Reconnect with nature on the Puerto Rican island of Culebra

Rough seas were definitely canceling the next day’s 1 p.m. ferry from Culebra back to the Puerto Rican mainland, ferry employees told me. Anxious not to miss fixed rental car and hotel reservations on my next vacation leg, I bagged the idea of the $2.25 ocean voyage to Fajardo and instead shelled out $44 on an Air Flamenco ticket for a 4 p.m. flight to another mainland destination the following day.

The next day, when I drove by the dock en route to my flight, I saw the ferry, now fully loaded with cars and luggage-lugging passengers, plowing away from the island and off toward Fajardo.

That’s Culebra for you! What is true one minute on this kooky, enticing island that exists in sync with fickle Caribbean seas can change in the next instant. Enjoying this alluring, unspoiled paradise is a tropical breeze, but for maximal enjoyment, it’s best to be flexible and resign yourself to accommodating Mother Nature — which, after all, is Culebra’s main lure.

A mere 28 square miles with fewer than 1,700 residents, Culebra boasts oodles of nature reserves and uncrowded, white sugar beaches that number among the finest in the world. The water is bathtub warm, the snorkeling is often exceptional and there is an ample assortment of casual restaurants in charming, seaside settings.

The Culebrenses are genial, and serious crime is rare, too, thanks to almost everyone knowing each other. (Still, it’s a good idea not to leave your wallet on the seat of your golf cart, a popular means of transportation here, because when you drive, “the movement pops out the wallet,” explained Alexis Lopez, a local police agent. The wallets are usually returned, he said, but the money is not always in them.)

What doesn’t Culebra have? Giant, all-inclusive resorts, for one. Wi-Fi service is also thankfully spotty. Culebra is the place to come to intentionally disconnect from technology and reconnect with life.

A muddy hike to Carlos Rosario beach yielded a glorious snorkeling experience that included a kaleidoscope of angelfish, basslets, gobies, blennies, Moorish idols and parrot fish threading through a forest of fan, elkhorn and brain coral, though my best underwater sighting was off Tamarindo Beach. There, a fellow marine freak pointed me toward a spot in the water, and, following her instructions, I managed to pass considerable time with a couple of leatherback sea turtles. I watched as each nibbled sea grass from the ocean floor, periodically gliding to the surface for sips of air. Being able to linger in the water next to them felt like a privilege from a far earlier time. Kind of like being in Culebra.