White sand in a horseshoe-shaped bay, sheltered by hills and lush palm trees. Can you feel the breeze? Hear the ocean swirl? The unique thing with Playa Flamenco is the total absence of civilization. Not a single hotel. No restaurants along the beach. Nothing. It’s just you, the sun, and the occasionally pelican flying over.
It usually takes you to be well-travelled, well-bred, and well-read to distinguish overpriced crap from a scoop. To quote the Persian poet Shaikh Sa’di: “A traveller without knowledge is like a bird without wings”. This is what separate a tourist from a traveller. It’s the difference between the next Bahamas-bound cruise and someone looking for real genuine places with a soul. Playa Flamenco is such a place.
This is it. “The beach” finally found. Not to disappoint you, but it wasn’t Maya Bay on Phi Phi Islands. Despite my love for the DiCaprio movie.
So how do you find this beach? Pack your bag and head to Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. Just off the country’s east coast, about half way to the British Virgin Islands, there is a small island called Culebra. On the northern side of the island, sheltered behind the western cape, you will encounter a bay of sand. There it is. The Flamenco Beach.
Chart a turboprop in San Juan and fly straight to Culebra in 30 minutes. Or you can take the boat from Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico. Whatever your choice of transportation, you will arrive at the island city of Dewey. And you don’t have to walk far for that true Caribbean feeling. Colorful houses. The mañana-mañana attitude. Moustache wearing men with open shirts waiting for the bar to open. All you have to do now is to grab a taxi and you will be surrounded by crystal clear water in less than an hour.
Where do you stay when there is nowhere to stay? Well, that’s not completely true. Just off the beach, hidden among coconut trees, is a small community of bungalows. You won’t find it through the regular booking sites and you have to contact them directly. Code word: Culebra Beach Villas. Believe me, it’s worth the extra mile.
It’s about twenty bungalows in total, everyone with its own design and layout. You get your own kitchen, a big terrace and, best of all, a barbecue grill.
Because there are no restaurants, you have to cook your own food. No worries, you will find fish, vegetables, and burgers at the small but we-have-everything-you-want grocery store in Dewey. Hit the bar and order a Bushwacker, it’s the signature drink of Culebra. A frozen coconut-chocolate deliciousness based on…that’s right, rum.
A couple of days under the palm trees sipping Bushwackers make you ready for some exploring. If you follow the beach around the bay you’ll find some old World War tanks. Left by the US Navy in the 1970s, they are now nicely decorated by the villagers. There is also a trekking path trough the forest to the southern point of the cap. Go at nightfall and catch the sunset.
I walked down to the beach one night. Darkness was immense. The sound from the ocean created an invisible line between me and the water. The star spangled sky was overwhelming. Mission harmony completed.
At the western side of the island is the Tamarindo Beach, also known as the Turtle Beach. Bring your snorkel and swim off shore to catch some sea turtles. The trick is to look for sea grass at the bottom of the sea. It’s the favourite dish for these reptiles. But don’t worry, they won’t bite.