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When researching Puerto Rico I’m sure you’ve probably come across stunning pictures of Flamenco Beach, which is consistently listed as one of the best beaches in the world. Flamenco Beach was voted 3rd best beach in the world in the 2014 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards and has been listed as one of the Top 50 Beaches in the World by The Guardian.
With its powdery white sand, turquoise blue water and lush greenery, Flamenco Beach is the perfect place to relax, unwind and soak up the sun. To get to the beach you’ll have to take a flight or a ferry to the island of Culebra, then hop a taxi or rent a vehicle to drive to the beach.
In this Flamenco Beach guide I’ll cover exactly how to get there, and what to expect when you arrive.
History of Flamenco Beach
First, a little background about this beautiful beach. The name “flamenco” means “flamingo” in Spanish, and it gets its name from the flamingos that once inhabited the Flamenco Lagoon.
Located on the north coast of Culebra, the beach is a horseshoe-shaped stretch of sand measuring about half a mile long.
For many years Culebra was occupied by the U.S. Navy, who used the island and its surrounding cays as a weapons testing ground and training facility. However, in 1975 they were forced to leave the island, after demonstrations and riots organized by local residents.
The navy left behind some of their equipment, including two tanks, which have been left to rust on Flamenco Beach.
Where is Flamenco Beach Exactly?
Flamenco Beach lies on the north coast of Culebra, to the east of Reserva Natural de Culebra (Culebra Nature Reserve). The beach is around 4 km (8 minutes drive) from the ferry terminal and around 2.7km (5 minutes drive) from Culebra airport.
How to Get to Flamenco Beach
In order to get to Flamenco Beach you’ll first need to get to Culebra. You have two main options for getting to Culebra – plane or ferry. The ferry is MUCH cheaper than taking a flight, but you’ll need to get yourself over to Ceiba on the east coast of the island. The flight is quicker and simpler though, so if you have the budget, you may want to go with this option.
To get to Culebra by plane you can either fly from San Juan airport or Ceiba airport. Flights from San Juan are with Cape Air and cost roughly $200 round-trip. It’s expensive for such a short flight, but if you’re staying in San Juan it’s the easiest option, taking just 30 minutes to get there.
Alternatively you can fly to Culebra from Ceiba, which is on the east coast of Puerto Rico near Fajardo (and the ferry terminal). Flights with Air Flamenco cost around $45 to $60 each way, so about $90-$120 round-trip. That’s cheaper than the flight from San Juan, however you have to factor in getting to Ceiba.
To get to Ceiba from San Juan you’ll need to pay for a car rental, or you can book a private transfer service, which is pretty expensive.
I decided to go with the ferry option, which is considerably cheaper than taking a flight. The fare is $2.25 each way, and tickets can be purchased online with a Visa or Mastercard.
The ferry departs from Ceiba, which is about a 1 hour to 1.5 hour drive from San Juan depending on traffic and time of day. In order to get there you need to rent a car and drive there – take a look at Discover Cars, Rentalcars.com or Priceline to find the cheapest deal.
For my Culebra day trip, I picked up a car at around 2pm on a Wednesday and dropped it off at 9pm the following day. With insurance, the total cost was around $120. So while the ferry is cheaper than the flight, you also have to take into consideration the cost of the car rental, gas and parking.
Rental companies don’t allow you to take your car onto the Culebra ferry, so you’ll need to park your car at the Ceiba ferry terminal. The cost for this is $11, and there’s a parking shuttle that takes you from the car park to the terminal. Boarding for the passenger + cargo ferry usually starts around 1 hour before departure – try to get there no later than 30 minutes beforehand.
If you decide to go with the ferry option, buy your tickets online at least a couple of weeks in advance! The tickets sell out very quickly, and while there are some tickets available at the box office, preference is usually given to Puerto Rico residents. Attempting to buy tickets at the box office on the day of departure is risky, since they may be sold out by the time you get to the front of the line.
One thing to note is that the water can be rough, and lots of people complain of seasickness on the ferry. If you do suffer from motion sickness, make sure to pack some dramamine, or consider taking a flight instead.
I felt pretty sick on the way over to Culebra, since we had to sit inside the ferry. On the way back from Culebra I sat on the top deck and felt much better – I experienced no seasickness at all!
For more information on what it’s like to ride the Puerto Rico ferry – check out my blog post packed with Culebra ferry tips.
Taxis and Transportation on Culebra
There are two options for getting around on Culebra – you can either catch one of the shared taxis, or you can rent a vehicle and drive around the island yourself. If you only plan on visiting Flamenco Beach, stick to the taxi option and don’t bother with renting a car.
When we arrived at the ferry port there were several shared vans waiting to whisk tourists to Flamenco Beach. The taxis from the ferry to the beach cost $20 but can be split between four people. Since there were only two of us, we were paired up with two other girls, so the journey cost $5 each.
When you want to head back to the ferry port, you’ll also find taxis waiting in the car park at Flamenco Beach. Make sure to carry cash, as they don’t take cards.
If you do want to rent a golf cart or a Jeep, check out Carlos Jeep Rental, which is the most popular company on the island. The company offers courtesy pick-up from the ferry terminal and the airport if you decide to book through them.
Flamenco Beach Tanks
When the U.S. Navy left Culebra in 1975, they left behind two M4 Sherman tanks, which began to rust and corrode in the salty air. Locals and visitors painted the tanks in colorful graffiti, causing them to become one of the most popular photo spots in Puerto Rico.
If you want to have your photo taken with the famous Flamenco beach tanks, turn left when you’re facing the ocean and keep walking along the sand for about 10 minutes.
Flamenco Beach Facilities
Before you enter the beach you’ll see an area with numerous food kiosks, as well as showers and bathroom facilities.
The kiosks sell pina coladas, beers, soft drinks and snacks such as tostones, empanadas, rice and beans, burgers and pinchos.
If you fancy a refreshing pina colada (Puerto Rico’s national drink), expect to pay $6 for no alcohol, $7 for one shot of rum and $9 for two shots of rum.
Most visitors bring their own towels but if you need a beach chair and umbrella, these are available for rent. A beach chair costs $10, while an umbrella costs $20. Make sure you bring cash for payment.
Camping at Flamenco Beach
The only campground on Culebra island is located at Flamenco Beach. It has capacity for around 400 tents, but it can get pretty busy during the summer months and on holiday weekends.
If you want to sleep under the stars and be at one with nature, consider camping here for the night instead of staying at a guesthouse. Camping costs $30 per tent per night, with a maximum of 6 people per tent. Check-in is usually after 8am, and check-out is before 4pm. If you wish to call the campground, they can be contacted on (787) 742-0700.
You could purchase your own gear on the main island at stores like Walmart and Sears, or you could rent the gear from Tent City – a kiosk at Flamenco Beach. The kiosk offers a good selection of camping equipment including tents, flashlights, mattresses and camp stoves.
Is Flamenco Beach Worth It?
There’s no doubt that Flamenco Beach is a gorgeous beach, however, a lot of the photos you see online have been photoshopped to make the colors pop. Yes, the water is a lovely turquoise blue color, but I’ve seen beaches with whiter sand in places like the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
However, the tanks make Flamenco Beach quite unique, so if you plan to spend more than 3 days in Puerto Rico, it’s worth adding this day trip to your itinerary. It’s definitely the best beach in Puerto Rico, although I also love Luquillo Beach on the main island as well.
The journey from San Juan is a bit of a grueling one though if you decide to take the ferry, so if you’re short on time and have the cash to spare, consider taking a flight from San Juan.