Last year, on our way south, we were totally planning to stop in the Spanish Virgin Islands en route from Puerto Rico to the USVI. But, sailing conditions were perfect that day (holy cow, that was almost a year ago!) and we were having so much fun (setting a new record for speed upwind!), we decided not to stop and sailed right on by. We vowed to return and stay awhile, next time we found ourselves in this part of the world.

Of course, every sailor we’ve met since will not shut up about how much they love Culebra/Culebrita and how crazy we were for skipping this group of islands. We’ve been pining for them since.

This week, we’re back! Hello, Spanish Virgins – which are technically part of Puerto Rico – we are pleased to report that these islands live up to the hype. Our first stop was Culebrita, a tiny, uninhabited (unless you count wild goats) spit where we spent a couple of perfect days playing with our friends Pete and Mary.

Unfortunately, the anchorage is very prone to discomfort in north swell, and after two sleepless nights, we cried uncle and went over to Culebra for some shuteye.  But, we returned later that week when the swell subsided a bit – that’s how much we love it here.

Simply put, Culebrita is fab. There’s something for everyone – a nice hike to a creepy, dilapidated lighthouse with stunning, panoramic views, bubbly pools, snorkeling and lobstering, three picture-perfect beaches, and gin clear water. If not for the damn swell, we’d stay here forever!

Pro tip #1: when the wind is not too strong and/or shifty, a swell bridle can alleviate discomfort from rolling. This was the first time we used one on a mooring (see photo below) – but it worked just as well as it has for us at anchor.

Pro tip #2: have your cake and eat it too –  if you can’t stand the roll,  hop over to beautiful Bahía de Almodóvar  just before sundown,  grab a mooring behind the reef, and sleep soundly.

Ready to hit the beach in their new float coats!

While the wind was steady and not too strong, we rigged up this swell bridle to point our stern into the waves – for a more comfortable motion than being rolled side to side.

The trails were littered with hermit crabs of all sizes – we had to be careful not to step on any. There were also wild goats roaming all over, but I was not quick enough to snap a photo (the crabs didn’t pose much of a challenge)

St. Thomas in the distance

The bottom of the staircase was missing, and being so far from the nearest hospital, we didn’t attempt to climb it.

To get to Treasure Beach, veer off the path and through the tunnel of foliage until you pop out on the sand

Big surf on this side of the island

Exploring the first of a series of natural, bubbly pools near the anchorage

The pools become increasingly deeper and more bubbly as you get closer to the opening out to the ocean

We explored the pools with Pete and Mary. Mary lent me some water shoes, which were perfect for this kind of terrain. Can you believe we’ve been doing everything in flip flops this whole trip?

Reefs for days filled with tons of fish and coral – if only I could get the fish to hold still.

This romantic sunset date was interrupted by no-see-ums. We were back on the boat before that first glass was empty.