Rusted tank on the shoreline of Culebra Beach in Puerto Rico

Vieques vs Culebra Compared (By a Puerto Rico Local)

Vieques vs Culebra, which should you choose? Many travelers find themselves in a tight spot trying to decide which of these two beautiful Puerto Rico destinations they should visit. 

Culebra and Vieques are both outside the main Puerto Rican island, and they both host some of the best things to do in Puerto Rico, so deciding between the two islands is far from easy. 

But worry not! I’m a Puerto Rico local, and I’ll tell you the highlights of each island, so you can decide which to visit for yourself.

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Which is Better Vieques or Culebra? 

View of the sea in Culebrita Island
Culebrita, in Culebra Puerto Rico

Vieques and Culebra are both Puerto Rican municipality islands outside mainland Puerto Rico, and are reachable only by ferry or airplane. Each island has beautiful beaches and pristine nature. Which island you decide to visit depends on your tastes and the kind of vacation you’re looking for.

Of the two Puerto Rican islands, Vieques is more frequented than Culebra. Besides top-notch beaches, Vieques is home to a bioluminescent bay, a rum factory, a historical fort, and museums. The city also features two popular towns, Isabel II and La Esperanza, where you can enjoy the local gastronomy and the island’s nightlife.

On the other hand, Culebra is the perfect destination for beach vacations in the Caribbean. While the island doesn’t offer as many activities as Vieques, Culebra’s beaches are often among the top beaches of Puerto Rico. Culebra is also a better destination for sailing, snorkeling, diving, and turtle watching. The island is popular for its crystal clear water visibility.

Advantages of Vieques

  • Variety of things to do
  • Bioluminescent Bay 
  • Bigger hotels
  • Varied gastronomy
  • Nightlife

Advantages of Culebra

  • Less crowded 
  • Secluded beaches
  • Best for snorkeling and diving
  • Small inns
  • Optimal for beach camping
  • Less pricey

Vieques is Best For

  • Hikers
  • History enthusiasts
  • Watersports lovers
  • Gastronomy travelers
  • Surfing 
  • Animal lovers (wild horses run around Vieques)
  • Family trips

Culebra is Best For

  • Beach bumming
  • Snorkeling and diving
  • Turtle watching
  • Taking a day trip
  • Beach camping
  • Couples 

Culebra vs Vieques – Detailed Comparison 

Both Vieques and Culebra are Puerto Rico municipality islands with some of the best diving, swimming, and snorkeling in Puerto Rico. They’re also both easy to reach from San Juan, have a National Wildlife Refuge, and they’re overall in the same budget range.

In the below table, I compare Culebra vs Vieques in the areas of things to do, cost and budget, how easy it is to get there, public transportation, beaches, gastronomy, hotels, and nightlife:

Feature/CategoryViequesCulebra🏆 Winner
Things to DoGreat beaches, a bio bay, historical forts, museums, and a wildlife refugeMagazine-worthy beaches with high visibility and uncrowded outdoors
Vieques
Cost & BudgetTouristic hotels, restaurants, and tours are priceyPricey restaurants, but hotels are under $200 a night.Culebra
Getting There30-minute a ferry, 25 minutes by plane from San Juan International Airport 45 minutes on a ferry, 25 minutes by plane from Isla Grande Airport Vieques
Public TransportationCarros públicos take you to the main attractions in ViequesNo public transportation. Very few taxis on callVieques
BeachesSecluded pristine beaches for surfing, snorkeling, hiking, and swimmingCrystal-clear beaches for snorkeling, diving, sunbathing, walking, and campingCulebra 
GastronomyAmazing food options from Puerto Rican gastronomy to American foodRestaurants in Dewey town, and a few food trucks around the islandVieques
HotelsBoth family-friendly, and adults-only hotels close to nearby attractionsSmaller inns with a familiar vibe, mostly budget-friendly Vieques
SnorkelingMultiple beaches for snorkeling and diving around reefs, seasonal strong currentsClear beaches for snorkeling and diving, with reefs, caves, and shipwrecksCulebra
SurfingEasy access to beaches with strong surf, you can find other surfers Only two beaches for surfing, reachable after a long hike
Vieques 
Family FriendlinessFamily-friendly activities like horseback riding, kayaking, surfing, and hikingLaid-back romantic atmosphere, with beach-related activities only
Vieques
SafetyOccasional petty theft in touristic areasOccasional petty theft in main touristy areas, but safe nightlife Tie
Nightlife Lively atmosphere and nightlife with live music in bars and restaurantsWhile beautiful all around, Culebra’s only nightlife is stargazing
Vieques

Culebra or Vieques: Which Has More Things to Do?

Puerto Ferro Lighthouse in Vieques Wildlife Refuge

Vieques and Culebra are both municipality islands with mesmerizing beauty and paradisiacal beaches. While Culebra is home to Flamenco Beach, often considered one of the top beaches in the world, Vieques boasts the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. 

Besides great beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing, Vieques’ top attractions include Fortin Conde de Mirasol, sugarcane ruins, military bunkers left behind by the US Navy, the Crab Island Rum Distillery, and Hacienda Tamarindo. Vieques also has two popular towns with restaurants and bars: Isabel II, and La Esperanza.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Vieques or Culebra: Which is Cheaper?

Overall, Culebra is cheaper to visit than Vieques. Since it’s less visited than Vieques, and it doesn’t have any mega-resorts on it, it’s easy to find a place to stay for less than $200 a night. While downtown gastronomy is pricey, you can hunt around for food trucks and local spots for cheaper prices. 

Access to most beaches is also free, and visitors that bring everything on their beach packing list won’t be spending much on food or snorkeling rentals. Vieques towns, Isabel Segunda and La Esperanza, are more touristy and expensive. Taking tours in Vieques could make your trip to the island pricier.

🏆 Winner: Culebra

Culebra vs Vieques: Which is Easier to Get To?

View of people walking in the ferry terminal in Vieques
The ferry terminal at Vieques

Whether you’re visiting Culebra or Vieques, you’ll only be able to get to these small islands through a ferry or an airplane. The ferry ride to Culebra usually takes 45 minutes, fifteen minutes more than it takes for Vieques, and they both depart from Ceiba’s ferry terminal. 

While airplanes to Vieques leave directly from the San Juan Airport, visitors that want to travel to Culebra will have to take a ride from the San Juan Airport to Isla Grande Airport, where they can catch a flight. So, in general, it’s easier to reach Vieques than Culebra, Puerto Rico.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Vieques vs Culebra: How is the Public Transportation?

The author with her rental jeep on Vieques
My rental Jeep on Vieques

Culebra doesn’t have public transportation, but visitors can call a taxi to move from one side to another, rent a car through Discover Cars, or a bike.

If you want to get around without a rental car, Vieques is a better option. Vieques island has carros públicos, which are a type of taxi that waits for visitors in the ferry terminal and that are often shared with multiple travelers. Fares are usually under $20 and they take you to Vieques’ most popular spots or where you choose to stay in Vieques.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Culebra vs Vieques: Where Are the Best Beaches?

View of the blue water in Tamarindo Beach in Culebra

Deciding which has the best beaches, Culebra or Vieques, is a hard task. If it comes down to clear, calm waters with turtles and coral reefs, then Culebra should be your choice. 

Culebra’s top beaches include Flamenco Beach, Zoni Beach, Playa Tamarindo, and Playa Tortuga, located on one island outside Culebra. On some Culebra beaches, you can even see turtles swimming on the shore. They are also less crowded and often cleaner.

The top Vieques beaches include a beautiful black sand beach known as Playa Negra, as well as other 40 mesmerizing beaches along its shoreline.

🏆 Winner: Culebra 

Culebra vs Vieques: Which Has the Best Gastronomy?

The author smiling for a picture with foods and drinks in front of her

Gastronomy in Vieques and Culebra is fairly similar. With many ex-pats living on both islands, you will find plenty of American-style restaurants on the higher side of the budget in Dewey, a tiny town in Culebra, and La Esperanza in Vieques. 

Vieques, being the largest out of the two islands, and the one that receives the most visitors, boasts more restaurants with both American and Puerto Rican cuisines.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Culebra vs Vieques: Where Are the Best Hotels?

Visitors often complain about the lack of large big hotels in Culebra and Vieques. Since both islands have nature reserves and are considered Puerto Rican paradises, locals oppose urbanization on the island’s shoreline as an effort to keep them as they are. 

But, if you’re looking for a variety of hotels, there are more places to stay in Vieques. You’ll find multiple types of hotels on the north and south of the island with diverse price ranges.

🏆 Winner: Vieques 

Culebra vs Vieques: Where is the Best Spot for Snorkeling?

View of sea turtles under the water of Culebra

The best beaches for snorkeling are, without a doubt, in Culebra. Flamenco Beach, Playa Carlos Rosario, and Tamarindo Grande offer easy access to reefs. Culebra also has sites with shipwrecks and underwater caves worth exploring.  

Also, Culebrita is a small cay that belongs to Culebra, famous among visitors for its visibility and many sea turtles. While Vieques offers some great good snorkeling sites, none of them compare with Culebra’s clear waters.

🏆 Winner: Culebra 

Culebra vs Vieques: Which Has the Best Beaches for Surfing?

View of the Playa El Gallito signage in Vieques

While Culebra boasts the top beaches for snorkeling, it’s not the same with beaches for surfing. Resaca Beach and Brava Beach are the two popular beaches for surfing in Culebra, but you can only reach them after hiking for more than 20 minutes. 

This also means they’re often lonely and if you surf by yourself, no one will come to your rescue in case of emergency.

In contrast, Vieques features plenty of spots with easy access for surfing like Navio Beach, El Gallito Beach, La Chata Beach, and Punta Galindez. Multiple surfers live on the island, so you’ll see a few catching waves in the early morning.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Vieques versus Culebra: Which Offers the Best Family Vacation?

Vieques and Culebra are both beach destinations, and they’re family-friendly too. But, Culebra is often seen as a romantic destination for couples, laid-back nature lovers, or newlyweds planning a Puerto Rico honeymoon. Beaches are lowkey, relaxing, and uncrowded. 

Vieques offers a more lively atmosphere and more things to do with the family including visiting museums, a bio bay, horseback riding, yoga, and diving.

🏆 Winner: Culebra

Culebra versus Vieques: Which One is Safer?

Cars parked on a street in Puerto Rico

Both Vieques and Culebra are considered tourist-friendly destinations in Puerto Rico, and therefore are as safe as Old San Juan. Occasional petty theft occurs on both Puerto Rico’s islands, but it’s easily preventable by taking common traveling safety measures. 

Check out my Puerto Rico safety guide to know all about the safety measures to take on the island.

🏆 Winner: Tied

Culebra or Vieques: Where is the Best Nightlife?

Night owls and party lovers are better off in Old San Juan. But, if they’re deciding between Culebra and Vieques, then they should visit Vieques. Vieques features two dynamic towns with bars and restaurants: Isabel Segunda, and La Esperanza, which is the perfect stop after a Vieques biobay tour

Depending on the day of the week, and the season you’re visiting Puerto Rico, La Esperanza’s restaurants have live music and fill up with lively backpackers that stay in nearby hostels.

🏆 Winner: Vieques

Final Verdict – Vieques or Culebra?

Relaxing view from the Flamenco Beach
Flamenco Beach in Culebra

Is Culebra or Vieques better for visiting? The answer will depend on what you’re looking for. Culebra is the best beach destination on the east coast and Puerto Rico. Beaches are crystal clear, full of fine white sand, and uncrowded. Travelers looking for a tranquil experience alongside the beach without the mega-hotels that disturb the peace in some Spanish Virgin Islands should head over to Culebra.

But, Vieques is the island for those who want a combination of beaches, fresh seafood, nature, and history. Besides boasting one of the few black sand beaches in Puerto Rico, Vieques is home to Mosquito Bay, the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. It also has a beautiful Wildlife Refuge full of hiking trails, hidden beaches, fishing sites, and photography-perfect cliff views.  

While Culebra is the best Puerto Rican island for beach bums, Vieques is best for adventure seekers, nature lovers, and families traveling in groups.

FAQs About Culebra & Vieques

Which is better Vieques or Culebra?

Vieques is a better destination for families or couples looking for a combination of great beaches, kayaking, and horseback riding. The island has museums, a rum distillery, and historical ruins worth visiting. Meanwhile, Culebra is a more laid-back destination for relaxing at the beach, snorkeling, and diving.

Is snorkeling better in Culebra or Vieques?

While both Culebra and Vieques have top-notch beaches for snorkeling, Culebra beaches offer the best visibility, as well as easy access to reefs with marine life. Culebra is also one of the best spots in Puerto Rico to see sea turtles while snorkeling. 

Is Vieques worth visiting?

Vieques is one of Puerto Rico’s best places to visit. Vieques is home to the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, as well as a National Wildlife Refuge that hosts multiple of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. The municipality island also has a rum distillery worth visiting.

***

Now you know everything you need to know about Vieques and Culebra, and you can decide for yourself which one you should visit.  If you’ve already been to Vieques and Culebra, check out my list of these other amazing places in Puerto Rico you can visit

Have fun in Vieques or Culebra!

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