inside – just make sure to put some sunscreen on so you don’t get burnt before you get there.
We sat on the top deck on the way back from Culebra and had a beautiful view of the sunset.
Is Taking the Ferry to Culebra Worth It?
If I were to ride the Culebra ferry again I would definitely do things a bit differently. I’d buy tickets online well in advance so I could catch the most convenient ferry. I’d also opt to take the passenger ferry over the pax/cargo ferry as it takes only 45 minutes to get there. 1.5 hours felt a bit too long, especially with the 1 hour 15 min drive to/from San Juan.
Our day trip to Culebra was pretty tiring, involving a very early start and a late finish. It was a long day, and next time I’d probably take the flight over the ferry for convenience. Another option would be to take a flight there and the ferry back, although you’d have to organise a taxi between the ferry terminal and airport to pick up your car afterwards.
Culebra was cool, but I felt like Flamenco Beach was a bit overhyped. Yes it’s a lovely beach with beautiful turquoise water, but I’ve seen even whiter sands and bluer waters in places like the Dominican Republic and the Philippines. A day trip to Culebra was enough for me, and I definitely wouldn’t stay on the island for more than one night. Accommodation/restaurant options are limited and there’s just not a lot happening there compared to San Juan.
Puerto Rico’s main island has tons of beautiful beaches and towns to discover, so I probably wouldn’t head over to Culebra a second time. It’s one of those places I’m happy to have ticked off my bucket list for the experience, but it can be costly and involves quite a lot of effort to get there.
We picked our rental car up at 2pm on a Wednesday and returned it around 9pm the following day. The total was $120 with insurance, plus around $12 in gas, $11 in parking and the ferry ticket of $4.50 each round trip. If we took a plane it would have cost around $120 each round trip.
The car journey from Isla Verde took around 1 hour 15 minutes, then we waited around 1 hour at the ferry terminal, and spent around 1.5 hours on the ferry. So that’s a total of around 3 hours 45 minutes in travel time in each direction.
If you get seasick. I recommend flying to Culebra or making sure you sit on the top deck. The water can be choppy and the boat moves around a lot, so if you’re sitting inside it will probably make you feel sick!
I hope these Culebra ferry tips help! Also check out some of my other Puerto Rico articles, including this 3 day Puerto Rico itinerary and a list of all the things Puerto Rico is famous for!
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