As soon as my husband and I became engaged, we began fantasizing about our dream honeymoon. Due to our excitement and love of travel, we quickly developed a page-long list of our ideal destinations. In order to tackle the difficult task of narrowing our list, we decided on a few parameters to help us make the selection. We knew we wanted to go somewhere new to both of us, we wanted to be able to scuba dive and sail, and we did not want to stay in a resort. These parameters definitely helped, but we still had a pretty long list. As we moved closer to our wedding date, the reality of paying for our honeymoon, wedding costs and the time off work all began to set in. We decided to travel within our own time zone in order to maximize our time away and we limited our budget to $3,000. We wanted to stay somewhere off the beaten path that was not the typical resort full of other honeymooners. We sought a balance of privacy and solitude with adventure and culture. We decided to venture to a lesser-known island located between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. Culebra is a hidden gem. It has small island charm with all the modern conveniences. It feels remote and culturally diverse without being too challenging to get around.
We registered for honeymoon gifts to help pay for our trip. We spent the time to set up a honeymoon registry with Traveler’s Joy and were quickly rewarded for our efforts. Our friends and family were thrilled to help us with our honeymoon plans. The Traveler’s Joy registry gave us the opportunity to present our registry ideas in ways that were easy to understand and easy to use. When people asked what we would like as a wedding gift, we told them that we would value any contribution to our first experiences together as a married couple and that we would treasure those memories for our lifetime. We are deeply grateful for all of the contributions we received for our honeymoon. Without the gifts for specific items such as scuba diving, sailing, and dinners out, our honeymoon may have lacked some of the excitement and carefree relaxation that it gave us in our first week of being married. The total cost for our week in Culebra, including airfare, was $3,000.
Our flight to Puerto Rico was not completely uneventful, as we met Benicio Del Toro while waiting for our luggage in San Juan. My husband and I joked that it was a good thing we got married before the trip! The flight from San Juan to Culebra was on a tiny Air Flamenco eight-seat plane. The 45-minute flight was not long enough! We relished flying in the tiny plane and taking in the sights. The sea beneath us was dotted with tiny green islands, like stepping stones along the way to Culebra. The sea itself was brilliant turquoise, criss-crossed white with the occasional boat trail. Once we reached Culebra, our hearts raced as we approached the runway flying low and fast through a narrow valley. We cruised through the valley, with the wind rushing in our hair through the open windows as the walls of two lush emerald mountains raced by on either side of us. Once we landed, since Culebra is a U.S. Territory, we were able grab our bags, secure our jeep rental and head to our amazing mountaintop rental home without any kind of customs hassle. We rented a privately owned round mountaintop house with 360-degree views overlooking the main bay and hundreds of brightly colored flowering trees and vines. The one room home, called “Las Brisas”, stood alone on the mountain and provided optimal privacy. Las Brisas had floor to ceiling windows that wrapped almost completely around, wood floors and exposed wood ceiling beams. The bathroom was open air with a trellis of sunny yellow bougainvillea buzzing with hummingbirds just beyond the tub.
Unlike many exotic destinations, the island of Culebra is very safe for travelers. We never felt concerned leaving our jeep rental while we went snorkeling with sea turtles on deserted beaches. We were free to drive around and explore off the beaten path without a guide or driver. Climbing up and down the mountain in our shiny red jeep was exciting for both of us. The incredibly steeply graded road was bordered by lush forests humming with birdsong on one side and a magnificent view the blue Caribbean, speckled with sailboats and framed with flame red bougainvillea on the other.
The island is easy to get around as there are few roads and most of the locals speak English. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and welcoming. The owner of the home we rented even emailed us asking for a grocery list so she could stock the home with food and wine before our arrival.
We grilled out as the sun went down and enjoyed the sounds of the forest below. We stargazed and enjoyed a stunning summer meteor shower from our private, wraparound deck. In the morning, we sipped our coffee on the deck and watched the forest come back to life as we planned our day. We snorkeled at a different beach every single day. We even snorkeled at night to see the different reef creatures like starfish and colorful corals that come out after sunset. We sailed around the island on a catamaran and hiked on the neighboring isle of Culebrita. We saw the oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean, kayaked to the Louis Pena Preserve and scuba dived an outer reef. The reefs were lovely, especially Terra Grande, our favorite. But most notable were the sea turtles. We snorkeled with these peaceful creatures on every reef we had the pleasure to view under water. We would float along and watch the turtles with their ancient eyes glide gracefully through the water or stop and chew on sea sponges directly underneath us, unphased by our presence. In addition to snorkeling with the turtles, we ventured to Zoni Beach on the north end of Culebra. While exploring more snorkeling spots, we walked alongside at least fifty leatherback sea turtle nests. We would love to return with the hopes of watching one of these nests hatch hundreds of adorable baby sea turtles!
Culebra is a renowned sea turtle nesting area and preserve. It is a brilliant destination for people who love the ocean and love sea turtles. The environment is clean and well cared for and there are plenty of eco-friendly activities to enjoy. The beaches vary from stunning, seemingly endless white sand to black and red volcanic sand beaches bordered by dramatic cliffs and lava rock tidepools teeming with interesting creatures. We usually had these glorious beaches all to ourselves.
We would recommend Culebra to any honeymooners seeking a mix of adventure, solitude, romance, culture and convenience. We have sailed extensively throughout the Caribbean and feel that Culebra is one of the best Caribbean island experiences one can have. However, Culebra may not be for everyone. It was perfect for us, considering our first date was racing a sailboat. My husband proposed to me while kayaking and most of our adventures have been centered on scuba diving. Just days before our wedding, we watched a 400-pound loggerhead sea turtle lay eggs under a full moon on our local beach.
Wherever you decide to honeymoon, Traveler’s Joy is the perfect way to make your dream honeymoon a reality. Until we saw the positive response from our friends and family, we were initially very shy about the registry concept and unsure about a nontraditional registry. In hindsight, we would have no hesitation or reservations. We would encourage future Traveler’s Joy members to really market their registry with friends and family and develop a highly detailed site. The more enthusiastic and detailed your site, the more gifts you will receive. When we wrote thank you notes to our guests for their contributions, we included a picture of us enjoying whatever it was they gave us – whether it was our dinner or our kayak excursion. Everyone loved our thank you notes and pictures, so we would recommend showing your gratitude to gift givers by sharing your experiences with them.
Congratulations and good luck!